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Descriptions for the Biblical Books

Introduction:

What we are presenting in the pages under this title are the details surrounding the authorship, dating, chronology and so on of the 66 books of the Bible. Please keep in mind that we do not agree 100% with the information given here. This information is for research and study purpose only and should not be taken as gospel truth. There are so many details we do not know, for example the exact authors of each book, because, as we believe, God wrote all the books using humans to pen his words in human form.

God did not use any supernatural power to make the books appear full of content magically like some wizard might. Instead he inspired his human writers and gave them the words he wanted his people and the world to know. Some people argue that the biblical authors were not secretaries taken dictation thus the biblical words were mixed with their personal thoughts. This is hardly the truth and is a weak attempt to ignore biblical instructions those people do not like.

We highly recommend that after reading these pages you research the details of each book to get a fuller, better picture of the nature surrounding each work. We may not know who the human authors were but we know that God wrote the Bible and that it is purely a divine book.

All information is taken from: Vol. 12 of the Christian Library Series of AGES Software Rio, WI USA Version 1.0 © 2001.

These pages are divided into 4 parts with 2 parts to each testament.

Part One: Genesis to Proverbs

Genesis

1. Its title. Like the other four divisions of the Pentateuch, the First Book of Moses derives its title in the Hebrew Scriptures from its initial word, Bereshith; in the LXX., which is followed by the A.V., it is designated by a term which defines its contents, Genesiv (Genesis). Genesiv referring to the source or primal cause of either thing or person, the work to which it has been assigned as a descriptive appellation has been styled the Book of Origins or Beginnings (Ewald); but since the LXX. employ Vedette as the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Tol’doth, which signifies not the causes, but the effects, not the antecedents, but the consequents of either thing or person (vid. 2:4: Exp.), the writing might be more exactly characterized as the Book of Evolutions or Developments.

2. Its contents. As a Book of Origins or Beginnings, it describes the creation or absolute origination of the universe, the formation or cosmical arrangement of this terrestrial sphere, the origin of man and the commencement of the human race, while it narrates the primeval histories of mankind in the three initial ages of the world the Antediluvian, the Postdiluvian, and the Patriarchal. Subsidiary to this, it depicts the pristine innocence of man in his first or Edenic state; recites the story of his fall through the temptation of an unseen adversary, with the revelation of Divine mercy which was made to him in the promise of the woman’s seed, and the consequent establishment on earth of a Church of believing sinners, looking forward to the consummation of that glorious promise; traces the onward course of the divided human family, in the deepening impiety of the wicked, and the decaying godliness of the righteous, till, ripe for destruction, the entire race, with the exception of one pious household, is wiped out or washed off from the face of the ground by the waters of a flood; then, resuming the thread of human history, after first sketching the principal features of that appalling catastrophe, pursues the fortunes of this family in its three sons, till it sees their descendants dividing off into nations, and spreading far and wide across the surface of the globe; when, returning once more to the original center of distribution, it takes up the story of one of these collateral branches into which the race has already separated, and carries it forward through successive stages till it connects itself with the later history of Israel. Or, regarding the work in the other mentioned aspect, as a Book of Evolutions or Developments, by which the standpoint of the writer is changed and brought round from the historical to the prophetic, from the a posteriori to the a priori, after sketching in a preliminary section the original creation of the universe and the arrangement of the present terrestrial cosmos, in ten successive sections it relates the Tol’doth or generations, i.e. the subsequent evolutions or onward developments of the cosmos which lead down to the point of departure for the history of Israel narrated in the ensuing books.

1. Its sources of information. That writings of an earlier period may have been employed in the compilation of the present narrative, however alarming the idea was when first propounded, and notwithstanding the fact that it is still frequently advanced in a hostile spirit, is now seen to be a comparatively innocuous hypothesis, at least when considered in itself.

That the author of the Book of Origins should have availed himself of preexisting materials in the composition of his great historical work seems no more an unreasonable suggestion than that the four evangelists should have drawn upon already circulating memoirs of our Lord’s life and work in the construction of their respective Gospels. Nor does any sober critic or intelligent student of the Bible now believe that such a supposition is fatal to the claims either of the Pentateuch and the Gospels to be received as canonical Scriptures, or of their writers to be regarded as inspired teachers.

Accordingly, the documentary hypothesis, as it is now familiarly styled, counts among its supporters not a few of those who maintain the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, and therefore of Genesis, as well as the vast majority, if not all, of those by whom that authorship is assailed.

3. Then there is the fact that the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch, and therefore of Genesis, was universally recognized by Jewish sects and parties — by Pharisees, and Sadducees, and Essenes; by Alexandrian as well as by Palestinian Jews; and by the Samaritans as well as by the inhabitants of Judaea.

4. The testimony of Christ and his apostles lends its weight to this conclusion (cf. <401907>Matthew 19:7; <411219>Mark 12:19; <422427>Luke 24:27, 44; <430145>John 1:45; 5:46, 47; <441521>Acts 15:21; <451005>Romans 10:5). Even Bleek with sufficient candor admits that this was the view entertained at the time of Christ and his apostles, as Philo and Josephus expressly testify; and the force of this admission is not rendered nugatory by the oft, quoted dicta that neither Christ nor his apostles came into the world to teach criticism (Clericus), and that faith in Christ cannot set limits to critical inquiries (De Wette); for, as Hermann Witsius justly observes, it is quite true that neither Christ nor his apostles were critical scholars (critici doctores) in the modem acceptation of the term; but they were certainly teachers of the truth (doctores veritatis) who did not come into the world to fortify popular errors by their authority.

1. Its method. On this point, after what already has been written (vid. p. 1.), a few words will suffice. The most cursory reader of the Book of Genesis cannot fail to discern that, so far from its being open to the charge of incoherency and want of arrangement which has been brought against it by some of its less scrupulous assailants, it is all through constructed on a simple, perfectly intelligible, and well-sustained plan. After the initial section, in which the sublime program of the Divine cosmogony is unfolded, it divides itself into ten successive books, in each of which the story of human history is advanced a stage, till the period of the first captivity is reached.

Thus while the Book of Genesis could not fail to be possessed of undying interest to every member of the Hebrew Church and nation, it is likewise a writing of transcendent value and paramount importance to every scion of the human race, containing as it does the only authentic information which has ever yet reached the world of the original dignity of mankind, and of the conditions under which it commenced its career on earth; the only satisfactory explanation which has ever yet been given of the estate of sin and misery in which, alas, it all too plainly finds itself today, and the only sufficient gospel of salvation that has ever yet been recommended to its attention and acceptance.

Exodus

THE Hebrew-speaking Jews have always designated the five books of the Pentateuch by their initial word or words; and, as they called the first book Bereshith, “In the Beginning,” and the third Vay-yikra, “And he called,” so they denominated the second Ve-eleh shemoth, “And these (are) the names.” The title “Exodus” was first applied to the book by the Hellenistic, or Greek-speaking, Jews, who translated the Hebrew Bible into Greek at Alexandria in the third and second centuries B.C. Exodus (e]xodov) means “departure” or “outgoing,” and was selected as an appropriate name for a work which treats mainly of the departure of the Children of Israel out of the land of Egypt.

Much the same arguments have been employed to disprove the unity of Exodus, and to establish the theory that it is the work of at least two authors, as have been already examined in this COMMENTARY with respect to Genesis. “The Elohist” and “the Jehovist” are again paraded before us, as if they were admitted realities, instead of being, as they are, pure figments, the creations of a captious and over-refining pseudocriticism.

It is an axiom of sound criticism that books are to be attributed to the authors to whom tradition assigns them, unless very strong reasons can be shown to the contrary.f11 Exodus, and indeed the Pentateuch generally, has been assigned to Moses by a unanimous tradition, current alike among Pharisees and Sadducees, among Jews and Samaritans, among those who ascribed a sacred character to the work and those who regarded it as a mere human production. No other author has ever been put forward as a rival candidate to Moses;f12 and we must either ascribe the work to a wholly unknown and nameless writer,f13 who, with a marvellous humility and self-abnegation, while composing the most important treatise which the world had seen, concealed himself so effectually as to secure his own complete oblivion, or we must admit that the tradition is in the right, and that Moses, the hero of Exodus, and of the three following books, was also their composer.

The internal chronology of the Book of Exodus is a matter of great simplicity, presenting only a single point of doubt or difficulty. This is the question whether the Hebrew text of <021240>Exodus 12:40 is to be regarded as sound and genuine, or whether it is to be corrected from the Samaritan version and the Septuagint. In the Hebrew text we read: “Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, who dwelt in Egypt, was four hundred and thirty years;” or more literally, “Now the sojourning of the children of Israel, which they sojourned in Egypt,f49 was 430 years.” But in the Septuagint the passage runs thus: “The sojourning of the children of Israel, which they sojourned in Egypt and in the land of Canaan, was 430 years;” f50 and in the Samaritan thus: “The sojourning of the children of Israel and of their fathers, which they sojourned in the land of Canaan and in the land of Egypt, was 430 years.” If the Hebrew text is sound we must count 430 years from the descent of Jacob into Egypt to the Exodus; if it is corrupt, and to be corrected from the two ancient versions, the time of the sojourn will be reduced one-half, for it was a space of exactly 215 years from the entrance of Abraham into Canaan to the descent of Jacob into Egypt.f51

And first, as to language and style. We have already noticedf30 the simplicity of style observable in Exodus and the Pentateuch generally, which places it on a par with the early writings of other nations, and proves it to belong to the dawn of Hebrew literature. The language is generally allowed to be archaic, or at any rate to contain archaisms; and though some writers deny this, and assert that the unusual forms and words which characterise the Pentateuch are “not so much archaisms as peculiarities,” yet this conclusion is contrary to the general opinion of Hebrew scholars,f31 and has the appearance of being rather a position forced on its maintainers by the exigencies of controversy, than one assumed spontaneously from a dispassionate consideration of the linguistic facts. Such features as the employment of the pronoun awh for the third person of both genders, of r["n" for “girl” as well as “boy,” and of the full form ˆW instead of the abraded W for the termination of the third person plural of the preterite, are by the very nature of things and the universal laws of language, archaic.

The archaic character of other peculiar forms is also indicated by the fact that several of them occur besides only in Joshua, while some are common to the Pentateuch with none but very late books, e.g. Chronicles and Ezekiel, books written in the decay of the language, when it is notorious that writers studiously imitate the old forms.f32 Exodus has its full share of these peculiarities, which we must venture, with the bulk of Hebrew critics, still to term “archaisms,” and has therefore at least as much claim as any other of the five books to be regarded as Mosaic on this ground.

The language of Exodus has also another peculiarity, which, if it does not prove the Mosaic authorship, fits in exactly with it, viz. the frequent occurrence of Egyptian words and phrases.

Leviticus

LEVITICUS forms the center and nucleus of the five books of Moses. Closely attached to it are the two Books of Exodus and Numbers, and outside of them, on either side, stand Genesis and Deuteronomy. The subject of the Book of Leviticus is the Sinaitic legislation, from the time that the tabernacle was erected. It does not, however, comprise the whole of that legislation. There is an overflow of it into the Book of Numbers…With these exceptions, the Book of Leviticus contains the whole of the legislation delivered in the district of Mount Sinai, during the month and twenty days which elapsed between the setting up of the tabernacle on the first day of the second year after quitting Egypt, and the commencement of the march from Sinai on the twentieth day of the second month of the same year. But while this was the whole of the Sinaitic legislation “out of the tabernacle,” there were also laws given on Mount Sinai itself during the last nine months of the first year of the march from Egypt, which are recounted in Exodus 19–40. While, therefore, Leviticus is very closely connected with the early part of Numbers on one side, it is very closely connected with the latter part of Exodus on the other.

The Book naturally falls into five divisions. The first part is on sacrifice; the second part records the establishment of an hereditary priesthood; the third deals with the question of uncleanness, ceremonial and moral; the fourth enumerates the holy days and seasons. The book ends with a fifth part, consisting of an exhortation to obedience, and there is attached to it an appendix on vows…

The question of authorship does not properly arise on this book. Whatever may be said of Genesis and Deuteronomy, the second, third, and fourth of the books of Moses stand or fall together, nor is there anything in the Book of Leviticus to separate it in respect to authenticity from Exodus which precedes, and Numbers which follows it…there is nothing in the whole book which is incompatible with the authorship and the date of Moses.

This being so, the fact that it has come down to us as the work of Moses, and that it by implication professes itself to be the work of Moses, and that its character and language are, so far as we can judge, such as would be in accordance with a work of Moses, leave the hypothesis of the authorship of Moses as certain, on the score of internal evidence, as any such hypothesis can Be. Nor is there wanting any external evidence which could be expected to exist. The Book of Joshua recognizes the existence of “the Book of the Law of Moses”…

Numbers

THE Book of Numbers is a part of the Mosaic writings ordinarily called the Pentateuch. It would be more correct in a literary sense to say that it forms part of those records of the Beni-Israel which bring down the history of that peculiar people to the date of their victorious entry into their own land. The Book which follows is (on any theory as to its authorship) widely dissevered from the previous records in character and scope. The Book of Numbers forms the concluding fourth of a work of which the substantial unity and continuity cannot be reasonably questioned, and therefore very much which affects this Book is better treated of in an Introduction to the whole. The division, however, which separates Numbers from Leviticus is more marked than that which separates Leviticus from Exodus, or Exodus from Genesis.

The narrative (which has been almost entirely suspended throughout the third Book) reappears in the fourth, and leads us on (with divers breaks and interruptions indeed) through the whole of that most important and distinctive period which we may call the fourth stage in the national life of the Beni-Israel. The first of these stages extends from the call of Abraham to the beginning of the sojourn in Egypt. The second includes the time of sojourning there. The third is the short but critical period of the exodus from Rameses to Mount Sinai, including the giving of the Law. The fourth reaches from Mount Sinai to the river Jordan, and coincides with the whole period of probation, preparation, failure, recovery. It will be noticed that our Book is the only one of the four which corresponds entirely to one of these stages; it has therefore more real distinctness of character than any of the other three.

The dates given in the Book itself are (excluding the date of the departure from Rameses, chapter 33:3) only four; but the reference to the setting up of the tabernacle is equivalent to a fifth. We have, therefore, the following as fixed points in the narrative.

1. The dedication of the tabernacle, with the offering of the princes (<040701>Numbers 7:1, 2) and the descent of the sacred cloud (<040915>Numbers 9:15) — 1st day of Abib in year 2.

2. The second passover (<040905>Numbers 9:5) —14th day of Abib in year 2.

3. The census at Sinai (<040101>Numbers 1:1) — 1st day of Zif in year 2.

4. The supplemental passover (<040911>Numbers 9:11) — 14th day of Zif in year 2.

5. The start for Canaan (<041011>Numbers 10:11) — 20th day of Zif in year 2.

6. The death of Aaron (33:38) — 1st day of Ab in year 40.

It has been until lately assumed as a matter of course that the whole of this Book, together with the other four of the Pentateuch, was written By Moses. With regard to <041203>Numbers 12:3 alone, the obvious difficulty of ascribing such a statement to Moses himself has always led many to regard it as an interpolation by some later (sacred) writer. When we come to examine the evidence for the Mosaic authorship of the whole Book as it stands, it is astonishing how little it amounts to. There is not a single statement attached to the Book to show that it was written by Moses.

There is indeed a statement in <043302>Numbers 33:2 that “Moses wrote their goings out according to their journeys By the commandment of the Lord;” but this, so far from proving that Moses wrote the Book, somewhat strongly militates against it. For the statement in question is found in a section which is’ obviously distinct, and which has more the appearance of an appendix to the narrative than of an integral part of it…Turning to the external testimony as to authorship, we come to the evidence afforded by the opinion of the later Jews. No one doubts that they ascribed the whole Pentateuch to Moses, and comparatively few doubt that their tradition was substantially correct

The credibility of these writings (considered apart from the fact of their inspiration) turns mainly upon the question to whose authority the statements contained in them can be traced, and in a very minor degree to whose hand the present arrangement of them is due. As to the first, we have every reason to believe that the materials of the Book are substantially from Moses himself, whose knowledge and veracity are alike beyond suspicion. As to the second, we have only to acknowledge the same ignorance as in the case of the greater part of the Old Testament and of some part of the New Testament.

It is, of course, open to any one to doubt or to deny the truth of these records, but in order to show reason for doing so he must not be content with pointing out some difference of style here, or some trace of a later hand there, but he must bring forward some clear instance of error, some undeniable self-contradiction, or some statement which is fairly incredible. The mere existence of a record so ancient and revered, and the unmistakable tone of simplicity and straightforwardness which characterizes it, give it a prima facie claim upon our acceptance until good cause can be shown to the contrary. If the early records of other nations are largely fabulous and incredible, no presumption passes over from them to a record which on the face of it presents such utterly different features.

It remains to examine candidly the only objection of a serious nature (apart from the question of miracles, which it is useless to consider here) which has been brought against the substantial truth of this Book.

Deuteronomy

This Book, which ranks as the closing book of the Pentateuch, the Fifth of the Fifths of the Law (tr;wOT yvem]wOj vm, jo), as the Jews designate it, is in the Hebrew canon named from its two initial words, ‘Elleh Had-debharim μyrib;D]h" hl,ae), or simply Debharim, according to an ancient usage with the Jews (Origen on Psalm 1. ap. Huetii ‘Origeniana,’ tom. 1. p. 47; Jerome, ‘Prol. Galatians’). The name Deuteronomy it received from the Greek translators, whom the Vulgate follows (Deuterono>mion, Deuteronomium). Probably this was the name in use among the Hellenistic Jews, for this may be regarded as a fair rendering of the phrase, Mishneh Hat-torah (hr;wOTh" hn,v]mi), “Iteration of the Law,” by which some of the rabbins designate this book — a phrase taken from <051618>Deuteronomy 16:18, though there having a different sense (see note on the passage).

The name “Deuteronomy” is thus somewhat misleading, as it is apt to suggest that there is in this book either a second code of laws or a recapitulation of laws already delivered, whereas it is rather a summary, in a hortatory manner, of what it most concerned the people to keep in mind, both of the Lord’s doings on their behalf, and of what it was his will they should specially observe and do when settled in the Promised Land…

The book consists chiefly of three lengthened addresses, delivered by Moses to the people on the eastern side of the Jordan, after they had obtained possession by conquest of the region stretching northwards from the borders of Moab towards those of Aram…

From the survey of the contents of this book, it is apparent that it is not intended as a supplement to the other books of the Pentateuch, but rather is to be viewed as a closing appeal, on the part of the great leader of Israel, to those whom he had conducted and formed into a nation, directed towards inducing them to keep inviolate the covenant of the Lord, that it might be well with them and their children. With this in view, Moses selects those facts in the past history of the people the remembrance of which was most fitted to preserve them in their dependence upon and allegiance to Jehovah, and those parts of the legislation already enacted as bore most closely on the covenant relation of Jehovah to his people. It is in accordance with this design that laws of a general kind, or such as relate to official functionaries and acts, should be only briefly referred to or altogether passed over; and also that instructions as to the proper ordering of matters which could be attended to only after the settlement of the nation in Canaan, should form an important dement among the farewell counsels of him who had brought them to the confines of that land, but was not himself to enter it with them.

This book presents in the general such a uniformity of representation and character, such sameness of style and method, that there can be no hesitation in accepting it as, in the main, the work of one author. Was that author Moses? That he was is the commonly received belief, handed down from a remote antiquity, and which was not seriously questioned till comparatively recent times. Many objections, however, have been advanced against it of late; and this renders it necessary that the evidence, both in support of the traditionary belief and against it, should be carefully collected and weighed…

Regarding the first of these, it may suffice to say that, though it is quite possible that the title and introduction may have been prefixed to the original work by a later hand, there is nothing to show that this is really the case; and whilst, on the one hand, there is no reason why this may not have been written by the author of the work himself, it is, on the of. her, probable that it was placed there by him, since without it his work commences so abruptly that it is inconceivable that any skilled writer should have allowed it to go forth in such condition.

The passages containing the ethnographical notices have, it must be confessed, very much the appearance of being interpolations, and may possibly be glosses that have been introduced by some editor of the work into the text. At the same time, it is not incredible that Moses may have inserted, parenthetically, the notices which these passages contain…

Joshua

EXCEPT perhaps, the Book of Daniel, there are no parts of Holy Scripture concerning the date and authorship of which so lively a controversy has raged as the first six books of the Old Testament. To mention all the various theories that have been advanced would be impossible…

Now the “scientific” critics of the Old Testament proceed upon two assumptions which can by no means be regarded as self-evident truths. First, they assume that there is no such thing as the supernatural in revelation, that all prophecies were written after the event, and all miracles are the result of legends gradually gathering round the facts of history in later ages. And next, they assume that it is possible, on purely subjective grounds, to determine without risk of error the authors of the respective fragments of which the Hebrew Scriptures are composed. But it may be observed, in reference to this second point, that in no two hands do the same premises yield the same results, a fact which in any other branch of science would lead us to suspect the accuracy either of the data or of the method…

It must be confessed that these “scientific” theories, if not sound, are extremely ingenious. It is very difficult to reply conclusively to a critic who has a theory ready made to meet every emergency. Thus, if the author of the Book of Joshua displays an accurate and minute acquaintance with his subject, he is quoting an early and authentic document. If he states anything which is not at first sight easily reconcileable with what he has stated elsewhere, he has taken it out of another less early and less authentic one. If he quotes the Book of Deuteronomy, which according to all the laws of literary criticism proves it to have been in existence when he wrote, he was himself the author of it, and was engaged in the task of mingling its contents with real and veracious history. If a ‘Book of the Wars of Jahveh’ is quoted, as in <042114>Numbers 21:14, 15, it is an older document. If a ‘ Book of the Law of Jahveh,’ he wrote it himself.

The principal objections which have been made against the Divine inspiration of the Book of Joshua are of two kinds, moral and scientific. The first class of objections is raised against the slaughter of the Canaanites as inconsistent with the goodness and mercy we know to be attributes of the Divine Being. The second class take their stand on the inconsistency of miraculous parts of the history with the known laws of nature as revealed by science.

The authenticity of the Book of Deuteronomy is a question on which we are of course precluded from entering. But the question of the hand the Deuteronomist had in the compilation of the Book of Joshua is one which falls within our limits. There is not the slightest evidence in the book itself to lead to the conclusion that it was a production of the time of Manasseh, a conclusion which the opponents of the genuineness of Deuteronomy have based upon the very slender foundation of the prophecy in <052868>Deuteronomy 28:68. If, as is assumed, the Deuteronomist embodied the references to his own work into the Book of Joshua, in order to facilitate the reception of his pretended laws of Moses, the question forces itself irresistibly upon us, Why did he not introduce more of them? Why did he confine his extracts from the ‘Book of the Laws of Jahveh’ to the passage at the end of ch. 8., and a few exhortations to “be strong and of good courage,” and the like, which is all we find elsewhere? These extracts are not enough for his purpose, were he introducing them for the purpose of gaining acceptance for the precepts he was desirous of enforcing.

We proceed to enumerate the reasons for believing that the Book of Joshua was composed at an early date. The first is, the entire absence of any allusion to the later condition of Israel in it. We have already noticed how entirely the idea of regal pomp or authority is absent from the whole conception of Joshua’s character, and from the whole treatment of the subject. That it was written before the time of David seems clear from the statement (<061506>Joshua 15:68) that the Jebusites dwelt among the children of Israel “until this day.”

The mention of the Gibeonites without any reference to Saul’s neglect of the solemn promise made to them in God’s name would lead to the belief that it was written before the time of Saul. We have a yet more distinct intimation of an early date in <061610>Joshua 16:10. It could hardly be said that the inhabitants of Gezer serve under tribute “unto this day” when Israel was groaning under Canaanitish oppression. Such language could hardly have been used, at least after the time of Othniel. Nor do the other occasions on which the words “unto this day” are used of necessity imply a very remote future.

The style of the book strongly supports this conclusion. Even those who study it in a translation only cannot fail to be struck with one characteristic it has in common with the books of Moses. This is the peculiar habit the author has of repetition, which marks an age of great literary simplicity. We lose this feature to a very great extent in the later historical books.

I. The moral objection admits of a very simple answer. How, it is asked, could the revolting and cruel command have been given by the God of love and mercy to Moses and Joshua, to massacre an unoffending population under circumstances of the grossest barbarity; involving aged men, weak women, and harmless children in the same slaughter with the warriors and leaders of the people?

II. A more formidable objection by far is raised to the miraculous portion of the Book of Joshua. The progress of modern physical science has altogether altered the position of miracles among the evidences of Christianity. In earlier ages the marvels that were believed to have been wrought by God at the inauguration both of the old covenant and the new, were regarded as among the most conspicuous proofs of the Divine origin of both. Now these very miracles are the greatest difficulties in the way of the reception of Christianity. The discovery of the laws of force by which the universe is governed, and the apparent invariability of their action, is calculated to throw considerable doubt on the accuracy of a narrative which records so startling a departure from the ordinary course of nature.

The more what used to be considered wonders or portents in nature are brought within the range of nature’s ordinary laws, the harder it becomes to believe that on some special occasion, and for special reasons, those laws were altogether set aside. And this view of things derives additional strength from two important facts: first, that, in the infancy of all nations alike, the occurrence of prodigies of the strangest nature was devoutly believed; and next, that, down to our own day, in countries where superstition is predominant, the same childish tendency to the marvellous is constantly observed.

Judges

THE Book of Judges, called in Hebrew μyfKwç,f1 in the Septuagint KRITAI, and in the Vulgate LIBER JUDICUM, or JUDICES, takes its name, like the other historical books, — the five Books of Moses, the Book of Joshua, the Book of Ruth, the Books of Samuel and of the Kings, the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, and the Book of Esther, — from its contents, viz., the history of certain transactions which took place in Israel under the judges. The judges were those extraordinary civil and military rulers who governed Israel in the interval between the death of Joshua and the foundation of the kingdom of Israel; except only that the judgeship of Samuel was a kind of connecting link between the two — Samuel himself being a judge, though of a different character from those that preceded him, and his government merging in the latter part of it into the kingdom of Saul; so that the times of Samuel occupy a middle place between the Judges and the Kings, belonging partly to both, but wholly to neither…

The first thing one looks for in a scientific history is a careful and accurate chronology. But such is entirely wanting in the Book of Judges, for the reason that it is not a scientific history, but a collection of narratives having a moral and religious purpose; illustrative, that is, of the evil of idolatry, of God’s providential government of the world, and of his special rule over the chosen race of Israel. We are obliged, therefore, to construct our chronology out of the indications which every true history contains in itself of the sequence and connection of events. But these are necessarily inexact, and cannot always be made to determine the time within a century or more, especially when there is no accurate contemporary history…

It has already been remarked that the history is not that of one united people, but of several separate tribes. The truth of this remark will appear if we consider the great length and detail of some of the narratives, quite out of proportion to their importance relatively to the whole Israelitish nation, but quite natural when we look upon them as parts of the annals of particular tribes. The preservation of Deborah’s magnificent ode, the full details of the history of Gideon, the long story of Abimelech’s reign, the highly interesting narrative of the birth and adventures of Samson, the detached accounts of the expedition of the Danites, and of the fall of the tribe of Benjamin, which close the book, are probably all due to the fact of their being taken from existing records of the several tribes. These were all brought into harmony and unity of purpose by the compiler, who selected (under the guidance of the Holy Spirit) those portions which bore upon his main purpose, which was to denounce idolatry, to confirm the Israelites in the service of the Lord the God of their fathers, and to illustrate the faithfulness, the mercy, and the power of their covenant God.

There is nothing peculiar in the language (except some strange architectural terms in ch. 3. in the part relating to Ehud, and some rare words in Deborah’s song, in ch. 5.) from which to gather the date of compilation…

Ruth

Still it is not Ruth’s religiousness that is the outstanding feature of the character that is delineated in the Book. It is not her love to the great Divine Object, the God of Israel, that is portrayed. It is her love to a good and worthy human object, Naomi, her mother-in-law. Topsell was right in assigning to religion or religiousness a higher pedestal than can be accorded to any other devotedness; but he misled himself when, in his eagerness to do homage to that which is highest, he assumed that it was the highest ideal of human character that is bodied forth in the succession of literary photographs which are found in the Book of Ruth.

Many have supposed that the true raison detre of the Book is a matter of genealogy. The ground on which this opinion is maintained is the fact that there is a little bit of genealogy in the five verses with which the Book is wound up. This bit of genealogy connects Pharez the son of Judah with David the son of Jesse. The line passed through Boaz, the husband of Ruth. It is an important historical relationship, more especially to us Christians; for as Christ was “the Son of David,” he was the Son of Boaz too, and consequently the Son of Ruth the Moabitess — a Gentile link.

The fact is all the more significant and suggestive as, in ascending the genealogical ladder upward to Abraham, the father of the Messianic people, we discover that there were other Gentile links which connected the favored descendants of the patriarch with the outlying “families of the earth, “ and which likewise show, in consequence of the moral peculiarity attaching to them, how wondrous was the boon conferred upon men, when the Lord of glory humbled himself to become the “kinsman” and the “friend” of those whose name is “sinners.”…

The Book of Ruth is not a history; nor is it a biography. It is only a little biographical episode in a history. It is a story; but, without doubt, a true story. True? How is that evinced? What is there even to suggest the story’s objective truthfulness or authenticity Much. The Book comes before us as a narrative of facts; and, although making no parade of its veracity, it has, in its own inimitable simplicity and crystalline transparency, all the appearance of being an honest representation of objective realities.

The material of the story, moreover, is of such a nature that its unreality, if it had not been honest,  The stuff out of which the story is woven consisted, so to speak, of very sensitive filaments. It had to do with the genealogy of the royal family. The principal personages in the story were the ancestors of King David…

There is not the least likelihood that the’ little Book could have been written just immediately after the occurrence of the events narrated. For, in the first place, the writer, in the very opening sentence of the Book, comes down beyond the age of the Judges. He speaks of what came to pass “in the days when the Judges judged.” It is implied that these days were, by his time, at some considerable distance in the past. Then, in the second place, he speaks in Ruth 4. of a custom that “in former time” obtained in Israel in reference to important transactions, involving the transfer of property, or the surrender of property-rights, which custom was observed by Boaz and his kinsman. At the time when the writer lived the custom had become obsolete, so that a considerable period must have elapsed between the date of the events narrated and the date of the narrative of them in the Book of Ruth. Then, in the third place, the genealogy at the close of the Book is carried down to David, and thus far beyond the time “when the Judges judged.”…

No other time, it would appear, can be fixed upon as furnishing a more likely date for the composition and publication of the Book. Not an earlier time; for the custom of pulling off a shoe and giving it to the contracting party was observed in the days of Boaz, but had gone into desuetude at the date of the Book’s publication. It could scarcely have died out much sooner than in two or three generations…

We see then no reason whatever for postponing the date of the Book of Ruth to exilic or post-exilic times. All the weightiest evidence seems to be in the scale that assigns the composition of the Book to the literary age of King David. And yet, even with these strong convictions, we would bear in mind that the real interest of the story is independent of any chronological theory. The Book is a literary gem in ancient Hebrew literature; and it speaks, by what Ewald calls “the pre-eminent beauty of its pictures and descriptions, “ not to the hearts of Hebrews only, but to universal man…

The authorship is utterly unknown, and guesses need not be multiplied. Many attribute it to Samuel. Abarbanel ascribes it to the writer of Joshua. Others have imagined that Hezekiah, and others still that Ezra, is the author. Heumann thinks that King David himself was the penman. He conceives that any other writer would, in the genealogical table at the close, have given its royal honor to his name. It is too slender and too precarious a basis on which to establish his guess. It is in vain to guess, although we deem it probable that the incidents of the story would be preserved with interest in the family of David, and often narrated within the precincts of his home…

Editors of the Old Testament Canon have freely availed themselves of their right to hold their own opinions, and to act upon them. The Hebrew editors have relegated the little Book of Ruth to the ‘Hagiographa,’ the group of ‘Sacred Miscellanies,’ which comprehends, among other works, the Psalms, the Proverbs, Job, the Song of Songs, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes. In the Hebrew Bibles in current use Ruth stands between the Song of Songs and Lamentations, as if with sorrow on the left hand, and joy on the right. In other editions it stands at the head of the entire group.

In the Septuagint, on the other hand, followed by the Vulgate, the Book is found at the close of the Book of Judges, as if it were a little biographical additament to that larger historical work…

There is no artistic elaboration in the style. There is not a vestige of aim at fine writing. No whip is laid on the imagination to impart gleam or luster to  what is said. Yet there are in the Book graces of diction that are the native and apparently unconscious outcome of ardent and devoted attachment on the one hand, and of kindly feeling and admiration on the other. The composition is simple, clear, transparent, and with quite a noticeable amount of that additive or aggregative and agglutinative method of joining thing to thing, that is a feature of Hebrew composition in general. There are eighty-five verses in the Book, and yet there are only eight of them that do not commence with the conjunction and. Throughout the little Book this earliest of conjunctions occurs about 250 times in all.

I Samuel

THE Books of Samuel are so called not because they were written by Samuel, though possibly some of the materials may claim him as their author, but because they describe his work for Israel; and it is not too much to say of him, that as Moses was the founder, so it was Samuel who reorganised and developed the political constitution of the Jewish nation, and enriched it with institutions which made it capable of taking the high place among the families of mankind to which the providence of God was calling it…

In Hebrew manuscripts the two Books form but one; it is in the Septuagint that we find them divided, and called the First and Second Books of the Kingdoms. The Vulgate has followed the Septuagint in its division, but calls them the First and Second Books of Kings. Finally, Daniel Bomberg, in the great Hebrew Bible published by him at Venice early in the sixteenth century, adopted this arrangement, and most modern Hebrew Bibles follow his example. But the division is most awkward. Saul’s death is separated from David’s pathetic lamentation over the fallen monarch, and the break in the narrative prevents the reader from following easily the development of David’s character and history. In these days, When no matters of convenience require the disruption of the Book, a great advantage would be gained by once again arranging it as a whole, instead of following the Septuagint in its unphilosophical division. The name there, “Books of the Kingdoms,” refers to the two monarchies of Israel and Judah, and is carried on through the two following Books of Kings…

Who was the compiler of the Book of Samuel is absolutely unknown, and we are left also to gather our conclusions as to the date and character of its composition from incidental facts and allusions scattered through the history. One such conclusion forced upon us is that the Book is made up of a number of detached narratives, each of which is complete in itself, and carries the history down into its remoter consequences…

The next question refers to the compiler’s date, and here some of our materials are sufficiently decisive. When we are told that “Ziklag pertaineth unto the kings of Judah unto this day” (<092706>1 Samuel 27:6), it is plain that he lived after the disruption of Solomon’s kingdom…

Thus, then, we have seen that the compiler places six narratives at the end of the second Book because, excepting David’s “last words,” there was nothing in them to show to what period of his reign they belonged. Evidently a considerable interval must have elapsed before tradition had so completely died out as to leave no trace behind for the historian’s guidance…

On the other hand, the style of the Hebrew is more pure and free from Aramaisms than that of the Books of Kings. Local worship, moreover, and sacrifices are spoken of without any doubt of their propriety, whereas in the Books of Kings they are condemned. It is a further note of antiquity that the compiler never refers to his authorities, nor are there any hints or allusions to late Jewish history.

While then we can at best only give a conjectural date, yet we may feel sure that the compiler must have lived at some period between the reign of Rehoboam and the upgrowth of the strong disapproval of worship anywhere except at Jerusalem. The reign of Jehoshaphat is a not improbable era, for “the high places were not taken away” (<142033>2 Chronicles 20:33), though idolatry was sternly repressed. Had the compiler lived nearer to David’s reign, he would probably have been able to give us more definite information as to Saul’s age and the duration of his kingdom.

The Books of Samuel are classed by the Jews among the “Early Prophets” for the reason given above, that history was their especial study, and the compiler we may feel sure belonged to their order as well as did the writers of the various “books of acts” used by him. The “Early Prophets” comprise the Books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings, and all these works were most probably written for the use of the prophetic schools, and certainly were the result of the mental activity awakened in Israel by Samuel, and maintained by those who after his decease presided over the colleges which he had called into existence.

II Samuel

THE Second Book of Samuel is virtually the history of David’s reign, while the First had comprised a twofold narrative, that, namely, of Samuel’s reformation of Israel, followed by the account of the uprise and fall of Saul. And never had king a more pathetic history than Israel’s first monarch. Full of hope and vigour, yet modest, brave, and generous, he had entered in a most praiseworthy spirit upon the duties of his high but difficult office. Unhappily, there was a flaw in a character otherwise so noble. Throughout the history of Israel one great principle is never forgotten, and that is the presence of a higher than any human power, ever ruling in the affairs of men, and making right and justice prevail. And Saul could not bring himself into accord with this power, and again and again crossed the boundary which lay between the king’s authority and that of God…

Saul, in the midst of his violent acts, had never ceased to be a religious man, though there was none of that personal love and loyalty to Jehovah which so distinguished David. It was the national religion to which he gave his allegiance; and it was as a statesman and patriot that he respected it, though doubtless he never shook off the influence of Samuel. But there was little genuine piety in his heart, and no trust in God, nor any feeling of union with him. In domestic life he retained his simple manners, and did not give way to that voluptuousness which disgraced David, and filled the last twenty years of his life with shame and sorrow. But as a ruler he had failed…

From first to last Saul was the destroyer of himself, his family, and his kingdom. Samuel foretold his fall, but the warning was given personally to the king to move him to repentance. Repentance would have saved him, and Samuel allowed him ample time; for, during four or five years, he did absolutely nothing to help on his words to their accomplishment. Only after this long delay, spent by Samuel in mourning (<091535>1 Samuel 15:35), at God’s express command he arose and anointed David; but neither of them, either openly or by secret conspiracy, took any steps to compass Saul’s ruin. All that David did he was driven to do. To the last he was loyal to his king…

But besides the interest inseparable from the study of a character such as David’s, the Second Book of Samuel gives us the history, of the founding of Israel’s empire. War is a dreadful thing, and involves a terrible amount of material loss and injury; but it is at once God’s penalty upon national debasement, and his remedy against national meanness and selfishness.

Nations rise to moral greatness through war, and when they have been sinking through social corruption and private immorality, it is generally war which reveals to them the gangrene in their midst, and either forces them by repeated disaster to humble themselves for it, or displaces them in order that a worthier people may fill their room…

We have thus in the Second Book of Samuel a history essential to Holy Scripture, and of profound and even painful interest. For never had human soul a more checkered record of sin and sorrow, of discord in its relations with itself, of intense contrition and earnest pleading for forgiveness, and of genuine faith, than that which is set before us here. But without the Psalms, which disclose to us the inner working of David’s heart, we should lose much of its significance. For here, chiefly, we have David’s sin and his lifelong punishment; while there we have the struggle of his soul wending its way through darkness and sorrow upwards to forgiveness, to light, and to joyful communion with God…

It was probably a contemporary document, as was also the next, which forms ch. 9-20…

I Kings

THE Books now known to us as the First and Second Books of the Kings, like 1 and 2 Samuel, were originally and are really but one work, by one writer or compiler, and it is only for convenience of reference and because of long established usage that we here treat them as two. In all Hebrew MSS. down to the time of Jerome certainly, and probably down to A.D. 1518, when the Hebrew text was first printed by D. Bomberg at Venice, the division into two books was unknown. It was first made in the Greek version by the Septuagint translators, who followed a prevailing custom of the Alexandrine Greeks of dividing ancient works for facility of reference.

The division thus introduced was perpetuated in the Latin version of Jerome, who took care, however, while following the LXX. usage, to notice the essential unity of the work;f1 and the authority of the Septuagint in the Eastern, and of the Vulgate in the Western Church, has ensured the continuance of this bipartite arrangement in all later time…

The name KINGS (μyklm) requires but little notice. Whether these scriptures bore this name from the first or not — and it is hardly likely that they did, the probability being that the Book was originally cited, like those of the Pentateuch, etc., By its initial words, dyd dlmhw, and was only called “Kings” from its contents (like the Book of “Samuel”) at a later period — this one word aptly describes the character and subject matter of this composition and sufficiently distinguishes it from the rest of its class. It is simply a history of the kings of Israel and Judah, in the order of their reigns. The LXX. Title, Basileiw~n g.d.. (i.e. “Kingdoms”), expresses the same idea,f6 for in Eastern despotisms, and especially under the Hebrew theocracy, the history of the kingdom was practically that of its kings…

The date of the composition of the Kings can be fixed, with much greater facility and certainty than that of many portions of Scripture, from the contents of the Books themselves. It must lie somewhere between B.C. 561 and B.C. 588; that is to say, it must have been in the latter part of the Babylonian captivity. It cannot have been before B.C. 561, for that is the year of the accession of Evil-Merodach, whose kindly treatment of Jehoiachin, “in the year that he began to reign,” is the last event mentioned in the history. Assuming that this is not an addition by a later band, which we have no reason to think is the case,f10 we have thus one limit — a maximum of antiquity — fixed with certainty. And it cannot have been after B.C. 538, the date of the return under Zerubbabel, as it is quite inconceivable that the historian should have omitted to notice an event of such profound importance, and one too which had such a direct bearing on the purpose for which the history was penned — which was partly, as we have already remarked, to trace the fulfilment of <100712>2 Samuel 7:12-16, in the fortunes of David’s house — had that event occurred at the time when he wrote. We may safely assign this year, consequently, as the minimum date for the composition of the work…

The authorship is a question of much greater difficulty.f12 It was long held, and it is still maintained by many scholars, that the Kings are the work of the prophet Jeremiah…

The Books of Kings being obviously and necessarily, from their historical character, to a very large extent, a compilation from other sources, the question now presents itself, What and of what sort were the records from which this narrative was constructed?...

But the question may possibly arise, Are these writings, whatever their origin, to be accepted as authentic, sober history? It is a question, happily, which may be dismissed with few words, for their veracity has never been seriously doubted. If we except the miraculous portions of the history — to which the only serious objection is that they are miraculous, and therefore in the nature of things must be mythical there is absolutely no reason for challenging the veracity and honesty of the narrative. Not only has it throughout the air of sober history; not only is it accepted as such including the supernatural portions — by our Lord and His apostles (<400629>Matthew 6:29; 11:14; <420425>Luke 4:25-27; 9:8, 54; <410106>Mark 1:6; <440747>Acts 7:47, 48; <451103>Romans 11:3, 4; <581135>Hebrews 11:35; <590517>James 5:17, 18; <660220>Revelation 2:20; 11:9), but it is everywhere confirmed by the monuments of antiquity and the records of profane historians, whensoever it and they happen to have points of contact…

There is one particular, however, in which our text, as it now stands, is open to some suspicion, and that is the matter of dates. Some of these, it would appear, have been accidentally altered in the course of transcription — a result which need cause us no surprise, if we remember that anciently numbers were represented by letters, and that the Assyrian, or square characters, in which the Scriptures of the Old Testament have been handed down to us, are extremely liable to be confounded…

And it does this less because these corrections or interpolations are as a rule sufficiently conspicuous, and because, as has been justly remarked, “the chief difficulties of the chronology and almost all the actual contradictions disappear, if we subtract from the work those portions which are generally parenthetic.”f42

II Kings

THOUGH the two Books of the Kings “were originally and are really but one work, by one writer or compiler,” and though most of the points which need to be touched on in an “Introduction,” being common to both books, have been already treated in the Introductory section prefixed to the Commentary on I Kings, still there seem to be certain subjects more particularly connected with the Second Book, which require a more general and consecutive treatment than is possible in a running commentary on the text; and the consideration of these will form, it is hoped, a not superfluous or unwelcome “Introduction” to the present volume…

The difficulties in the chronology attach almost exclusively to the Second Book. In the First Book we find, indeed, that portions of years are counted for years in the estimates given of the length of kings’ reigns, and that thus there is a tendency in the chronology to exaggerate itself — a tendency which is most marked where the reigns are shortest. But the synchronisms which enable us to detect this peculiarity are a sufficient safeguard from serious error; and it is not difficult to arrange in parallel columns the Jewish and the Israelite lists in such a way that all or almost all the statements made in the book are brought into harmony…

At the commencement of the monarchy, during the reigns of David and Solomon, the great world-power was Egypt. Assyria, which had exercised an extensive sway in Western Asia from about B.C. 1300 to B.C. 1070, in the latter part of the eleventh century B.C. passed under a cloud, and did not emerge from it until about B.C. 900. Egypt, on the other hand, about me. 1100, began to increase in strength, and soon after B.C. 1000, resumed her role of Asiatic conqueror under the Sheshonks and Osarkons. It is quite in accordance with these facts that, in the first period of the Israelite monarchy, from the accession of David to the usurpations of Jehu and Athaliah, the historical Scriptures contain no mention at all of Assyria,f1 which lay entirely without the sphere of Hebrew influence, having lost all its authority over any part of the tract west of the Euphrates. Egypt, on the contrary, comes once more to the front. Unmentioned in the history from the date of the Exodus to the accession of Solomon, she then reappears as a power friendly to Israel, and anxious to make alliance with the new kingdom which has been established at no great distance from her borders…

I Chronicles

This generic rendering will most nearly cover the different shades of meaning attaching to the Hebrew word, in all those cases in which the simplest translation, “words,” would not be the correct one, as, for instance, in <132929>1 Chronicles 29:29. In this verse the term occurs as many as four times. In the first instance it is impossible to render it as though it meant words, either literally or figuratively; and in the other three instances, If it were so rendered, it could only mean the written words of history. Some generic term, therefore, like “history,” or “acts,” will best express its significance, and probably the former of these better than the latter (‘Memoria Rerum Gestarum,’ Sallust, ‘Jugurtha,’ 4.). The exact form of words which constitutes the title of this book is not found at all in the work entitled Samuel (which is essentially one with Kings), and probably for no more important reason than this, that, being thus as it were the former half of one whole work, it had not arrived at the point where historical sources would need to be cited…

Our own English title, “Chronicles,” dates from the time of Jerome. In the same passage of the ‘Prologus Galeatus in Libros Regum’ already referred to, Jerome appends to the Hebrew title the critique, “Quod significantius Chronicon totius divinae historiae possumus appellare.” Some of the editions of the Vulgate show this title, “Chronica,” or “Chronicorum Liber.” It would seem evident that the desiderated title should express, in the most general form, the idea of a chronological record; and perhaps the word Chronicles answers to this in the least exceptionable way. This title was adopted by Luther (born 1483, died 1546), and remains in use throughout the German Church. It may now be added that the treatment of the matter of title, on the part both of Jerome and the Septuagint translators long before, evidences that what we call the Hebrew title was not in their opinion any part of the original work. If it had been, they would not have presumed so to tamper with it…

Chronicles was not originally divided into two parts in the Hebrew manuscripts. On the contrary, Jerome (‘Ad Domnion et Rogatian’) says that these remained undivided even in his time, although the division had been made by the Septuagint translators, and had long been recognized among those Churches that used the Septuagint…

In case, then, anything in the further consideration of this work should be found to depend upon it, we may remember that the work as originally composed was one, and embraced the whole sweep of Scripture history in an epitomized form epitomized, indeed, in parts to the proportions of a mere recital of names — from Adam to a date succeeding the return from the Captivity. And the only remaining problem on this part of the subject is whether the Book of Ezra, as it certainly is an immediate continuation of the closing verses of Chronicles, was not also really one work with it, as is believed by many…

Assuming the integrity and unity of Chronicles, right down to the verses which appear with us as <143622>2 Chronicles 36:22, 23, and excluding the theories of later interpolations, we undoubtedly possess certain time-marks which fix some irrefragable dates within which the work could not have been compiled…

Next, the ninth chapter opens, in our Hebrew text, with a form of statement which purports to terminate the subject of the genealogies (ending at different times, and in part with Hezekiah’s reign) of the preceding eight chapters, by the mention of “the carrying away of Israel and Judah to Babylon, for their transgressions;” while the Masoretic text, placing a full period at the word “Israel,” makes the mention of Judah’s captivity yet more emphatic as a thing of the past…

There

can be little doubt that he over-estimates the average of Eastern

generations, and, if this be reduced to twenty years (‘Speaker’s

Commentary,’ 3:186, 187), we shall only be brought to a date varying between B.C. 420-410, within the probable lifetime of Nehemiah, and the very possible lifetime of Ezra. While, then, such a date as this is probably the latest which needs to be accepted, it stands to reason that the limit at the other extremity must not be placed simply at the time of the Return. In the nature of things, a work like the Chronicles, though but a matter of compilation, could not be executed offhand and rapidly at such a time…

The evidence arising from style of authorship — of necessity limited and inconclusive in the matter of a compilation, but which, so far as it goes, favours the belief that Ezra himself was the compiler; and the evidence arising from style of diction, which exhibits many points of similarity with that of Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther — certainly one Persian word, and not a few Aramaic peculiarities, such as the use of he for aleph, and the full forms of kholem and khirik — do indeed entirely harmonize with the position that the compilation was subsequent to the Return. Unfortunately, it is scarcely within their reach to point the exacter date with anything like certainty. Were it possible to identify Ezra positively as author or compiler, it need not be said that the limits of the inquiry would be very much narrowed. But it is just this which it is impossible to do…

It seems easier to feel persuaded that the compiler of Chronicles, and the compiler of at all events large parts of the work known as the Book of Ezra, were one and the same person (and even that the two works might have once been designed for a continuous whole), than to feel confident who that compiler was. There seems to be at present no really satisfactory explanation of the fact that the last two verses of Chronicles and the first two of Ezra are almost identical…

The First Book of Chronicles falls into two parts. Part I. consists of a series of genealogies (accompanied by some few geographical and ethnical touches), beginning from Adam and extending to Israel (ch. 1.); thence in the line of Israel, on to David and the Captivity; and furthermore, as regards the family of David, to the building of the second temple, and as regards the family of Aaron, to Jozadak and his captivity under Nebuchadnezzar (1 Chronicles 2.-9.). Part II. is occupied with the history of David (1 Chronicles 10.-29.)…

II Chronicles

THE Second Book of Chronicles is occupied with the reign, works, and career of Solomon, and with the history of the separate kingdom of Judah, omitting altogether the connected history of that of Israel. It goes down to the memorable proclamation of Cyrus, which authorized the return of the captives and sanctioned the rebuilding of the temple. This book embraces the third and fourth divisions of the whole work, once entitled in its unity Chronicles, according to the very obvious fourfold arrangement of it, observed by so many expositors of this historical portion of the Old Testament. The third division, occupied with the reign of Solomon, fills 2 Chronicles 1-9. And the fourth division, occupied with the history of the successive reigns of the separate kingdom of Judah, fills 2 Chronicles 10- 36:21. The arrangement of this book, therefore, in parts and sections, with dates of reigns and the synchronisms for them (according to Milman'stable) in the line of Israel, so long as it lasted…

CH. 1-9. Solomon and his reign…

2 Chronicles 10-36:21. The dissension and schism in the kingdom, with the separate history of that division of it which held the capital and the temple and the unbroken succession of David.

Ezra

THE Book of Ezra is a work of so simple a character as scarcely to require an “Introduction.” It is a plain and straightforward account of one of the most important events in Jewish history — the return of the people of God from the Babylonian captivity. This return had two stages. It commenced under Zerubbabel, the lineal descendant of the kings of Judah, in the first year of Cyrus the Great in Babylon, which was B.C. 538; and it was continued, and in a certain sense completed, under Ezra, in the seventh year of Artaxerxes Longimanus, which was B.C. 458. The Book contains an account of both these periods, and is thus, primarily, divisible into two portions — the history of the first, and the history of the second return…

It is maintained by many that the Book of Ezra is the work of several different hands, and that such unity as it possesses has been given to it by a compiler. The compiler is by some believed to have been Ezra, by others an unknown Jew contemporary with him. This latter theory rests upon the fact of the curious transitions from the third to the first person, and back, which occur in the later chapters (<150728>Ezra 7:28; 10:1). Ezra, it is thought, would have kept to one person or the other; and, as the parts where the first person is used are manifestly his, those where he is spoken of in the third person (<150701>Ezra 7:1-26; and Ezra 10.) are ascribed to a different hand…

The last event recorded in the Book of Ezra is the reformation of religion effected through Ezra’s influence in the spring of B.C. 457, the year after his arrival at Jerusalem. The date of B.C. 457 is therefore the earliest that can be assigned to it. It may have been written a year or a few years subsequently, but can scarcely be given a later date than B.C. 444, the year of Nehemiah’s arrival; since, if that event had taken place when the author wrote, he would almost certainly have mentioned it…

“Ezra,” as already observed, is a history, and a very simple history. No book of Scripture has fewer difficulties or fewer obscurities. There is no miracle recorded in it, and hence its historical truth is admitted almost universally. the language closely resembles that of other Books of Scripture written about the same time, as Chronicles, Daniel, and Haggai. Like Daniel, it is written partly in Hebrew, partly in Chaldee, the latter being the form which Hebrew had assumed during the captivity. Like the same Book, Chronicles, and Esther, it contains a number of Persian words, as was natural at a time when Judaea was a province of Persia…

The only facts which are certainly known to us of Ezra are those recorded in his own Book and in the Book of Nehemiah. From these works it appears —

1. That he was a priest, a descendant of Eleazar, the son of Aaron (<150705>Ezra 7:5).

2. That he belonged to that branch of Eleazar’s family which had recently furnished the high priests, being descended from Hilkiah, high priest in the reign of Josiah (<122304>2 Kings 23:4), and from Seraiah, high priest at the time of the destruction of Jerusalem (<122518>2 Kings 25:18).

3. That he was a “scribe,” or teacher, interpreter, and copier of the law, one who made the law of Moses his main study, and the teaching and expounding of it his chief practical work.

4. That, being resident at Babylon, one of the Persian capitals, and well known to the king, Artaxerxes (Longimanus), he requested (<150706>Ezra 7:6) and obtained permission from the king to visit Jerusalem, and was allowed to carry with him all those of Israelite extraction who liked to take the opportunity of returning to their own land (ibid. ver. 13); various privileges were granted to him (ibid. vers. 16-26), and a commission issued giving him supreme authority over Judaea for a time.

1. Ezra is said to have instituted the “Great Synagogue,” and to haw been its first president.

2. He is declared to have settled the Canon of the Jewish Scriptures, and to have re-edited the whole of them, malting additions and alterations under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and at the same time forming the arrangement into the Law, the Prophets, and the Hagiographa, which obtains among the Jews to the present day.

3. He is said to have begun the practice of building synagogues in the Jewish provincial towns, and to have instituted the synagogue service, which seems certainly to have been unknown to the Jews before the captivity.

Nehemiah

THE Book of Nehemiah is, in the main, a personal narrative, containing an account of Nehemiah himself, and of certain proceedings in which he was engaged, between the twentieth year of Artaxerxes Longimanus (or B.C. 444) and his thirty-second or thirty-third year (B.C. 432-1). It is a natural sequel to the Book of Ezra, with which it has always been united in the Jewish canon, though recognised as a “Second Part” of the Book. The principal object of the writer is to describe the circumstances attending the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem in B.C. 444, and its dedication, some years later, with great pomp and ceremony…

There can be no doubt that Nehemiah himself is the author of those portions of the work which are of most interest, and give it its distinctive character. The initial sentence — “The words of Nehemiah the son of Hachaliah”— applies beyond all question to the parts which are written in the first person (Nehemiah 1.-7.; 12:27-47; 13.). So much is generally allowed. It is argued, on the other hand, that the parts where Nehemiah is spoken of in the third person — notably, chs. 8., 9., and 10. — are not from his pen; and their authorship has been attributed to Ezra…

The earliest date at which Nehemiah can have composed the last section of the work (<161227>Nehemiah 12:27 - 13:31) is B.C. 431, the year in which, after visiting Babylon, he came to Jerusalem the second time (<161306>Nehemiah 13:6). Probably he wrote very soon after carrying through his reforms, since he expresses himself with a warmth only natural if the struggle had been recent.f4 These considerations limit the date of the original work to about B.C. 431-430. The final recension may have been made about a century later…

In general character the Book of Nehemiah very much resembles that of Ezra. It is a plain, straight-forward, simple history of a short period of the Jewish state, containing in it nothing miraculous, nothing particularly exciting or extraordinary. The Jewish community is in a depressed condition; and though external adversaries are resisted, and, on the whole, resisted with success, no great triumph is achieved, no very remarkable deliverance effected. At the same time, the internal condition of things is far from satisfactory; the evils which Ezra had resisted have recurred, and brought others in their train, which cause those who are at the head of affairs much anxiety. Nehemiah writes in a depressed tone, like a man who is not appreciated by his generation, and who is unhappy. The language which he uses is simple, and somewhat rough, as if he had not enjoyed the advantage of much education. Like that of Ezra and of the writer of the Book of Esther, it contains a good many Persian words. It is, however, Hebrew throughout, with no intermixture of Chaldee…

Esther

THE Book of Esther relates an episode in Jewish history of intense interest to the entire nation at the time, since it involved the question of its continuance or destruction, but an episode which stood quite separate and distinct from the rest of Jewish history, unconnected with anything that preceded or followed, and which, hut for the institution of the Feast of Purim, might as easily have been forgotten by the people as escaped perils too often are by individuals. The main scene of the narrative is Susa, the Persian capital; the dramatis personae are either Persians or “Jews of the Dispersion.” There is no mention, in the whole Book, of Palestine, or Jerusalem, or the temple, or the provisions of the law, nor any allusion to any facts in previous Jewish history excepting two : —

1. The captivity under Nebuchadnezzar (<170206>Esther 2:6).

2. The subsequent dispersion of the Jews over all the various provinces of the Persian empire (<170308>Esther 3:8)…

In order to determine (approximately) the date of the composition of ‘Esther,’ it is necessary, in the first place, to decide which of the Persian

kings is intended by Ahasuerus. That no king prior to Darius Hystaspis can be meant seems to follow —

1. From the limits assigned to the empire in <170101>Esther 1:1, since Darius first extended the Persian dominion over a portion of India; and,

2. From the residence of the court being Susa, which Darius first made the capital. It has been supposed, chiefly from <170901>Esther 10:1 (“And the king Ahasuerus laid a tribute upon the land, and upon the islands of the sea”), that Darius himself is intended. But neither the name nor the character agree; nor was Darius in his third year in a position to give a feast to all the power of Media and Persia at Susa, since he was struggling for his crown, Media was in revolt, and he was himself at Babylon (‘Records of the Past,’ vol. 7. pp. 95-98)…

A later monarch than Longimanus has not been suggested, and would be incompatible with the genealogy of Mordecai (<170205>Esther 2:5, 6); so that the mere process of eliminating impossible kings conducts us to Xerxes, the son of Darius, and father of Longi-manus, as the personage really meant. And here we find, in the first place, that the names are identical, the Hebrew Akhashverosh corresponding letter for letter with the Persian Khshayarsha, which the Greeks turned into Xerxes. Secondly, the resemblance of character is most striking, and is admitted on all hands.

Thirdly, the notes of time exactly accord with the chronology of Xerxes’ reign. “In the third year of Xerxes” reign was held an assembly at Susa to arrange the Grecian war (Herod., 7:7). In the third year of Ahasuerus was held a great feast and assembly at Shushan the palace (<170103>Esther 1:3). In the seventh year of his reign Xerxes returned defeated from Greece, and consoled himself by the pleasures of the harem (Herod., 9:108). In the seventh year of his reign ‘fair young virgins were sought’ for Ahasuerus (<170202>Esther 2:2-15).”f1…

With respect to the time of the composition of Esther, it is, in the flint place, clear that when the author writes the reign of Ahasuerus is over. The opening passage distinctly proves this. Now Xerxes died in B.C. 465, and the question therefore is, How long after this date was the Book of Esther written? The opening passage is thought by some to imply that the reign of Ahasuerus was remote, and a recent commentator suggests B.C. 200 as the probable time of writing, f2 but he admits that a century earlier is quite possible. Other critics suggest as early a date as B.C. 450-440, and the arguments which they adduce are weighty. The language of the Book closely resembles that of Chronicles, Ezra, and Nehemiah, which were all written about that time.

The minute and particular accounts of many matters which would be known primarily only to Esther and Mordecai, and would certainly not have been written in the “book of the chronicles,” as Mordecai’s genealogy (<170205>Esther 2:5), Esther’s messages to Mordecai and Mordecai’s to her through Hatach (<170405>Esther 4:5-16), the circumstances of the two banquets given by Esther to Ahasuerus and Haman (<170506>Esther 5:6-8; 7:2-8), etc., — make it probable that the writer was contemporary with the events narrated, and derived his information from Mordecai or Esther, or both. Further, the individuals who have been mentioned as the writers of the Book — Mordecai himself and the high priest Joiakim — lived about this time. Altogether, it seems most probable that the work was composed about the middle of the fifth century B.C., or a little later, when Xerxes had been dead about twenty years.

Aben-Esra, among Jewish, and Clement of Alexandria, among Christian commentators, assign the Book of Esther to Mordecai. The Rabbi Azarias says that it was written by the high priest Joiakim. Augustine and Isidore make Ezra the author. In the Talmud it is said that the work was composed by “the men of the great synagogue.” These conflicting statements neutralise each other, and make it clear that the Jewish Church had no uniform, or even predominant, tradition upon the point. It is against Ezra’s authorship that the style is very different from his; against Mordecai’s, that the first person is never used, and that Mordecai is spoken of in terms of such high praise. Joiakim can scarcely be supposed sufficiently familiar with Persian customs and localities to have ventured upon the task, much less to have produced a work showing such perfect acquaintance with the machinery of the Persian court, its customs, etiquette, and the like…

The result would seem to be that the author is really unknown. He must have been a Jew; he must have been long resident in Persia; and he must have had some special facilities (besides access to the Persian archives) for obtaining exact information on the secret and delicate matters which form an essential part of his history…

Job

THE Book of Job is a work which divides itself manifestly into sections. These may be made more or fewer, according to the extent to which the work of analysis is carried out. The least critical reader cannot fail to recognize three divisions:

I. An historical prologue, or introduction;

II. A main body of moral and religious discourses, chiefly in the form of dialogue; and

III. An historical conclusion, or epilogue

Four principal objections have been taken to the “integrity” of the Book of Job. It has been argued that the difference of style is so great between the two historical sections (Job 1., 2., and <184206>Job 42:6-17) and the rest of the work as to render it impossible, or, at any rate, highly improbable, that they proceeded from the same author…

But the principal attack upon the integrity of the Book of Job is directed against the long harangue of Elihu, which commences in Job 32. (ver. 7), and does not terminate until the close of Job 37., thus occupying sir chapters, and forming nearly one-seventh of the entire treatise. It is urged here again that the difference of language and style between these chapters and the rest of the book indicates a totally distinct and much later author, while the tone of thought and the doctrinal views are also thought to be markedly different, and to suggest a comparatively late date. Further, it is maintained that the “long dissertation” adds nothing to “the progress of the argument,” and “betrays not the faintest conception of the real cause of Job’s sufferings.”f11 It is thus otiose, superfluous, quite unworthy of the place which it occupies. Some critics have gone so far as to excise it…

It has been much debated whether the Book of Job is to be looked upon as an historical composition, as a work of imagination, or as something between the two. The early Christian Fathers and the earlier Jewish rabbis treat it as absolutely historical, and no whisper arises to the contrary till several centuries after the Christian era…

The arguments in favour of this view are,f15 first, that the work is not placed by the Jews among their historical Scriptures, but in the Hagiographa, or writings intended for religious instruction, together with the Psalms, the Proverbs, the Song of Solomon, Lamentations, and Ecclesiastes. Secondly, that the narrative is incredible, the appearance of Satan among the angels of God, and the familiar dialogues between the Almighty and the prince of darkness being plainly fictions, while the

utterance by Job of long discourses, adorned with every rhetorical artifice, and strictly bound by the laws of metre, while he was suffering excruciating agonies from mental grief and sharp physical pains, is so unlikely that it may be pronounced morally impossible…

In favour of the historical character of the book, it is urged, first, that the real existence of Job as an historical personage is attested by Ezekiel (<261414>Ezekiel 14:14, 20), by St. James (<590511>James 5:11), and by Oriental tradition generally…

The indications of date derived from the matter of the book, from its tone, and from its general style, strongly favour the theory of its high antiquity. The language is archaic, more akin to the Arabic than that of any other portion of the Hebrew Scriptures, and full of Aramaisms which are not of the later type, but such as characterize the antique and highly poetic style, and occur in parts of the Pentateuch, in the Song of Deborah and in the earliest Psalms.f24 The style has a “grand archaic character,” which has been recognized by almost all critics. “Firm, compact, sonorous as the ring of a pure metal, severe and at times rugged, yet always dignified and majestic, the language belongs altogether to a period when thought was slow but profound and intensely concentrated, when the weighty and oracular sayings of the wise were wont to be engraved on rocks with a pen of iron, and in characters of molten lead. It is a truly lapidary style, such as was natural only in an age when writing, though known, was rarely used, before language had acquired clearness, fluency, and flexibility, but lost much of its freshness and native force.”

It is a legitimate conclusion from these facts, that the Book of Job is probably more ancient than any other composition in the Bible, excepting, perhaps, the Pentateuch, or portions of it. It must almost certainly have been written before the promulgation of the Law.f26 How long before is doubtful. Job’s term of life (two hundred to two hundred and fifty years) would seem to place him in the period between Eber and Abraham, or at any rate in that between Eber and Jacob, who lived only a hundred and forty-seven years, and after whom the term of human life seems to have rapidly shortened (<053102>Deuteronomy 31:2; <199010>Psalm 90:10). The book, however, was not written until after Job’s death (<184217>Job 42:17), and may have been written some considerable time after. On the whole, therefore, it seems most reasonable to place the composition towards the close of the patriarchal period, not very long before the Exodus…

Psalms

THE usual Hebrew title of the work is Tehillim (μyLht), or Sepher Tehillim ((μyLht rKs); literally, “Praises,” or “Book of Praises” — a title which expresses well the general character of the pieces whereof the book is composed, but which cannot be said to be universally applicable to them. Another Hebrew title, and one which has crept into the text itself, is Tephilloth (twLpt), “Prayers,” which is given at the close of the second section o the work (<197220>Psalm 72:20), as a general designation of the pieces contained in the first and second sections…

It is manifest, on the face of it, that the work is a collection. A number of separate poems, the production of different persons,f1 and belonging to different periods, have been brought together, either by a single editor, or perhaps By several distinct editors, and have been united into a volume, which has been accepted by the Jewish, and, later on, by the Christian, Church, as one of the “books” of Holy Scripture. The poems seem originally to have been, for the most part, quite separate and distinct; each is a whole in itself; and most of them appear to have been composed for a special object, and on a special occasion. Occasionally, but very seldom, one psalm seems linked on to another; and in a few instances there are groups of psalms intentionally attached together, as the group from Psalm 73. to 83., ascribed to Asaph, and, again, the “Hallelujah” group — from Psalm 146., to 150. But generally no connection is apparent, and the sequence seems, so to speak, accidental.

That the principal contributor to the collection, the main author of the Book of Psalms, is David, though denied by some moderns,f11 is the general conclusion in which criticism has rested, and is likely to rest…

The next most important contributor would seem to be Asaph. Asaph was one of the heads of David’s choir at Jerusalem (<130639>1 Chronicles 6:39; 15:17, 19; 16:5), and is coupled in one place with David (<142930>2 Chronicles 29:30) as having furnished the words which were sung in the temple service in Hezekiah’s time. Twelve psalms are assigned to him by their titles — one in Book II. (Psalm 1.), and eleven in Book III. (Psalm 1-3.- 83.). It is doubted, however, whether the real personal Asaph can have been the author of all these, and suggested that in some instances the sept or family of Asaph is intended…

A considerable number of psalms — no fewer than eleven — are distinctly ascribed to the sept or family of Korahite Levites (Psalm 42., 44.-49., 84., 85., 87., and 88.); and one. other (Psalm 43.) may be probably assigned to them. These psalms vary in character, and manifestly belong to different dates; but all seem to have been written in the times preceding the Captivity…

Fifty psalms — one-third of the number — remain, in the Hebrew original, anonymous; or forty-eight, if we regard Psalm 10. as the second part of Psalm 9., and Psalm 43, as an extension of Psalm 42…

The antiquity of the titles is thus thrown back to at least as early as the second century B.C. Nor is this the whole. The Septuagint translator or translators clearly write considerably later than the original authors of the titles, since a largish portion of their contents is left untranslated, Being unintelligible to them. This fact is reasonably regarded as throwing back their antiquity still further — say, to the fourth, or perhaps to the fifth century B.C. — the time of Ezra…

The Psalms have always been regarded by the Church, Jewish as well as Christian, with a special affection. The “Psalms of Ascents” were probably used from the actual time of David by the worshippers who thronged to Jerusalem on the occasions of the three great festivals. Other psalms were either originally written for the service of the sanctuary, or were introduced into that service at an early date, and thus made their way into the heart of the nation…

Proverbs

THE book which we are about to consider takes its general title from the words with which it opens in the Hebrew original, The Proverbs of Solomon — Mishle Shelomoh. This name, or, in an abbreviated form, Mishle, has always been current in the Jewish Church. Later, in rabbinical writings, it was cited under the appellation of Sepher Chocmah, ‘Book of Wisdom,’ which title also included Ecclesiastes. In the Septuagint it is headed Paroimi>ai Salwmw~ntov in some manuscripts, though in others, and those the earliest, the name of Solomon is omitted…

Uncritical antiquity, followed in modern times by undiscriminating conservatism, had no hesitation in ascribing the whole Book of Proverbs to one author, Solomon, King of Israel…

In one place alone does the book itself afford direct help towards deter. mining the date of any portion. The section copied by Hezekiah’s friends from previous records must have been put together in that monarch’s reign, between two and three hundred years after the time of Solomon, who was regarded as the author of those sayings. The persons engaged in the compilation may have been those mentioned in <121818>2 Kings 18:18 — Shebna the secretary, and Joah, son of Asaph, the chronicler, and very possibly the Prophet Isaiah himself, as a Jewish tradition relates. Whether after so long an interval they simply reproduced his utterances, unadulterated and unaugmented, might prima facie be doubted; a careful examination of the section shows that this doubt is well founded…

These considerations, which seem well grounded, account for the composite character of the Book of Proverbs. Many minds and many ages have been concerned in the collection; it has suffered from interpolation, transposition, addition; various editors have arranged and rearranged the materials before them; passages reflect the golden age of Israel’s monarchy; passages belong to such times as those of Jeroboam II and his successors. It has become impossible to assign assured dates to the several parts, and the attempt has led critics to ludicrous conclusions, some from the same data attributing to Solomon compositions which others affix to postoexilian times…

The whole Book of the Proverbs is rhythmical in construction, and it is rightly so printed in the Revised Version as to exhibit this characteristic. The great feature of Hebrew poetry, as every one knows, is parallelism, the balancing of thought against thought, corresponding in form and often in sound, so that one line is an echo of the other. The second member is either equivalent to the first, or contrasted with it or similar to it in construction; the whole may consist of only two lines forming a distich, which is the normal type of proverb, or of three or four or more; but all contain one thought expanded on parallel lines. The various shapes which are thus assumed by the sentences in our book are thus noted…

The Book of Proverbs has always been enumerated by the Jews among the twenty-two books into which they divided their canon…