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III.—THE POETICAL BOOKS (including Job to Canticles) were written at various times, some being of earlier, others of later date than the historical books. They are classed together, partly because they are in Hebrew verse, but mainly because they formed the devotional books of the Jewish Church.
JOB. The antiquity of this book is proved by its style; but there is diversity of opinion respecting its date. The long life of Job, the patriarchal customs and form of worship, the absence of allusion to the Mosaic Law, favour the opinion that Job was coeval with Abraham; while the coincidence of names with some of the descendants of Ishmael and Esau, and supposed allusions to the destruction of Sodom (xv. 34; xviii. 15), point to a date nearer the Exodus. The scientific and physical knowledge displayed in it, and references to artificial instruments of advanced civilisation (xli. 1, 7,13), have led some to assign it to the time of Solomon.
As Job is classed with other holy men (Ezek. xiv. 14; James v. 11), he was a real person, and the place of his residence was probably in the N.E. of Arabia Deserta.
Supposed Date. External evidence. The unanimous tradition of ancient Jews ascribes the book to the Patriarchal age, and regards it as substantially based on historical facts. The Talmudists, while agreeing as to its date, regard it as founded upon fact, while others, of a later date, have treated it as a parable or a philosophical fiction. Modern critics, of different schools, unite in the supposition that it is a theological discussion of very high merit, founded upon an historical fact, displaying the opinions of opposite schools on an unsettled question, of the connexion between human suffering and guilt, and whether there is any higher motive for religion than selfishness. While agreement is nearly uniform that the historical incident belongs to the patriarchal age, opinions differ as to the date of its composition. Some place it before the Mosaic Dispensation, others in the time of Solomon, and others in a period after the Babylonish Captivity. Modern research has thrown some light on the question. (1) The Assyrian tablets have brought to light astronomical knowledge, in the cities of the Euphrates, as far advanced as that displayed by the Book of Job, at an earlier date than B.C. 1750. (2) Assyrian monuments prove that Chaldaean invasions were not uncommon at as early a period. Also the animals and monsters, except the leviathan, used as illustrations by Job, are precisely those found on Assyrian monuments, but were not for the most part familiar to the Jews of Palestine. The leviathan (or crocodile), though peculiar to Egypt, would be known to the inhabitants of Arabia Petrasa, the mines of which were extensively worked by Egyptians long before the Exodus.
Internal evidence. The manners and customs pourtrayed in this book are universally allowed to be those of the Patriarchal age, though not at its earliest stage, since many offices, formerly discharged by the children of the family, are here delegated to servants. The original language more closely resembles Arabic than Hebrew, and is replete with Chaldaisms, which belong to an early, and not to a late, stage of literature. The composition generally is archaic in grandeur and obscurity, and resembles the oldest portions of the Pentateuch, of the Psalms, of Proverbs (which are now allowed to have been taken from this book, or from the documents from which it was compiled), and the Song of Deborah. If we compare it with the poetical compositions of Moses (e.g. Exod. xv., Deut. xxxii., and Psalm xc), whole phrases will be found to be identical, which favours the supposition that Moses either wrote the book, or, finding the original narrative (either written or oral) during his forty years' residence in Midian, gave to it its present form, adding its introductory and concluding portions in prose. Modern critics differ much on this point. They are tolerably unanimous in allowing the main portion of the book (i.e. the poetical part), with the exception of Elihu's speech, to be authentic, but differ about the two prosaic portions. The great weight of authority, however, favours the view that these portions bear a stronger resemblance to the Pentateuch than to any other writings; that they belong to the same age, and breathe the same spirit as the rest of the book, and only differ from it as prose differs from poetry. Elihu's speech is a necessary connecting link between the dialogue of Job and his friends, and the final address of God. Objections, grounded on the opinion that the doctrinal teaching is in advance of the Mosaic dispensation, have been completely answered.
Authorship. Some ancient Jewish writers ascribe the authorship to Job himself, which opinion has been followed by some subsequent commentators. He has been even identified with Jobab the Edomite (Gen. x. 29); others suppose Moses to have been the author; others, Solomon; others, one of the later prophets; others, a resident in Southern Judea, on the borders of the Idumaean 17 Desert, in the time of the monarchy anterior to Amos, by whom Job is largely quoted.
It consists of three parts:—(1) The Introduction, a prose narrative of the cause and extent of Job's sufferings, and his patient endurance. (2) The Colloquies between Job and his comforters, in poetry, the theme of which is the cause of human suffering. His friends affirm it to be sin, and exhort Job to repentance. He denies it, appeals to facts, and complains of the unkindness of his friends. This portion consists of three series: (a) Job's complaint (ch. iii.), followed by the speeches of Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, each being successively answered by Job (chaps, iv.— xiv.). (b) A further speech of each of these three, with Job's answer to each (xv.—xxi.). (c) A speech of Eliphaz and Bildad, with the answer to each (xxii.—xxxi.). (3) The Argument of Elihu (poetical), that afflictions are remedial and for the sufferer's good; followed by a reproof to Job for his self-justification, and a vindication of God's government ( xxxii.—xxxvii.). (4) The Address of the Almighty, revealing His power and wisdom; concluding with Job's confession and penitence (xxxviii.—xlii. 6). (5) A prose Conclusion, narrating Job's close of life in peace and prosperity (xlii. 7—17).
PSALMS. This compilation has no counterpart in the New Testament; it belongs to both. It speaks of Christ, and Christ speaks in it. The arrangement is not chronological, but is grounded on the relation of the Psalms to Christianity, pre-adjusted to the doctrines of the Gospel. The Psalter forms one book, called in the New Testament "The Book of Psalms." Its composition extends over 1,000 years of the national life, from Moses to Malachi, in which Hebrew history is set to music.
The Psalms are divided into five parts:— Part I. (i.—xli.) is the composition of David. Part II. (xlii.—lxxii.) is Levitic, compiled for the Temple worship in the time of Hezekiah, of which twenty-one are David's (li.—lxxi.). Part III. (lxxiii.—lxxxix.) was compiled for the same purpose in the time of Josiah. Part IV. (xc— cvi.) was compiled during the Captivity. Part V. (cvii.—cl.) is miscellaneous; seventeen are Davidic, fifteen are Levitic, two penitential, and one Mosaic. Psalm cxix. is divided into sections of eight verses. In the Hebrew every verse of each section begins with the letter of the alphabet inscribed over it, which is evidently intended to help the memory in reciting it, as the Psalm was composed by Ezra to be sung on the homeward march of the captives.
The Psalter, then, may be compared to an Oratorio, in five parts :—
I. Decline of man after the Fall. It commences with a Prologue or Overture (Pss. i. and ii.), followed by the insurrection of Absalom; and concludes (Ps. xli.) with that of Adonijah, quoted by our Lord as typical of the conspiracy of Judas against Him. The Prologue is ushered in with a Beatitude, and the Final chorus closes with a Doxology and double Amen.
II. Revival of the Church, prefigured by David's rising from the bed of sickness, on which he was languishing (Ps. xli.), and reviving the monarchy in the person of Solomon, whom he proclaims in his stead,—a Prophet and King—building a new temple, &c. The scheme is the same as before. A Prologue, ushered in by a Beatitude (Ps. xli. closing the one, introducing the other), followed by a pair of Psalms of sorrow on David's flight from Absalom, and ending with a Beatitude and double Amen.
III. A plaintive Recitative. The Church is in danger, owing to the degeneracy of Solomon's son; and the land is pillaged by the King of Egypt—again typical of the apostasy from Christ in times of peace and prosperity. It concludes (Ps. lxxxix.) with the peaceful re-assurance of God, in an angelic soprano, " Once have I sworn by my holiness, that I will not lie unto David," followed by a Doxology and chorus.
IV. The Antiphon to the Recitative, comprising: 1. A Prologue, viz. The Prayer of Moses. 2. A Thanksgiving, in hopeful confidence of victory. 3. A Double Deliverance, from Egypt and Babylon, i.e. entrance and return to the Promised Inheritance. 4. Doxology.
V. Finale of triumphant thanksgiving, figured by the return from captivity, consisting of 1. Prologue: The helpless wandering of fallen man. 2. The Return to the sanctuary of God (fifteen songs of degrees). 3. Restoration, unfolded in the Dedication Hymn, Song of Ezra, Alternative Thanksgiving (cxxxvi.) and Mourning (cxxxvii.). 4. Anticipating Extension of the Church to the Gentiles. 5. Concluding Chorus, comprising five Invitatory Psalms to the whole Universe to join in one mighty Chorus of Praise, rising for ever to the throne of God.
The Bible Version of the Psalms is in blank verse, translated direct from the Hebrew in 1610. It is more accurate in sense, but is less rhythmical than the English Prayer Book version, which is in poetry, and pointed for singing. The latter was translated (1535, revised 1539) from the Latin Vulgate of the Gallican Psalter, which was taken from the LXX.
There is no other Hymn Book so pregnant with expression of the heart's emotions under all the vicissitudes of life, or so adapted to all climes and ages as to be the universal medium of praise for all nations of the world. No other country than Palestine could have furnished such varied imagery, from arid deserts to frozen regions: e.g. the vines, figs, mulberries, pomegranates; valleys thick with corn, shining with lilies; the snow-clad mountains; the hart panting for streams, and the exile David looking thankfully into the boiling torrent he has crossed; the beasts of prey, coupled with the horse and the ass.
It is also valuable as supplying additional fragments of history unrecorded in other books.
For Devotion it has been used as much by Christians as by Jews. It is quoted seventy times in the New Testament.
TABLE OF THE AUTHORSHIP AND COMPILATION OF THE PSALMS.*
|Books.||Psalms.||Authorship.||When or by whom collected for use in the Temple.|
David, or Solomon.
Time of Hezekiah.
Time of Josiah.
Various: e.g. Moses, Ezra, The Prophets.
Ezra or Nehemiah.
Headings. There are only fifty without some title or heading, and these are mainly in Part V., composed by Ezra and Nehemiah, who arranged the book in its present form, and so omitted their own names. They are not more authentic than the subscriptions to Paul's Epistles.
• From Blunt's Annotated Prayer Book.18
But to many of David's there are "Dedications," or " Inscriptions:" e.g. "To the chief Musician on Neginoth upon Sheminith " (vi.). Many are supposed to be musical directions, thus:—
Ps. v. Nehiloth, "wind instruments," marks the nature of the accompaniment.
Ps. vi. Neginoth, " stringed instruments," marks the nature of the accompaniment.
Ps. vi. Sheminith, "upon the eighth," or octave, is to be a bass solo.
Ps. vii. Shiggaion, " wandering, erratic," refers to a gentle, running accompaniment.
Ps. viii. Gittith, " from Gath," is either a tune, or the musical instrument on which the accompaniment is to be played, brought by David from Gath, so, probably, jubilant.
Ps. ix. Muth-labban, "a dirge," probably some well-known tune; or to be sung by "male trebles," i.e. boys.
Ps. ix.16.Higgaion, "meditation," either marks a pause, the commencement of a recitative, or the change to a minor key.
Ps. xvi.Michtam, "engraven in gold," seems to mark its popularity, or its value as an outpouring of thankfulness.
Ps. xxii. Aijeleth Shachar, " the hind of the morning," may refer either to some tune, or, more probably, to the use of this psalm at the hour of the morning sacrifice.
Ps.xxxii. Maschil, "an instruction," seems to refer to the subject-matter, or to its being "Recitative."
Ps. xlv.Shoshannim, "lilies," or "six strings," may either be the name of a sweet tune, or the accompanying instrument with six strings.
Ps. liii. Mahalath, " lute," either the accompaniment, or a lively tune.
Ps. lvi.Jonath-elem-rechokim, "mute dove among strangers," i.e. either a tune so called,—a dirge,—or referring to the subject-matter, David in exile.
Ps. lvii.—lix., lxxv. Al-taschith, "destroy thou not."
Ps. cxx. Degrees ("steps"), the pilgrims' song of those returning from captivity; or to be sung on the steps of the inner temple court. Selah, " eternally, for ever." According to some, forte; according to others, piano. In the LXX. regarded as a musical or rhythmical note, the key-note; or a symphony; or a pause; or Da Capo; or a blast of trumpets. It occurs seventy-one times in the Psalms, and three times in Habakkuk.
To the chief Musician is prefixed to fifty-three. It is variously interpreted: either that the music was composed by the chief Musician, to whom David dedicated the Psalm; or, that for "to" we should read "by," and understand by "the chief Musician" (i.e. David himself), the composer of the words.
CLASSIFICATION ACCORDING TO SUBJECTS.
1. Instructive. On the perfection of God's law: 19, 119. On the blessing of piety, misery of vice: 1, 5, 7, 9-12, 14, 15, 17, 24, 25, 32, 34, 36, 37, 50, 52, 53, 58, 73, 75, 84, 91, 92, 94, 112, 119, 121, 125, 127, 128, 133. On vanity of human life: 39, 49, 90. On duty of rulers: 82,101.
2. Devotional. Prayer.—Penitence: 6, 32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143. Resignation: 3, 16, 27, 31, 54, 56, 57, 61, 62, 71, 86. Contrition: 13, 22, 69, 77,
88, 143. In severe trouble: 4, 5,11, 28, 41, 55, 59, 64, 70,109,120,140,141,143. In affliction: 44, 60, 74, 79, 80, 83, 89,
94, 102, 129,137. When deprived of public worship: 42, 43, 63, 84. Intercession: 10, 67,122, 132, 144.
Praise.— For God's providential care: 23, 34, 35, 91,100, 103, 107, 117, 121, 145, 146. Of God's attributes: 8, 19, 24, 29, 33, 47, 50, 65, 66, 76, 77, 93, 95—97, 99, 104, 111, 113— 115, 134,139, 147, 148, 150.
Thanksgiving.-For individual mercies: 9, 18, 22, 30, 34, 40, 75,103, 108, 116, 118, 138, 144. For general or national mercies: 46, 48, 65, 66, 68, 76, 81, 85, 98, 105, 124, 126,129, 135, 136,149.
3. Prophetical, chiefly of the Messiah: 2, 16, 22, 40, 45, 68, 69, 72, 97, 110, 118.
4. Historical: 78,105,106.
It is a manual of practical rules of life, as the Psalms are a manual of daily devotion; the former guiding the actions, the latter the thoughts. It is a book of daily lessons for all ages and states of men and women. "Wisdom" is religion; and "folly " is irreligion.
It may be divided as follows:—1. Introduction,—the value of wisdom (i.—ix.). 2. The Proverbs (strictly so called) of Solomon (x.—xxii. 16). 3. Another introduction, on the study of wisdom (xxii. 17--xxiv.). 4. A second volume of true Proverbs, collected by those who were set by Heze-kiah to restore the Temple worship, among whom were Isaiah and Hosea (xxv.—xxix.). 5. An Appendix, containing the instructions of Agur to his pupils Ithiel and Ucal, and of the mother of Lemuel to her son (xxx., xxxi.).
It is generally allowed that the main portion (x.—xxii. 16) is the work of Solomon, consisting of Proverbs composed or collected by himself, and that the other portions have been collected and added to it subsequently, the original title being preserved for the whole of the compilation, just as was done for the Psalms.
Date and Authorship. The date of this final arrangement is uncertain, but it was most probably in the time of Hezekiah. Modern critics are divided in their opinion whether the first part of the book (i.—ix.) belongs to the seventh or ninth century B.C., and the arguments on either side are alike inconclusive. It is also a matter of dispute whether it is earlier or later than the Song of Solomon and the Book of Job, many passages in the latter bearing such a striking resemblance to the Proverbs as to leave no doubt that the writer of the one was familiar with the other book. The Jews attributed the Songs of Solomon to the early youth, the Proverbs to the mature age, and Ecclesiastes to the declining years of Solomon, while others have assigned them all to the last portion of his life. There has never been any doubt of the Canonicity of the book, except by some writers among the Jews themselves.
SONG OF SOLOMON. This poem is said to be the only remaining one of the 1,005 songs composed by Solomon (in the Hebrew idiom it is called the Song of Songs, or the best of them all); and both Jewish and Christian tradition agree in this. It has been thought to have been a Marriage Ode composed by him at his nuptials with the daughter of Pharaoh, or with some 19 native of Palestine (espoused some years later), of noble extraction, but inferior to her husband (ii. 1, 6; vii. 1), and its language is held to be figurative of the union between Christ and His Spouse, the Church.
It is a poem, in which there are two characters, a male (Shelomoh, Peace), and a female, called by the same name with a feminine termination (Shulamith). There are treble and bass solos, which occasionally glide into a duet ( ii. 7; iii. 5; viii. 4), terminating in a chorus of virgins (Song iii. 6-11; v. 9; vi. 1,13; viii. 5, 8, 9). The sonnet of each of the two principal characters is not distinguished in our translation, as it is in the Hebrew by the use of masculine and feminine pronouns and adjectives; but they may be thus marked: Shulamith begins a treble solo ( Song i. 2-6), followed by a dialogue or duet (of about a verse each), to Song ii. 3, terminating in the duet (Song ii. 6, 7). Then Shulamith sings a solo (Song ii. 8-13), answered by Shelomoh (Song ii. 14, 15), and he again by her (Song iii. 1-4), gliding into the duet (Song iii. 5), and the chorus of virgins (from ver. 6 to the end of that chapter).
Chap. iv. commences with a sonnet from Shulamith in praise of her lover, answered by him, singing hers in turn. The same compliments are retorted with little variation by Shelomoh (chap, vii.), in praise of his spouse. The two intervening chapters (v. and vi.) seem to be sung by Shulamith and the chorus, and chap. viii. by them all chorally.
Ewald, with much reason, has conjectured that it is not the composition of Solomon, nor yet a marriage ode; but that it had its origin in the loving cry of the faithful Church still remaining in the kingdom of the ten tribes, when rent away from the house of David. Thus, "Solomon" is the head of the Jewish Church, personified in the Temple, the centre of devotion and love of the faithful spouse now excluded from it, but whose heart still yearns towards it. The compulsory attendance on the worship at Dan and Beth-el is well pourtrayed by—"My mother's children were angry with me; they made me the keeper of the vineyards; but mine mvn vineyard (God's Church) have I not kept." And again, as the worship of the calves was the beginning of Baalism, well might the faithful Israelite Church, forced to a false worship, hide its face and cry, "Look not upon me, because I am black; because the Sun hath looked upon me."
This view is sustained by the imagery used by the two speakers one of the other: that applied to the male being such as is applicable to the physical features of Judea; that to the female such as belongs rather to the northern kingdom. Again, the neck of Shelomoh is like the "tower of David " (iv. 4); he lives amidst the daughters of Jerusalem, and among the roes, harts, and hinds of the field, "leaping upon the mountains" (ii. 7, 8); while Shulamith lives under Lebanon, "a dove in the clefts of the rock, in the secret stairs " (ii. 14); her eyes are like fishpools in Hesh-bon, her nose as the tower of Lebanon, her head like Carmel (vii. 4, 5). All names of places used in the imagery of her by Shelomoh, or by her of herself, are taken from the ten tribes, even extending to those beyond the Jordan.
Date and Authorship. With the exception of a few Talmudists (who ascribe it to the time of Hezekiah), there is a general consent of all critics, down to the last century, that it is a genuine work of Solomon, though the date at which it was written is disputed. Kennicott places it in the time of Ezra or Nehemiah, on account of certain Chaldaisms in the Hebrew text, which, Gesenius alleges, are provincialisms peculiar to the northern part of Palestine, existing in the age of Solomon, to which period he attributes the composition. There seems nothing whatever in the subject-matter which could identify it with the post-Babylonish period, and the LXX. style it the "Song of Solomon."
The more probable time of its composition would seem to be that of Rehoboam, and it would appear as if it were an eirenikon (overture of peace) beween the two hostile kingdoms of Israel and Judah, reminding them that they were brethren (compare Song iii. 11; v. 16; viii. 2,5). The mention in juxtaposition of the two rival royal cities in the time of Jeroboam and Kehoboam, viz. Tirzah and Jerusalem (Song vi. 4); of the "threescore valiant men of Israel," expert in war, coming out of the wilderness (Song iii. 6-8); and of "the company of two armies," with the appeal to Shulamith to return (Song vi. 10), all seem to point to the conclusion of hostilities recorded in 1 Kings xii. 23, 24, or after the chastisement of Jeroboam by Abijah (2 Chron. xiii.).
Shelomoh would seem to be a personification of "Salem" (Jerusalem), and this ode would thus pourtray the yearning of the bereaved Israelite Church towards the holy Temple on Mount Zion after the separation of the ten tribes. This more fitly typifies the love between the Church and Christ than an "Epithalamium" on the marriage of Solomon with a heathen princess; while the terms of endearment lose all their grossness when applied to two nations with their distinctive physical features, —a view which the constant transition (in the original Hebrew) from the singular to the plural (or collective) pronouns strengthens
The Canonicity of this book has never been doubted, the evidence in its favour being as strong as that in support of the other books; but, among the Jews, no one under thirty years of age was allowed to read it.
ECCLESIASTES (the Preacher), called in Hebrew Koheleth, is generally supposed to have been written by Solomon at the close of his life, after his lapse (1 Kings xi.1-13), and expresses his penitence. He holds himself up as a warning to others; from its title, it is thought that he delivered it in public. It is a narrative of the attempts of a worldling in various ways to find happiness. He has fits of study, of pleasure, of sensuality, of refinement, of luxury, of misanthropy, of construction, mechanical skill, of book-making. All are unsatisfying, and leave a void; the conclusion being that all is an empty pleasure but the fear of God, and that subservience to Him is the only perfect freedom. Wisdom is here used in the modern sense, viz. possession of knowledge.
The Canonicity of this book is acknowledged by Jews and early Christian writers; but the former did not rank it among the poetical books, the major part of it being prose.
Both the age and authorship of this book are controverted. The mixture of the Hebrew with Aramaic words is thought to stamp it as belonging to the same age as the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, with which its subject-matter seems to accord; e.g. the expression of misery under a tyrannical government, sudden reversions of fortune, the tone of despondency, the moral and religious declension, and the condition of literature,—all seem to breathe an atmosphere more like that subsequent to the return from the Captivity, than the golden age of Solomon. The attempts, however, to fix its date have, so far, manifested very little unanimity.
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