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854
[O.T. CANON
BIBLE

books (i.-xli., xlii.-lxxii., lxxiii.-lxxxix., xc.-cvi., cvii.-cl.); and in many parts it is manifestly based upon independent smaller collections; for it contains groups of psalms headed “David,” the “sons of Korah,” “Asaph,” “Songs of Ascents.” Each of the five books of which it is composed contains psalms which show that its compilation cannot have been completed till after the return from the Captivity; and indeed, when the individual psalms are studied carefully it becomes apparent that in the great majority of cases they presuppose the historical conditions, or the religious experiences, of the ages that followed Jeremiah. Thus, though it is going too far to say that there are no pre-exilic psalms, the Psalter, as a whole, is the expression of the deeper spiritual feeling which marked the later stages of Israel’s history. It has been not inaptly termed the Hymn-book of the second Temple. Its compilation can hardly have been finally completed before the 3rd century B.C.; if it is true, as many scholars think, that there are psalms dating from the time of the Maccabee struggle (Ps. xliv., lxxiv., lxxix., lxxxiii, and perhaps others), it cannot have been completed till after 165 B.C.

The Book of Proverbs.—This is the first of the three books belonging to the “Wisdom-literature” of the Hebrews, the other two books being Job and Ecclesiastes. The Wisdom-literature of the Hebrews concerned itself with what we should call the philosophy of human nature, and sometimes also of physical nature as well; its writers observed human character, studied action in its consequences, laid down maxims for education and conduct, and reflected on the moral problems which human society presents. The book of Proverbs consists essentially of generalizations on human character and conduct, with (especially in chs. i.-ix.) moral exhortations addressed to an imagined “son” or pupil. The book consists of eight distinct portions, chs. i.-ix. being introductory, the proverbs, properly so called, beginning at x. 1 (with the title “The Proverbs of Solomon”), and other, shorter collections, beginning at xxii. 17, xxiv. 23, xxv. 1, xxx. 1, xxxi. 1, xxxi. 10 respectively. The book, it is evident, was formed gradually. A small nucleus of the proverbs may be Solomon’s; but the great majority represent no doubt the generalizations of a long succession of “wise men.” The introduction, or “Praise of Wisdom,” as it has been called (chs. i.-ix), commending the maxims of Wisdom as a guide to the young, will have been added after most of the rest of the book was already complete. The book will not have finally reached its present form before the 4th century B.C. Some scholars believe that it dates entirely from the Greek period (which began 332 B.C.); but it may be doubted whether there are sufficient grounds for this conclusion.

Job.—The book of Job deals with a problem of human life; in modern phraseology it is a work of religious philosophy. Job is a righteous man, overwhelmed with undeserved misfortune; and thus the question is raised, Why do the righteous suffer? Is their suffering consistent with the justice of God? The dominant theory at the time when Job was written was that all suffering was a punishment of sin; and the aim of the book is to controvert this theory. Job’s friends argue that he must have been guilty of some grave sin; Job himself passionately maintains his innocence; and on the issue thus raised the dialogue of the book turns. The outline of Job’s story was no doubt supplied by tradition; and a later poet has developed this outline, and made it a vehicle for expressing his new thoughts respecting a great moral problem which perplexed his contemporaries. A variety of indications (see Job) combine to show that the book of Job was not written till after the time of Jeremiah—probably, indeed, not till after the return from exile. The speeches of Elihu (chs. xxxii.-xxxvii.) are not part of the original poem, but were inserted in it afterwards.

There follow (in the Hebrew Bible) the five short books, which, as explained above, are now known by the Jews as the Megilloth, or “Rolls,” viz. Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther. Of these, the Song of Songs, in exquisite poetry, extols the power and sweetness of pure and faithful human love. The date at which it was written is uncertain; there are features in it which point to its having been the work of a poet living in north Israel, and writing at an early date; but most recent scholars, on account chiefly of certain late expressions occurring in it, think that it cannot have been written earlier than the 4th or 3rd century B.C. In the graceful and tender idyll of Ruth, it is told how Ruth, the Moabitess, and a native consequently of a country hostile theocratically to Israel, adopted Israel’s faith (i. 16), and was counted worthy to become an ancestress of David. The date of Ruth is disputed; Driver has defended a pre-exilic date for it, but the general opinion of modern scholars is that it belongs to the 5th century B.C. The Lamentations consist of five elegies on the fall of Jerusalem, and the sufferings which its people experienced in consequence; they must all have been composed not long after 586 B.C. Ecclesiastes, the third book belonging (see above) to the Wisdom-literature, consists of moralizings, prompted by the dark times in which the author’s lot in life was cast, on the disappointments which seemed to him to be the reward of all human endeavour, and the inability of man to remedy the injustices and anomalies of society. If only upon linguistic grounds—for the Hebrew of the book resembles often that of the Mishnah more than the ordinary Hebrew of the Old Testament—Ecclesiastes must be one of the latest books in the Hebrew canon. It was most probably written during the Greek period towards the end of the 3rd century B.C. The book of Esther, which describes, with many legendary traits, how the beautiful Jewess succeeded in rescuing her people from the destruction which Haman had prepared for them, will not be earlier than the closing years of the 4th century B.C., and is thought by many scholars to be even later.

The Book of Daniel.—The aim of this book is to strengthen and encourage the pious Jews in their sufferings under the persecution of Antiochus Epiphanes, 168-165 B.C. Chs. i.-vi. consist of narratives, constructed no doubt upon a traditional basis, of the experiences of Daniel at the Babylonian court, between 605 and 538 B.C., with the design of illustrating how God, in times of trouble, defends and succours His faithful servants. Chs. vii.-xii. contain a series of visions, purporting to have been seen by Daniel, and describing, sometimes (especially in ch. xi.) with considerable minuteness, the course of events from Alexander the Great, through the two royal lines of the Ptolemies and the Seleucidae, to Antiochus Epiphanes, dwelling in particular on the persecuting measures adopted by Antiochus against the Jews, and promising the tyrant’s speedy fall (see e.g. viii. 9-14, 23-25, xi. 21-45). Internal evidence shows clearly that the book cannot have been written by Daniel himself; and that it must in fact be a product of the period in which its interest culminates, and the circumstances of which it so accurately reflects, i.e. of 168-165 B.C.

Chronicles, Ezra and Nehemiah.—These books form the second series of historical books referred to above, Ezra and Nehemiah carrying on the narrative of Chronicles, and forming its direct sequel. 1 Chr. i.-ix. consists mostly of tribal genealogies, partly based upon data contained in the older books (Gen.-Kings), partly including materials found by the compiler elsewhere. 1 Chr. x.-2 Chr. xxxvi. consists of a series of excerpts from the books of Samuel and Kings—sometimes transcribed without substantial change, at other times materially altered in the process—combined with matter, in some cases limited to a verse or two, in others extending to several chapters, contributed by the compiler himself, and differing markedly from the excerpts from the older books both in phraseology and in point of view. The books of Ezra and Nehemiah are of similar structure; here the sources excerpted are the Memoirs of Ezra and Nehemiah, written by themselves in the first person; viz. Ezra vii. 12-ix. (including the decree of Artaxerxes, vii. 12-26); Neh. i. 1-vii. 73a, xii. 31-41, xiii.; and a narrative written in Aramaic (Ezra iv. 8-vi. 18); Ezra x. and Neh. viii.-x. also are in all probability based pretty directly upon the Memoirs of Ezra; the remaining parts of the books are the composition of the compiler. The additions of the compiler, especially in the Chronicles, place the old history in a new light; he invests it with the associations of his own day; and pictures pre-exilic Judah as already possessing the fully developed ceremonial