Reference > Fiction > Nonfiction > Warner, et al., eds. > The Library

C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
The Old Testament and the Jewish Apocrypha
Critical Introduction by Crawford Howell Toy (1836–1919)
The Old Testament

THE GREATEST interest in the Old Testament has, naturally, attached to its religious thought; and it has sometimes been forgotten that as the record of the national literature of the Hebrew people, it deserves to be studied on the literary side. It need fear no comparison in this regard with the great literatures of the world. There are forms of literary art in which the Old Testament has no superior; and in any case, the pleasure which is derived from it must be increased by a recognition of its literary excellences.  1
  Its prose portion consists of History (in which, for our purposes, we may include the Legislation) and Prophecy. The former is simple prose, the latter rhythmical and balanced. We may first consider the narrative or historical portion.  2
Narrative Prose

  The Old Testament histories consist almost entirely of annals and anecdotes,—extracts from yearly records of events, or biographical material which is made up largely of special incidents. The style is remarkable for its simplicity. The Semitic languages (to which class the Hebrew belongs) have no involved syntactical constructions. Their sentences consist almost entirely of clauses connected by the simple conjunction “and.” This peculiarity gives picturesqueness and a certain monumental character to the narratives; each clause stands out by itself, presenting a single picture. There is no attempt (as in Greek) to represent elaborate and fine logical connections of thought. And further, this formal isolatedness, if we may so term it, is not confined to the structure of the sentence and the paragraph, but also controls the composition of the historical books. The incidents are set down as independent occurrences, and there is no attempt to trace the logical connection between them.
  This characteristic is abundantly illustrated in the books of Judges, Samuel, and Kings. In the first of these books we have a series of similar yet unconnected incidents: the land of Israel is conquered or held in subjection by some neighboring people—a hero arises and throws off the yoke—there is a period of quiet, followed by a new epoch of subjection which calls forth another hero; and so on. So the lives of Saul, David, and Samuel are simple biographies, in which the incidents are, in like manner, for the most part detached; and the same remark holds of the history of the reigns of the kings who succeeded David. In the Pentateuch the lives of the Patriarchs and of Moses, and the history of the march of the people from Egypt to Canaan, are similarly composed of isolated paragraphs.  4
  Yet on the other hand, it is to be observed that these books exhibit a marked unity of plan. The Hexateuch (the Pentateuch and Joshua) beginning with the creation of the world, and coming down to the Flood, which separates human history into two great parts, passes to the ancestor Abraham, follows his descendants to Egypt, describes their advance to the promised land, and finally the conquest and division of the territory. The aim of the work is to describe the settlement of Israel in Canaan, and all the preceding history is made to bear on that event. The Book of Judges, taking up the history at the moment when the people enter Canaan, depicts the pre-regal period as a unit; Samuel describes the establishment of the monarchy and the reigns of the first two kings; Kings gives the fortunes of the people down to the suppression of the national political life; and Chronicles, it may be added, with a still more noticeable unity, confines itself to the history of Judah. Finally, in the short books of Ezra and Nehemiah, we have the story of the introduction of the Law, and the establishment of what may be called the Jewish Church-Nation.  5
  We have thus, in the historical books of the Old Testament, a noteworthy unity of plan, combined with the isolation of independent parts. It is further to be noted that the object of each of these histories is to express an idea. The Hexateuch is the prose epic of the choice of Israel by Jehovah. The earlier historical books—Judges, Samuel, and Kings—are historical sermons, illustrating the text that national prosperity is dependent on obedience to the God of Israel; in Chronicles the text is slightly varied,—here it is obedience to the Law of Moses which is the condition of national peace.  6
  Examples of the finest qualities of narrative prose style are found throughout the historical books. Abraham’s plea for Sodom (Gen. xviii.) combines naïveté, dignity, and moral earnestness. Jehovah, having had reports of the corruption of Sodom, comes down, accompanied by two angels, to inquire into the case, and first pays a visit to Abraham. After a repast the two angels are sent to Sodom, with instructions to destroy it; Jehovah remains with Abraham, whose heart is sore at the thought of the destruction of the city where dwelt his kinsman Lot. The narrative proceeds:—
          AND Abraham drew near, and said, Wilt thou consume the righteous with the wicked? Perhaps there are fifty righteous men within the city: wilt thou consume and not spare the place for the fifty righteous who are therein? That be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked; that so the righteous should be as the wicked: that be far from thee; shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? And Jehovah said, If I find in Sodom fifty righteous, then I will spare all the place for their sake. And Abraham answered and said, My lord, I who am dust and ashes have taken upon me to speak to thee: there may perhaps lack five of the fifty righteous: wilt thou destroy all the city for lack of five? And he said, I will not destroy it if I find there forty and five. And he spake unto him yet again, and said, Perhaps there shall be forty found there. And he said, I will not do it for the forty’s sake. And he said, Oh let not my lord be angry, and I will speak; perhaps there shall thirty be found there. And he said, I will not do it if I find thirty there. And he said, Behold now, my lord, I have taken upon me to speak to thee: perhaps there shall be twenty found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for the twenty’s sake. And he said, Oh let not my lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once: perhaps ten shall be found there. And he said, I will not destroy it for the ten’s sake. And Jehovah went his way when he had finished speaking with Abraham, and Abraham returned to his place.
  The familiar appeal of Judah on behalf of Benjamin (Gen. xliv. 18–34) must be mentioned for its exquisite pathos. Joseph, known to the brothers only as the all-powerful prime minister, pretends to suspect that they are spies, and refuses to sell them food unless they bring him their youngest brother, of whom they had spoken. Jacob, informed of this demand, at first refuses to send Benjamin—the only surviving son, as he supposes, of his beloved Rachel. Pressed by famine, he at last consents, Judah pledging himself to bring the lad back. When they reach Egypt, Joseph so arranges that Benjamin shall seem to have been guilty of theft and worthy of imprisonment. Judah, in despair, comes forward and pleads for the boy’s liberty. The plea is little more than a recital of the circumstances, in simplest dramatic form; but the heart-rending situation stands out with lifelike clearness. The same element of pathos is found in the whole story of Joseph’s relations with his brothers.  8
  For brilliant dramatic effect there is scarcely anything in literature finer than the description of Elijah’s challenge to the priests of Baal (1 Kings xviii.). The conditions are chosen with singular felicity. The Sidonian Baal, the god of the Queen of Israel, is represented by four hundred and fifty prophets, backed by all the power of the royal court; for Jehovah, God of Israel, stands one proscribed fugitive, a rude Bedawi from the east of the Jordan. The scene is the sacred mountain Carmel, from whose slopes are visible the Great Sea, the rich plains of the coast, and the rugged central plateau of Israel. Elijah proposes to test the two deities, and take the more powerful; the people, trembling and expectant, agree. The narrative goes on:—
          AND Elijah said to the prophets of Baal, Choose one bullock for yourselves, and prepare it first, for ye are many; and call on the name of your god, but put no fire under. And they took the bullock and prepared it, and called on the name of Baal from morning till noon, saying, O Baal, answer us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they danced about the altar which they had made. And at noon Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is meditating, or he is gone aside, or he is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep, and must be awaked. And they cried aloud and cut themselves after their manner with knives and lances, till the blood gushed out upon them. And when midday was past they prophesied until the time of the evening cereal offering; but there was neither voice, nor any answer, nor any that regarded. And Elijah said to all the people, Come near to me; and all the people came near to him. And he repaired the altar of Jehovah which was broken down, and made a trench about the altar, as great as would contain two measures of seed, put the wood in order, cut the bullock in pieces, and laid it on the wood. And he said, Fill four barrels with water, and pour it on the offering, and on the wood. And he said, Do it the second time; and they did it the second time. And he said, Do it the third time; and they did it the third time. And the water ran round about the altar; and he filled the trench also with water. And at the time of the evening cereal offering Elijah came near and said, Jehovah, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, let it be known this day that thou art God in Israel, and that I am thy servant, and that I have done all these things at thy word. Answer me, O Jehovah, answer me, that this people may know that thou, Jehovah, art God, and turn thou their heart back again. Then fire from heaven fell and consumed the offering and the wood and the stones and the dust, and licked up the water that was in the trench. And when all the people saw it, they fell on their faces: and they said, Jehovah, he is God; Jehovah, he is God.
  After this it is somewhat surprising to find Elijah (1 Kings xix.) fleeing for his life at a threat made by the Queen. The story of his flight contains a majestic theophany:—
          ANDhe went into a cave and passed the night there. And behold, Jehovah passed by, and a great and strong wind rent the mountains, and brake in pieces the rocks; but Jehovah was not in the wind: and after the wind an earthquake; but Jehovah was not in the earthquake: and after the earthquake a fire; but Jehovah was not in the fire: and after the fire a still small voice. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. And there came to him a voice: What doest thou here, Elijah? And he said, I have been very jealous for Jehovah, the God of hosts; because the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword: and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life to take it away.
  A characteristic picture is given in 1 Kings xxii. The allied Kings of Israel and Judah are about to attack the transjordanic city of Ramoth, and desire first a response from the oracle. The King of Judah, for some reason dissatisfied with Ahab’s prophets, insists that Micaiah be called. The latter, after mocking answers, finally predicts disaster, and then proceeds to account for the favorable predictions of the court prophets:—
          I SAW Jehovah sitting on his throne, and all the host of heaven standing by him on his right hand and on his left. And Jehovah said, Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-Gilead? And one said on this manner, and another said on that manner. And there came forth a spirit, and stood before Jehovah and said, I will entice him. And Jehovah said to him, Wherewith? And he said, I will go forth, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets. And he said, Thou shalt entice him, and shalt prevail also: go forth and do so. Now, therefore, behold, Jehovah has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these thy prophets, and Jehovah has spoken evil concerning thee. Then Zedekiah the son of Kenaanah came near, and smote Micaiah on the cheek, and said, Which way went the spirit of Jehovah from me to speak to thee? And Micaiah said, Thou shalt see on that day when thou shalt go into an inner chamber to hide thyself. And the king of Israel said, Take Micaiah, and carry him back unto Amon the governor of the city, and to Joash the king’s son, and say, Thus saith the king, Put this fellow in the prison, and feed him with bread and water of the worst sort, until I come in peace. And Micaiah said, If thou return at all in peace, Jehovah has not spoken by me.
  A peculiar interest attaches to the three short books Ruth, Jonah, and Esther. These differ from the works above named in the fact that they describe each a single event. Each is a unity with definitely marked characters and incidents, leading to a culmination. In a word, so far as the literary form is concerned, these are short stories; and they seem to be the first productions of this sort in all the ancient world. Their predecessors in Hebrew literature are the incidents described in the Pentateuch and the historical books, in the lives of the Patriarchs, Judges, and Kings, and Prophets; as for example the story of Jephthah, the campaign of Gideon, the rebellion of Absalom, and the challenge of Elijah to the priests of Baal. These also are succinct and vivid narratives of particular incidents, but the three books here referred to have the quality of finish and plot,—elaborate arrangement of incident leading up to a dénouement,—in a still higher degree. The Moabitess Ruth, left a widow, departs with her mother-in-law to a strange land; and here, by her charm, conquers a place, and becomes the honored head of a great household. Jonah, anxious to avoid a disagreeable mission, is nevertheless forced to go to Nineveh, and there becomes the occasion of the announcement of a religious truth of primary significance,—namely, that God cares no less for Nineveh than for Jerusalem. The skill with which the narrative in Esther is constructed has always excited admiration. The splendid royal banquet—the refusal of Queen Vashti to make herself a spectacle to the drunken guests—her deposition by the offended despot, and his determination to choose another queen—the appearance of the Jewess Esther, whose nationality has been carefully concealed by her guardian Mordecai—the successive trials of the inmates of the harem, and the selection of Esther to be Queen—all this is an astounding whirligig of fortune. But this is only preparatory to the main event. The sturdy Mordecai refuses to do reverence to the King’s haughty favorite Haman, who, exasperated by his persistent contempt, resolves to extirpate the Jewish population of Persia, and procures a royal decree to that effect. The Jews are in despair. Mordecai sends word to Esther that she must go to the King (which to do unbidden is a crime) and intercede; he adds that otherwise she herself will not escape the general fate. She finally plucks courage from despair, goes, is graciously received, and invites the King and Haman to a banquet that day. At that banquet she invites them to another next day, when she will make her request. Haman, elated, listens to the advice of his wife and his friends, and prepares a lofty post on which Mordecai is to be impaled. That night the King, unable to sleep, listens to an account, in the court record, of a good deed of Mordecai, hitherto unrewarded. Who is without? he asks. The answer is: Haman (who had come to arrange the impalement of his enemy). He is summoned, enters, is asked what should be done to the man whom the King delights to honor. Thinking it could be only himself, he suggests that the man, clothed in royal apparel, ride through the streets on the King’s own horse. So be it: Haman is ordered to conduct Mordecai. It is a terrible blow, and is taken by his wife and his friends as an omen of disaster. Next day, however, he comes to the Queen’s banquet, and here the King asks her to state her request—he would grant it if it cost half his kingdom. The narrative continues:
          QUEEN ESTHER answered: If I have found favor in thy sight, O king, and if it please the king, let my life be granted me at my petition, and my people at my request; for we are sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be slain, to perish. If we had been sold as slaves, I had held my peace…. And King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther: Who is he and where is he who dares so to do? Esther answered: The adversary and enemy is this wicked Haman. Haman was afraid before the king and the queen. The king rose up in wrath from the banquet of wine, and went into the palace garden, and Haman remained standing to plead for his life with Queen Esther; for he saw that there was evil determined against him by the king. Then the king returned from the garden to the banqueting-hall, and Haman had sunk down on the couch on which Esther was. And the king said: Will he do violence to the queen here in my presence? As the words went out of the king’s mouth, they covered Haman’s face.
  The clear portraiture of persons, the succession of interesting situations, the rapidity and inevitableness of the movement, the splendid reversal of fortunes, combine to make the book a work of art of a high order.  13
The Prophets

  The most distinctly characteristic part of Old Testament literature is the prophetical. The position of the Israelitish prophet is unique. No other people has produced a line of moral and religious patriots, who followed the fortunes of the nation from generation to generation, and amid all changes of political situation remained true to their cardinal principle,—that no conditions of power and wealth would avail a nation which did not pay strict obedience to the moral law and place its reliance in God. The prophetic writing belongs, in general, to the class of oratory. The prophets are political-religious watchmen, who appear at every crisis to announce the will of God. They denounce current sins, religious and moral. They plead, exhort, threaten, lament. They differ from other orators in that their audience is not a court of law, nor an assembly of the people, but the whole nation; and the question which they discuss is not the interpretation of a statute, or a particular point of political policy, but the universal principle of obedience to God.
  The language of the prophetical discourses is for the most part rhythmical and measured, and the discourses themselves naturally fall into strophes and paragraphs. There is no metre, no fixed succession or number of syllables in a line, and no regular strophic arrangement;—on the contrary, the greatest freedom prevails in respect to length of clauses and of strophes. The elaborate strophic structure of the odes of the Greek drama does not exist in the prophetic discourses; and as divisions into verses and strophes were not given in the original Hebrew text, we are left to determine the arrangement in every case from the contents. The writings of the prophets vary greatly in style and in charm and power; but they are almost without exception vigorous and striking. Whether they denounce social evils, or inveigh against idolatry,—whether they proclaim the wrath of God, or his mercy,—whether they threaten or implore,—they are almost always strong and picturesque.  15
  The paragraphs, the logical divisions of simple prose discourse, are generally marked in the English Revised Version. Strophic divisions, marked by headings or refrains in rhythmical elevated prose, are sometimes but not always indicated. Examples of strophes are Amos i., ii.; Isa. v. 8–24 (woes); ix. 8–x. 4 (refrain), to which should be attached v. 25; Ezek. xviii., xx., xxxii. 19–32 (not indicated in R. V.).  16
  Among the prophets none is more eloquent than Amos in the denunciation of social evils; take, for example, the passage on the following page (Am. v. 11–24).

  FORASMUCH as ye trample on the poor,
And take from him exactions of wheat,
Though ye have built houses of hewn stone
Ye shall not dwell in them,
Though ye have planted pleasant vineyards
Ye shall not drink the wine thereof.
For I know how manifold are your transgressions
And how mighty are your sins,
Ye who afflict the just, who take bribes,
Who deprive the poor of their rights in courts of justice.
  Therefore he that is prudent keeps silence in such a time, for it is an evil time. Seek good, and not evil, that ye may live: and then Jehovah, the God of hosts, may be with you, as ye say. Hate the evil, and love the good, and maintain justice in the courts: then it may be that Jehovah, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.
  There shall be wailing in all the broad ways,
In all the streets they shall say, Alas!
They shall call the husbandman to mourning,
And such as are skillful in lamentation to wailing.
In all vineyards shall be wailing,
For I will pass through the midst of thee, saith Jehovah.
  Woe unto you who desire the day of Jehovah: why would ye have the day of Jehovah? it is darkness and not light—as if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him, and when he got into his house and leaned his hand on the wall, a serpent bit him. Shall not the day of Jehovah be darkness and not light? very dark, and no brightness in it?
  I hate, I despise your feasts,
I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Though you offer me your burnt-offerings and cereal offerings,
I will not accept them;
The peace-offerings of your fat beasts I will not regard.
Take away from me the noise of thy songs;
The clang of thy viols I will not hear.
But let equity roll down as waters,
And justice as a perennial stream.
  Amos, Isaiah, and Ezekiel display no tenderness toward their people; Hosea is an intensely loving nature; Jeremiah’s prevailing attitude is one of sorrow, as in these extracts from chapters viii. and ix. of his book:—
          OH for comfort in my sorrow! My heart is sick! Hark! the cry of the Daughter of my People from a far-off land: Is not Jehovah in Zion? is not her King in her?—[Jehovah speaks:] Why have they provoked me to anger with their graven images and with foreign gods?—[The people:] The harvest is past, the autumn ingathering is ended, and we are not saved.—[The prophet:] By the ruin of the Daughter of my People my spirit is crushed; I mourn; dismay seizes me. Is there no balm in Gilead? is there no physician there? why then is the wound of the Daughter of my People not healed?—Oh that my head were water, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the Daughter of my People! Oh that I could find in the wilderness a lodging-place for travelers, that I might leave my people, and from them go far away!… For the mountains will I break forth into weeping and wailing, and for the pastures of the wilderness utter a lament, because they are burned, so that none passes through; voices of cattle are not heard; birds of the heaven and beasts of the field are all fled and gone…. Call for the mourning women, that they may come; send for women skilled in lament, that they may come and utter wailing for us, that tears may stream from our eyes and water from our eyelids.
  Ezekiel’s tremendous power of denunciation and of description appears throughout his book; see for example Chapters vi., xi., xvi., xx., xxiii., xxvi.–xxviii., xxix.–xxxii., xxxviii., xxxix. He thus addresses the land of Israel (vi.):—

  I WILL bring the sword on you, and destroy your high places;
Your altars shall be desolate, your sun-images shall be broken,
I will cast down your slain before your idols,
And scatter your bones about your altars.
*        *        *        *        *
And the remnant that escape the sword, scattered through the lands,
Shall remember me among the nations whither they are carried captive.
I will crush their faithless hearts and their apostate eyes,
And they shall loathe themselves for their abominable deeds.
Smite with the hand, stamp with the foot!
Say, alas! because of the sins of the House of Israel,
For they shall fall by sword, famine, and plague.
He who is far off shall die of the plague,
He who is near shall fall by the sword,
He who is besieged shall perish by famine:
Thus will I accomplish my fury on them.
And they shall know that I am Jehovah
When their slain lie by their idols about their altars,
On every high hill, on the mountain-tops,
Under every green tree and leafy terebinth,
Where they offered sweet savor to all their idols.
  The section devoted to Tyre (xxvi.–xxviii.) is of special interest for the picture it gives of the magnificence of that city. The King of Tyre is thus described (xxviii. 12–17):—
  THOU wert full of wisdom, and perfect in beauty.
In Eden, the garden of God, thou wast,
All precious stones were thine adornment,
Ruby, topaz, diamond, beryl, and onyx,
Jasper, sapphire, carbuncle, emerald….
In the day when thou wast created
I placed thee with the Cherub in the sacred Mount of God,
Amid the stones of fire thou didst walk.
Perfect thou wast in thy life
From the day of thy creation till sin appeared in thee.
The vastness of thy traffic filled thee with sin,
From the Mount of God I did expel thee as profane,
The Cherub cast thee forth from amid the stones of fire.
Thou didst swell with pride in thy beauty,
Thy splendor vitiated thy wisdom.
Down to the ground I cast thee,
To kings I made thee a spectacle,
That they might feast their eyes on thee.
  Alongside of this (the resemblance between which and the picture in Gen. ii.–iii. is obvious) we may put the address to Pharaoh (xxxi.), who is portrayed as a mighty tree (the cedar of Lebanon is chosen as the noblest of trees), watered by a great river (the Nile) and its canals:—
  WHOM art thou like in thy greatness?
Lo, there stood in Lebanon a mighty cedar,
With stately boughs, lofty of stature,
Its top reached the clouds.
Water had made it great, the Deep had made it high,
Streams ran through its soil, rivers over its field.
All trees of the forest it excelled in height,
Abundant water gave it many boughs.
In its branches all birds had their nests,
Under its boughs were the lairs of all beasts,
In its shadow dwelt many nations.
It was stately in height, in the mass of its branches,
For its roots were richly watered.
Cedars in the garden of God were not its equals,
Cypresses were not like its boughs, nor plane-trees like its branches;
No tree in the garden of God was like it
In beauty and in mass of branches,
And the trees of Eden, in the garden of God, did envy it.
  The prophet’s imagination, reveling in its picture, does not always, keep figure and original sharply apart; as in the description of Pharaoh’s fall (xxxi. 15–17), in which the tree and the king are skillfully blended without loss of unity:—
          THUS says the Lord Jehovah: On the day when it was hurled down to Sheol, I made the River mourn for it, the streams were held back and ceased to flow; for it I caused Lebanon to lament, for it all the trees of the field fainted with sorrow. At its resounding fall I made the nations tremble, when I hurled it down to Sheol, with those who descend into the pit; and all the trees of Eden, the choicest of Lebanon, all trees nourished by water, were consoled [that is, by the ruin of their rival]. They too had to go down with it to Sheol, to those who were slain with the sword [who had an inferior position in Sheol]; so perished its allies and they who dwelt in its shadow.
  The powerful effect which Ezekiel produces by cumulation and iteration may be seen in his review (Chapter xx.) of the history of Israel, which is noteworthy also for treating the national career as one long catalogue of acts of disobedience and apostasy.  23
  Among the Prophetical works the Book of Isaiah presents the greatest variety in literary form. The pictures of the physical and moral ruin of Judah (i., iii., v.) and of Israel (xxviii.), the descriptions of the haughty bearing and the overthrow of the King of Assyria (x., xxxvii.), the lament over Moab (xv., xvi.), the siege of Jerusalem (xxix.), the prediction of the return of the exiles (xxxv.),—these and other pieces are classic. As an example of its descriptive power we may take the picture of Jehovah’s coming vengeance on Edom (xxxiv.):—

  APPROACH, O nations, and hear,
And hearken, O ye peoples.
Let the earth hear, and all that it contains,
The world, and all that it produces.
Jehovah is wrathful against all the nations,
Furious against the whole host of them,
He has laid them under a ban,
Given them over to slaughter.
Their slain shall be cast forth,
The stench of their corpses shall ascend,
The mountains shall melt with their blood;
All the host of heaven shall decay,
The heavens shall be rolled up as a scroll,
All their host shall wither,
As withers foliage from vine, leaf from fig-tree.
My sword has drunk its fill in heaven,
Now it descends for vengeance on Edom, the banned people.
Jehovah has a sword, reeking with blood, anointed with fat,
Blood of lambs and goats, fat of kidneys of rams,
For Jehovah holds a sacrifice in Bozrah,
A mighty slaughter in the land of Edom:
With these beasts wild oxen shall fall,
And bullocks along with bulls.
Jehovah’s day of vengeance comes,
The year of requital in Zion’s quarrel.
Edom’s stream shall turn to pitch,
And its soil to brimstone—
Burning pitch its land shall become.
It shall not be quenched night nor day,
Its smoke shall ascend for ever,
From generation to generation it shall lie waste,
None shall pass through it for ever and ever.
Pelican and bittern shall possess it,
Owl and raven shall dwell therein,
Jehovah shall stretch over it the measuring-line of desolation,
And the plummet of emptiness.
Its nobles shall vanish,
All its princes shall perish,
Thorns shall spring up in its palaces,
Nettles and thistles in its fortresses.
It shall be the habitation of jackals,
The dwelling-place of ostriches.
There beasts of the desert shall meet,
The wilderness-demon shall cry to its fellow,
The demoness of night there shall repose,
And find in it her lair;
The arrow-snake shall make its nest,
In its shadow lay and hatch and brood,
And hawks shall be gathered together.
Search Jehovah’s scroll and read;
Not one of these shall be missing,
Not one shall want its mate.
For his mouth it is has commanded,
His spirit it is that has gathered them.
For them he has cast the lot,
And his hand has measured the land.
For ever and ever they shall possess it,
Dwell therein from generation to generation.
  The most splendid of Prophetic rhapsodies are found in Isaiah, xl.–lxvi. We may cite from these, as an example of vivid imagination and gorgeous coloring, the famous description of Israel’s coming glory, in Chapter lx.:—
  ARISE, shine; for thy light is come,
And the glory of Jehovah shines upon thee.
Darkness shall cover the earth,
And gross darkness the peoples,
But Jehovah shall shine upon thee,
And his glory shall appear upon thee.
Nations shall come to thy light,
And kings to the brightness of thy radiance.
Lift up thine eyes round about, and see:
They gather themselves together, they come to thee;
Thy sons shall come from far,
And thy daughters shall be carried in the arms.
Then shalt thou clearly see,
Thy heart shall expand with joy.
For the abundance of the sea shall be given thee,
The wealth of the nations shall come unto thee.
A multitude of camels shall cover thee,
The dromedaries of Midian and Ephah;
Men shall come from Sheba, bringing gold and frankincense,
They shall proclaim the praises of Jehovah.
All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered to thee,
The rams of Nebaioth shall minister unto thee:
They shall be offered as acceptable sacrifices on mine altar,
And I will glorify the house of my glory.
Who are these that fly as a cloud,
As the doves to their windows?
Surely the isles shall wait for me,
And the ships of Tarshish first,
To bring thy sons from far,
Their silver and their gold with them,
For the name of Jehovah thy God,
For the Holy One of Israel,
Because he hath glorified thee.
Strangers shall build thy walls,
Their kings shall minister unto thee,
For in my wrath I smote thee,
But in my love I have mercy on thee.
Thy gates shall be open continually,
Shall not be shut by day or night;
That men may bring thee the wealth of the nations,
And their kings be led with them.
Nation and kingdom shall perish that serves thee not:
Yea, blasted shall those nations be.
The glory of Lebanon shall come unto thee,
The cypress, the elm, and the cedar.
I will beautify the place of my sanctuary,
And make the place of my feet glorious.
The sons of thine oppressors shall bend before thee;
They that despised thee shall bow down at thy feet;
Thou shalt be called the City of Jehovah,
Zion of the Holy One of Israel.
I will make thee an eternal excellency,
A joy of endless generations.
For bronze I will bring gold, and for iron silver,
For wood bronze, and for stones iron.
I will make thine officers peace,
And thy taskmasters justice.
Violence shall no more be heard in thy land,
Desolation nor destruction within thy borders,
But thou shalt call thy walls Salvation,
And thy gates Praise.
The sun shall no more be thy light by day,
Nor the brightness of the moon give thee light by night,
But Jehovah shall be thine everlasting light,
And thy God thy glory.
Thy sun shall no more go down,
Neither shall thy moon withdraw itself:
For Jehovah shall be thine everlasting light,
And the days of thy mourning shall be ended.
Thy people shall be all righteous,
They shall possess the land forever.
The little one shall become a thousand,
And the small one a strong nation.

  Hebrew poetry, it is generally admitted, is characterized as to its form by rhythm and parallelism. Rhythm is the melodious flow of syllables. Parallelism—a form characteristic of, and almost peculiar to, old Semitic poetry—is the balancing of phrases; the second line in a couplet being a repetition of the first in varied phrase, or presenting some sort of expansion of or contrast to the first. These two general classes of parallelism may be called the identical and the antithetical. An example of the first sort is:—
  Rebuke me not in thy wrath,
Chasten me not in thine anger  (Ps. xxxviii. 1);
or, with one slight variation:—
  The heavens declare the glory of God,
The firmament showeth his handiwork  (Ps. xix. 1).
  Jehovah reigns—let the nations tremble;
He is enthroned on the cherubs—let the earth be moved  (Ps. xcix. 1).
Examples of the second are:—

  The arms of the wicked shall be broken,
But Jehovah upholds the righteous  (Ps. xxxvii. 17).
The plans of the mind belong to man,
The answer of the tongue is from Jehovah  (Prov. xvi. 1).

Question and answer:—
  I lift up mine eyes to the mountains!
Whence comes my help?
My help comes from Jehovah,
Who made heaven and earth  (Ps. cxxi. 1, 2);
or, with fuller expansion:—
  Whither shall I go from thy spirit?
Whither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend to Heaven, thou art there;
If I couch me in Sheol, lo, thou art there;
If l take the wings of the Dawn,
If I dwell in the remotest West,
There shall thy hand lead me,
And thy right hand shall hold me  (Ps. cxxxix. 7–10).
  Between the extremes of complete identity and complete antithesis there are many sub-varieties, the combinations and interchanges of which, in the hands of a gifted poet, give exquisite delicacy and charm to the form of the verse.  27
  Various efforts have been made to discover metre in Hebrew poetry,—a regular succession of feet after the manner of the Greek; but without success, and such attempts are now discountenanced by the majority of critics. Elaborate schemes of dimeter, trimeter, tetrameter, and pentameter, which one still finds defended in certain modern books, may be rejected as having no basis in fact. There might be more to say in favor of a system of ictus or beats of the voice. It is true that all poetry is marked by a certain succession of rhythmic beats. But the succession does not occur in Hebrew according to any fixed rule. It appears to be determined by the feeling of the poet, and its appreciation may safely be left to the feeling of the reader. This much is true, that, in a series of couplets, the same number of accented syllables may be employed in each couplet, and we may thus have a guide in fixing the limits of the stanzas; but even these limits we must leave to the free choice of the poet, without attempting to impose our rules on him. To such norms, characterized by the number of beats, we may give the names binary (when the line has two beats), ternary (of three beats), quaternary, and so on. In the Book of Proverbs many of the lines or verses are ternary; elsewhere we find other forms. These can rarely be reproduced exactly in English.  28
  Naturally also, these groups of couplets arrange themselves in strophes or stanzas; but here again, no fixed rule prevails. A stanza may consist of two, three, four, or more couplets; and adjoining stanzas may differ in their number of couplets. As the original text does not indicate any such division, we are left to the rhythm of the couplets and to the connection of the sense to determine the order of the strophes. An example of a symmetrical division in the stanzas is found in the second Psalm, which consists of four stanzas of three couplets each. In the first, the hostile nations are introduced as speaking; in the second the speaker is Jehovah; in the third the speaker is the royal Son, whose coronation has just been announced; and in the fourth, the poet exhorts the nation to obedience.  29
  Hebrew poetry is either emotional or gnomic. It either enounces rules of life, in the form of apophthegms or proverbs, or it describes the poet’s own feeling in the presence of any phenomenon of joy or suffering. It thus, in general, belongs to the class which we call lyric. It does not present any example of what we call epic and dramatic. There has been a natural desire to discover, in the Old Testament poetry, examples of the poetic forms familiar to us in Greek literature; and so it has been said that the Book of Job is a drama or an epic, and that the Song of Songs is a lyric drama. But a little reflection suffices to show that the Book of Job lacks the essential element of epic and drama; that is to say, action. It is, in fact, nothing but an argument consisting of elaborate speeches, with a conclusion attached. There is no catastrophe toward which all the acts of the personages tend. The interest lies in the discussion of a religious theme; Jehovah permits the debate to go on to a certain point, and then intervenes, the human actors having nothing to do with bringing about the result. The Song of Songs is a series of love songs, so delicately conceived, so undefined in shape, so lacking in indications of place and time, that no two critics have as yet agreed in their conclusions as to who are the actors in the supposed drama, or where the action takes place, or what is its culmination. It is obviously necessary to take it, not as a drama, but as a group of songs. And in general, we do nothing but harm to the old Hebrew literature in trying to force it into the forms of a foreign people. The mistake is similar to that which has been made by Hebrew grammarians, who have tried to construct Hebrew grammar in the forms of Greek or Latin grammar; a procedure which, as scholars are now coming to recognize, can result only in misapprehension and misrepresentation. It is no less fatal to the poetic form of a people to force it into the categories of another people. Justice will be done to the Old Testament on its literary side only when we take it for what it is, and try to apprehend its form and enjoy its beauties according to its own rules.  30
  So far as regards the higher characteristics of poetry, these are the same in the Old Testament as elsewhere. There is eloquence, pathos, charm, sublimity,—qualities which are confined to no one race or people. And that the poetry is subjective—that it contains only the expression of the poet’s feeling or reflection—will be evident from a brief review of the books themselves.  31
  Let us begin with the Book of Psalms, the longest and most varied of the poetic books of the Old Testament. It contains simple lucid bits of description, agonizing cries to God for help, exultation for victory, rejoicing in time of peace, expression of consciousness of sin, and odes of praise to the God of Israel. As an example of a gentle, calm confidence and joy, we may take the 23d Psalm:—
  THE LORD is my shepherd,
I shall not want;—
He makes me recline in green pastures,
He leads me to still waters.
He restores my soul,
He guides me in safe paths for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of gloom,
I fear no evil,
For thou art with me,
Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest me a table in the presence of mine enemies:
Thou anointest my head with oil, my cup runs over.
Surely, goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
  Here the imagery, derived from the shepherd’s life, is of the most restful sort; and the whole picture is one of perfect repose under the protection of God. In contrast with this, the 24th Psalm is an exulting ode of praise; and the first part, verses 1–6, which states the moral qualities demanded of those who are to serve Jehovah in his temple, begins with a declaration of the Divine might:—
  The earth is the Lord’s, and the fullness thereof,
The world, and they that dwell therein;
For he has founded it upon the seas,
And established it upon the floods.
  The second part is the hymn of a solemn procession, in which Jehovah is spoken of as entering the temple, and it is conceived in the finest vein of stirring song:—
  Lift up your heads, O ye gates!
Be ye lift up, ye ancient doors!
And the King of Glory shall come in!
Here a member of the choir sings:—
  Who is the King of Glory?
And the answer comes from the whole choir:—
  The Lord strong and mighty!
The Lord mighty in battle!
The chorus is then repeated:—
  Lift up your heads, O ye gates!
Yea, lift them up, ye ancient doors!
And the King of Glory shall come in!
Again the question and answer:—
  Who is this King of Glory?
The Lord of Hosts,
He is the King of Glory!
  Among the most beautiful of the odes of the Psalter are the so-called Pilgrim songs (Pss. cxx.–cxxxiv.); each bears the title Song of Ascents, the meaning of which is doubtful; they differ greatly from one another in sentiment and length. One of them, Ps. cxxvii., is a song of the household, speaking of house and children. Another, Ps. cxxxii., describes the choosing of the site of the temple. We shall not find a more beautiful expression of trust in God than that which is given by the 121st Psalm:—
  I LIFT up mine eyes to the mountains!
Whence comes my help?
My help comes from the Lord,
Who made Heaven and Earth.
He will not suffer thy foot to be moved;
He who keeps thee does not slumber.
Behold, he who keeps Israel
Slumbers not nor sleeps.
The Lord is thy keeper,
The Lord is a shade on thy right hand.
The sun shall not smite thee by day,
Nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep thee from all evil,
He will preserve thy life.
The Lord will keep thy going out and thy coming in
From this time forth and for evermore.
  The longer psalms are either odes written on the occasion of some national festivity, or narrations of national history, or, in a few cases, the expression of national experiences. Of these perhaps the most striking are the 18th and the 68th. The former is a description of struggle and victory. It contains one of the most magnificent of poetical passages:—
  IN my distress I called upon the Lord,
I cried unto my God.
He heard my voice from his palace,
And my cry came to his ears.
Then the earth shook and trembled,
The foundations of the mountains were shaken.
Smoke ascended in his nostrils,
Fire out of his mouth devoured,
Coals were kindled by it!
He bowed the heavens and descended;
Thick darkness was under his feet.
He rode upon a cherub and did fly;
He flew on the wings of the wind!
He made darkness his habitation,
And darkest clouds his pavilion.
In brightness passed his thick clouds,
With hail and coals of fire.
The Lord thundered in heaven,
The Most High uttered his voice.
He sent out his arrows and scattered them,
Shot forth his lightnings and appalled them.
Then the bed of the Deep appeared;
The foundations of the world were laid bare,
At thy rebuke, O Lord,
At the blast of the breath of thy nostrils!
  It was from this passage that Sternhold and Hopkins elicited the only bit of poetry in their metrical version of the Psalms:—

  The Lord descended from above,
    And bowed the heavens most high,
And underneath his feet he cast
    The darkness of the sky.
On cherub and on cherubim
    Full royally he rode,
And on the wings of mighty winds
    Came flying all abroad!
  The 68th Psalm is a procession-ode, consisting of a series of stanzas of singular majesty and force. Psalms lxxvii. and lxxxix., cv. and cvi. are historical reviews. Psalms ciii. and civ. are odes in celebration of the glorious and beneficent deeds of Jehovah.  38
  A peculiarity of the Psalter is the presence of alphabetical psalms, in which each verse or stanza begins with a letter of the alphabet in order. There are a number of these: the alphabetical arrangement is, however, not always perfect; and it is, of course, not recognizable in the English translation. The most noteworthy example is the 119th Psalm, a collection of couplets in praise of the Law. It is divided into twenty-two stanzas (according to the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet) of eight couplets each. Such psalms, however, are naturally the least attractive in poetic form.  39
  The Psalter is divided in the Hebrew Bible, and in the English Revised Version, into five books (in imitation of the division of the Pentateuch): and these are supposed to indicate collections which were made at different times; the whole having been finally combined into our present Psalm-book. The Psalter grew with the temple services, and many—perhaps the most—of its hymns were intended for recitation in the sacred place.  40
  A peculiar and very effective form of Hebrew poetry is the elegy. The discovery of the form of the Hebrew elegy or lament (the recognition of which adds not a little to the reader’s pleasure) is due to Professor Karl Budde, now of Strassburg. The elegiac verse is characterized by a short clause, followed by a still shorter clause, giving to the phrase a peculiar restrained movement. The most noted example of this poetic form is found in our Book of Lamentations—a collection of laments over the sorrows of Israel. Thus, in the beginning of the second chapter:—

  THE LORD in his anger has smitten
      The daughter of Zion,
And cast down from heaven to earth
      The beauty of Israel;
He has not remembered his footstool
      In the day of his wrath!
The Lord has destroyed without mercy
      The dwellings of Jacob;
Has thrown down in anger the stronghold
      Of the daughter of Judah;
Has cast to the ground, desecrated,
      The realm and its princes.
  One feels here how the emotion of the poet drives him into this sad brief appendage at the end of each line. Elegies are not confined to the Book of Lamentations, but are found elsewhere in the Old Testament. In Ezekiel xix. are two laments, one for the princes and the other for the nation. The first reads as follows:—

  THY mother was like a lioness | among lions.
Amid young lions she couched, | she reared her whelps.
One of her whelps she brought up, | he became a young lion.
He learned to seize his prey, | men he devoured.
Against him the nations raised a cry, | in their pit he was taken.
They brought him with hooks away | to the land of Egypt.
She saw that she had failed, | her hope had perished.
Another of her whelps she took, | a young lion she made him.
  So the magnificent ode, written in elegiac form, in Isaiah xiv., in which the fall of the King of Babylon is celebrated:—
  HOW is the tyrant quelled, | quelled his havoc!
The Lord has broken the staff of the wicked, | the ruler’s sceptre!
Who, in his wrath, smote the nations | with blows unceasing!
At rest is the world, and at peace— | breaks forth into song!
Over thee exult the spruce-trees, | the cedars of Lebanon:—
“Since thou art laid low there comes no longer | the woodman against us.”
The realm of Shades beneath is stirred | to meet thine arrival.
It rouses the Shades for thee— | the heroes of earth,
Rouses from their thrones | the kings of the nations.
To thee they all speak, and say:—
“Thou too art become weak as we, | art become like us;
Thy pomp is brought down to the Shades, | the clang of thy harps;
Mold is the bed beneath thee | and worms thy covering.
How art thou fallen from heaven, | bright star of dawn!
How art thou hurled to the ground, | thou conqueror of nations!
Thou hadst thought in thy heart, | ‘To heaven I’ll mount,
High above the stars of God | exalt my throne;
I will sit on the mount of God | in farthest north;
To the heights of the clouds I’ll ascend— | be like the Most High!’
And now thou art hurled to the realm of death,
To the deepest abyss.”
  A still better conception of the power of the elegiac verse is given by the fine alphabetic ode in triplets contained in Lamentations i.

  HOW sitteth the city solitary, | once full of people.
She who was great among the nations | is become as a widow.
The princess among the provinces | is become tributary.
She weepeth sore in the night, | her cheeks are wet with tears;
She hath none to comfort her | among all her lovers;
All her friends are traitors, | are become her enemies.
Exiled is Judah in grievous affliction, | in bitter servitude;
She dwelleth among the nations, | findeth no rest;
All her persecutors overtook her | in the midst of her straits.
The ways to Zion do mourn, | none come to her feasts;
All her gates are desolate, | her priests do sigh;
Her virgins are deeply afflicted, | and she is in bitterness.
Her adversaries are become supreme, | her enemies prosper;
For Jehovah hath sorely afflicted her | for her many sins;
Her children are gone into captivity | before the adversary.
Gone from the Daughter of Zion | is all her splendor.
Her princes are become like harts | that find no pasture:
Powerless they have fled | before the pursuer.
Jerusalem remembereth her days | of affliction and misery,
When her people succumbed to the foe, | and none did help her;
On her her enemies gazed, | mocked at her bereavement.
Jerusalem hath grievously sinned, | foul is she become;
All that honored her despise her | because they have seen her disgrace.
Yea, she herself sigheth | and turneth away.
Her filthiness is in her skirts, | she remembered not her end;
Wonderful is her downfall, | she hath no comforter.
Behold, O Jehovah, my affliction, | for the foe doth triumph.
The adversary hath laid his hand | on all her treasures;
She hath beheld the nations enter | her sanctuary,
Who, thou commandedst, should not come into | thy congregation.
All her people sigh, | seeking bread.
Their treasures they have given for food | their life to sustain.
See, O Jehovah, and behold | how I am despised.
Ho, all ye that pass by, | behold and see
If there be sorrow like to the sorrow | which is come upon me,
Wherewith Jehovah hath afflicted me | in the day of his anger.
Fire from on high he hath sent, | into my bones hath driven it,
Hath spread a net for my feet, | turned me back;
Desolate he hath made me, | faint all the day.
Bound is the yoke of my trespasses | by his hand;
Knit together they lie on my neck, | my strength doth fail.
The Lord hath given me up to them | whom I cannot withstand.
My heroes the Lord hath cast down | in the midst of me,
Hath summoned a solemn assembly | to crush my warriors;
In a wine-press he hath trodden | the virgin daughter of Judah.
For these things weep mine eyes, | my tears run down;
Far away from me is the comforter | who should revive my soul;
Desolate are my children | because the foe hath prevailed.
Zion spreadeth forth her hands, | there is none to comfort her;
This hath Jehovah ordained for Jacob,— | that his neighbors should be his foes;
Among them is Jerusalem become | a thing of loathing.
Jehovah, he is just—I have rebelled against him.
Hear, all ye peoples, | behold my sorrow:
My virgins and my young men | are gone into captivity.
On my friends I called, | they deceived me.
My priests and my elders | perished in the city,
Seeking food for themselves | to sustain their lives.
Behold, O Jehovah, my deep distress: | my soul is troubled;
My heart is o’erwhelmed within me, | rebellious was I.
Abroad the sword bereaveth, | at home is death.
They have heard that I sigh, | there is none to comfort me.
My foes have heard of my trouble, | they are glad thou didst it.
Bring in the day thou hast announced, | let them be like me.
Regard thou all their wickedness; | do to them
As thou hast done to me | for all my sins!
For many are my sighs, | my heart is faint.
  Other examples of the elegy are found in Amos, v. 1; Ezek., xxvii. 32–36, and xxxii. 19–32.  45
  The Book of Job must be reckoned among the great poems of the world. The prose introduction—the story of the crushing of Job’s worldly hopes—is itself full of power. The poem is unique in form. It is a series of monologues, all united by the author’s intention to develop a certain idea in connection with the question, “Why do the righteous suffer?” The Three Friends affirm that the righteous do not suffer,—that is, that no man suffers except for wrong-doing. Job combats this view to the uttermost, holding that he is righteous and that he suffers. Elihu further insists that suffering is designed to destroy the pride of men who are otherwise good. Finally, Jehovah intervenes, and proclaims the wonderfulness of his government of the world, and Job is reduced to silence. The freshness and variety of thought,—the picture of a terrible struggle in Job’s soul,—the majestic descriptions of Divine power,—all these together give a peculiar impressiveness to the book. At the outset, Job gives us a glimpse into his own soul:—
  PERISH the day wherein I was born,
And the night which said, Behold, a man!
Let that day be darkness;
May God ask not of it;
May no light shine on it;
May darkness and gloom claim it,
Clouds dwell on it, and eclipses terrify it!
  Job longs for death, that he may go to that sad underworld, and dwell
  With kings and councilors of the earth,
Who built tombs for themselves,
  The wicked cease from troubling,
And the weary are at rest.
  To this outburst, the eldest of the three friends, Eliphaz, replies by insisting on the general rule that men receive in this world what they deserve; and he expresses his conclusion in the form of a vision:—
  Stealthily came to me a word,
And a whisper to my ear;
In thoughts, from visions of the night,
When deep sleep falls on men.
Fear came upon me, and trembling,
Which made all my bones to shake;
And a breath passed over my face,
The hair of my head stood up.
There It stood!—Its semblance I could not see!—
A form was before my eyes!
I heard a voice which whispered,
“Shall man be more just than God,—
A creature purer than the Creator?—
He puts no trust in his servants,
His angels he charges with folly:
How much more them who dwell in houses of clay,
Whose foundation is in the dust?”
  Job replies to this, and is answered by the second friend, replies to him, is followed by the third friend, and so for several rounds of argument,—the only effect of which on Job is to draw him to deeper hopelessness. He exclaims (vii. 7):—
  A tree cut down may sprout again,
Its tender branch will not cease.
Though its root wax old in the earth,
And its stock die in the ground,
Yet through the scent of water it will bud,
And put forth boughs like a plant.
But man dies and wastes away,
Breathes out his life, and where is he?
The waters pour out of the sea,
The river dries up and fails;
So man lies down and rises not;
Till the heavens be no more they shall not awake,
Nor be raised out of their sleep!
  Then there comes to him a vague wish that God would think of him after death in the underworld, and he exclaims:—
  Oh that thou wouldst hide me in the underworld,
Keep me secret till thy wrath be past,
Appoint me a set time, and remember me!
  The finest outbursts of poetry are to be found in the speeches of Job himself, yet others also contain many striking pieces. See, for example, the speech of Zophar, Chapter xx.; that of Eliphaz, Chapter xxii.; and that of Bildad, Chapter xxv. Elihu’s description of the chastening power of suffering in xxxiii. 19–28 is also full of vigor:—

  He is chastened with pain on his bed,
In his bones is continual torment;
He abhors all nourishing bread,
Cares not for dainty food;
His flesh wastes away to nothing,
His bones, hid no longer, stick out,
And he draws near unto the pit,—
His life approaches the dead!
If there be an interpreter with him
Who will shew him what is right,
Will be gracious to him, and say,
“Loose him! I have ransomed his life,”
Then his flesh becomes fresher than a child’s,
He returns to the days of his youth,
He prays to God, who accepts him,
Shews him his face in joy,
Restores to him his righteousness.
He sings before him, and says:—
“I had sinned, and done what was wrong,
But it was not requited to me;
He has redeemed me from the pit!
My life shall behold the light!”
  The speeches of Jehovah make a magnificent poem in themselves. Chapters xxviii., xxxix., are worthy to stand alongside the first chapter of Genesis for sublimity of statement, and have in addition the freshness and color of a fine imagination. One other poem in Job, that contained in Chapter xxviii., we may reserve, in order to place it alongside of several similar poems.  52
  We have already seen that the Canticles, or Song of Songs, must be taken as a group of songs of love, in which it is impossible to discover any relation of time and place. It may be compared, for poetic grace, with the finest idylls of Theocritus. It breathes the air of the fields and mountains; and in this respect is unique among the Old Testament books. For ancient poetry does not occupy itself directly with external nature. Neither among the Greeks nor among the Hebrews do we find the phenomena of nature introduced into poetry for their own sake: they are used as illustrations purely. The reason of this is not that the ancients did not love nature,—certainly they must have been alive to its charm. It is rather that only in modern times have men come to that habit of close observation of nature which has made it possible to use its varying forms as part of poetic material. So, in the Psalms, clouds and mountains, stream and sunshine, appear as exhibiting the power and wisdom or the wrath or the love of God. But not even in such Psalms as xviii. and xix. does the poet dwell on these phenomena for their own sake. In this book we seem to have an exception to this rule; as in the beautiful spring song in Chapter ii.:—

  THE VOICE of my Beloved! Lo, he comes,
Leaping over the mountains,
Skipping over the hills!
My Beloved is like a roe, a young hart.
Now he stands behind our wall,
Looks through the window,
Peeps through the lattice.
My beloved spake, and said to me:—
Arise, my Love, my Fair One, and come away!
For lo, the winter is past,
The rain is over and gone,
The flowers appear on the earth,
The time of the singing of birds is come,
The voice of the turtle-dove is heard in our land,
The fig-tree ripens her figs,
The vines are in blossom,
They give forth their fragrance.
Arise, my Love, my Fair One, and come away!
  Here the pictures introduced are all of the country, and all charming, and the poet seems to dwell on them for their own sake. But after all he does not do this. It is the lover who describes the beautiful face of nature, in order to tempt his beloved to come forth and roam with him over the fields and hills. Nevertheless, the pictures of natural scenery which he gives are very striking, and might easily prepare the way for that completer contemplation of nature which is found in the modern poets.  54
  It is the occurrence of responsive songs in the book that has suggested the opinion that it is a drama. How vague the speeches and the supposed dialogue are, will appear from the following examples. The occasion of the first address to the Jerusalem ladies (i. 5, 6) is not obvious:—
  I am dark but comely,
O ye daughters of Jerusalem,
As the tents of Kedar,
As the curtains of Solomon.
Scorn me not because I am dark,
Because the sun has shone on me.
For my brothers were wroth with me,
And made me keeper of the vineyards.
On this follows the first dialogue:—

  The Beloved speaks  (i. 7):
      Tell me, thou whom I love,
      Where thou feedest thy flock at noon;
      For I would not seem to be a loiterer
      Beside thy comrades’ flocks.
The Lover replies  (i. 8):
      If thou know not, O fairest of women,
      Go, follow the tracks of the flock,
      And feed thy kids by the shepherds’ tents.

After a brief descriptive strophe, the second dialogue proceeds (i. 15–ii. 6):—

        Thou art fair, my Love, thou art fair,
      Thou hast the eyes of a dove.
      Thou art fair, my Love, and lovely.
      Our couch is the greensward,
      The beams of our house are the cedars,
      The walls of our rooms are the cypresses.
      I am a rose of Sharon,
      A lily of the valleys.
      As a lily among thorns,
      So is my Love among the maidens.
      As the apple-tree among the trees of the wood,
      So is my Love among the youths.
      Under his shadow I sat with delight,
      And his fruit was sweet to my taste.
      He brought me to the banqueting-house,
      And his banner over me was love.
      Stay me with raisins, strengthen me with apples,
      For I am sick with love.
      Be his left hand under my head!
      Let his right hand embrace me!
Refrain  (ii. 7, iii. 5):
      I adjure you, O daughters of Jerusalem,
      By the gazelles and the hinds of the field,
      Rouse not nor awaken love
      Until it please!
The search by night for the Beloved  (iii. 1–4):
      At night on my bed I sought my Beloved,
      Sought him, and found him not.
      (I said) I will arise and go through the city;
      In the streets and the squares
      I will seek my Beloved.
      I sought him and found him not.
      The watchmen, patrolling the city, found me.
      “Saw ye my beloved?”
      Scarce had I passed from them,
      When I found him whom I love,
      I held him, would not let him go.
  The vagueness of this narration is equaled by that of its companion song, the less fortunate search for the Lover, of which we cannot say whether it is a dream or reality (v. 2–7):—
  I sleep, but my heart is awake.
Hark! my Beloved knocks, and cries:
Open to me, my sister, my friend,
My dove, my perfect one!
For my head is filled with dew,
My locks with the drops of the night.
(She): I have put off my dress—
Must I put it on again?
I have washed my feet—
Must I defile them?
My Beloved put his hand through the window,
My soul yearned for him.
I rose to open to my Beloved,
And my hand dropped with myrrh,
And my fingers with liquid myrrh,
On the handles of the bolt.
I opened to my Beloved,
But he had withdrawn and was gone—
My heart had failed me when he spake.
I sought him, but found him not,
I called, he answered not.
The watchmen, patrolling the city, found me,
They smote me, they wounded me,
The keepers of the walls took from me my veil.
  This exquisite piece is the expression of the longing of love; it does not belong to a drama. The reference to the night-watchmen of the city is to be noted.  57
  We add two beautiful expressions of love, the first, of joy in the possession of the beloved one (iv. 16, v. 1):—

  Awake, O north wind; come, O south!
Breathe on my garden that its balsam may flow!
Let my Beloved come into his garden,
And enjoy its precious fruits!
I am come into my garden, my sister-bride,
I have gathered my myrrh with my balsam,
I have eaten my honeycomb with my honey,
I have drunk my wine with my milk.

Then, love on its spontaneous, enduring, and controlling side (viii. 6, 7):—
  Set me as a seal-ring on thy heart,
As a seal-ring on thine arm.
For love is strong as death,
Passion is firm as the Underworld
Its flames are flames of fire,
Many waters cannot quench it,
Rivers cannot drown it.
If a man would give all his possessions for it,
He would be utterly despised.
  The book is a group of rhapsodies in praise of pure and faithful love. It has no movement, no dénouement, no plot, nothing but the isolated passionate utterances of a pair of lovers. Its hero is not Solomon, but a shepherd, and its heroine is a country maiden; she is not carried off by Solomon to his harem. The King is introduced or alluded to by way of illustration: not always, it would seem, with approbation,—see vi. 8, 9, where the Lover contrasts his one Beloved with the numerous members of a great harem. Its unity is the unity of an idea; the many attempts which have been made to discover in it a unity of action have none of them gained general acceptance.  59
  The gnomic literature of the Hebrews, contained mainly in the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes (but also in certain Psalms, as the 27th and the 49th), has, by its nature, little of the poetic, except the outward form; its balanced phrases present excellent examples of Semitic parallelism. In some cases a longer description gathers force by the accumulation of details; as in the well-known picture of the good housewife (Prov. xxxi. 10–31), which is in the nature of an ode to the housewife, as Ps. cxix. is an ode to the Law.  60
  Ecclesiastes is written for the most part in prose, and has passages of great eloquence and beauty. The author counsels quiet acceptance of what God has given (iii. 11–15):—
          HE has made everything beautiful in its time. He presents the world to man, yet so that man, from beginning to end, cannot find out what he has done. I thence conclude that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and taste of happiness while they live; for when one eats and drinks, and enjoys what he has acquired by his labor, this is the gift of God. I know that whatever God does shall be for ever. Nothing can be added to it, nor anything taken from it. God so acts that men may fear him. That which is, has already existed; that which is to be, has already been; that which has passed away, God seeks in order to give it existence again.
  He warns against all excess (vii. 15–17):—
          ALL this have I seen in the days of my vain life. The good man perishes in spite of his goodness, and the bad man lives long in spite of his badness. Be not too righteous, nor pretend to be too wise, lest thou destroy thyself. Be not too wicked, nor too foolish, lest thou die before thy time.
  The description of old age and its slowly lessening powers (xii. 1–7) belongs to the best productions of Hebrew literature:—
          REMEMBER thy Creator in the days of thy youth, before the sad days come, and the years draw nigh when thou shalt say, “I have no pleasure in them;” before the sun, the light, the moon, and the stars, be darkened, and the clouds return after the rain; when the house-guards tremble, the strong men bow, when the maidens grinding corn cease because they are few, and those who look out of the windows are darkened, and the street-doors are shut; when the sound of the grinding is low; when one starts up from sleep at the voice of a bird, and all the daughters of music are brought low, and one is afraid of what is high, and terrors are in the way; when the almond-tree blossoms, the grasshopper is a burden, and all stimulants fail; because man goes to his long home, and the mourners go about the streets: before the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern, and the dust return to the earth as it was, and the spirit return to God who gave it.
  The failure of light and the recurrence of rain (verses 1, 2) indicate the growing gloom of old age. The decay of natural powers is represented (verses 3, 4) by the cessation of activity in a great house falling into ruin: arms (guards) and legs (strong men) lose their strength, the teeth (maidens grinding) are few, the eyes grow dim (windows); in a word, the avenues of the senses are closed (the doors are shut). Then comes (verses 4, 5) a more literal description of bodily weakness: the old man cannot sleep, music gives him no pleasure, he walks about in fear and trembling, his hair turns white (almond-tree), the smallest weight is burdensome, the appetite does not respond to stimulants. Finally comes the end,—from the fountain of life no water can be drawn. With this gloomy portraiture of old age we may compare the cheerful picture given by Cicero. The object of the preacher is to lead men to use aright the vigorous season of youth.  64
The Apocalypse

  There remains to be mentioned the apocalypse, a species of composition which must be regarded as a creation of Hebrew thought. Before the eye of a seer the history of generations or centuries is unrolled in a series of visions, the culminating point of which is the triumph of the people of Israel. It is the visional expression of that unification of history which is given in simple narrative form in the Hexateuch and suggested in the Prophets. Kingdoms rise and fall, and all things move toward the divinely appointed goal,—the establishment of Israel in peace and prosperity. In the Book of Daniel (the only elaborated apocalypse in the Old Testament) the kingdoms set forth are the Babylonian, the Median, the Persian, and the Greek; and the visions all end with the downfall of Antiochus Epiphanes (see particularly Chapter xi.). A majestic picture is presented in the description of the judgment of the enemies of Israel, the “one like a man” being explained in the context as meaning Faithful Israel (vii. 9–14):—
          I BEHELD till thrones were placed, and one that was full of years did sit: his raiment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like pure wool; his throne was fiery flames and its wheels burning fire. A fiery stream issued and came forth from before him; a thousand thousands ministered unto him and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the judgment was set and the books were opened. I beheld at that time till, because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake, the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and he was given to be burned with fire. And as for the rest of the beasts, their dominion was taken away, yet their lives were prolonged for a season and a time. I saw in the night visions, and behold there came with the clouds of heaven one like a man, and he came to the Ancient of Days, and was brought into his presence. And to him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.
  The Hebrew power of narration is well illustrated in the scenes described in Chapters ii.–vi.  66
The Apocrypha

  THE BOOKS which constitute the Old Testament were slowly gathered by the Jews into a sacred canon, the discussions on which did not cease until the Synod of Jamnia, held probably about A.D. 95. Meantime the Jews had been producing other works, which, though some of them were excellent in tone, were for various reasons not thought worthy by the Palestinian rabbis to be accepted as sacred scripture. In respect to some of these books the Alexandrian Jews appear to have held a different opinion; some are included in the Septuagint along with the canonical books, and it is to these that the name Apocrypha properly belongs. The purpose of some of the Alexandrian additions is obvious. Since, for example, the Hebrew Book of Esther does not contain the name of God, or make any reference to religion, the Greek supplies this lack by adding visions and prayers. In any case we have, in this Jewish Apocrypha, a very interesting mass of literature, reflecting the religious and literary culture of the Jews in the two centuries preceding the beginning of our era. In addition to the works constituting the Apocrypha proper (that is, the extra-canonical or deuterocanonical books contained in the Septuagint,) there are several others, of no less importance and equally deserving of mention. Such, for example, are the Books of Enoch and the Sibyllines. We need make no distinction between the two classes, but may take them all together.
  The first book of this sort in order of time is the work commonly called Ecclesiasticus, or the Wisdom of the Son of Sirach; better called the Proverbs of Ben-Sira, or simply Ben-Sira. It was composed about 190 B.C. in Hebrew, by Jesus (Joshua) ben-Sira; translated into Greek by his grandson in Alexandria in 132 B.C.; and afterwards translated into Latin, Syriac, and Arabic. The book consists for the most part of apophthegms which resemble those in our Book of Proverbs. It contains also several extended poems of no little beauty; among which may be cited those in Chapters i. and xxiv., and the roll of the great men of Israel, Chapters xliv.–l. Its sayings are marked by great worldly wisdom, and bear the impress of a man who lived in a large city. In common with the other Wisdom books, it shows the marks of Greek influence in its conception of wisdom and of morality.  68
  Nothing was known of the Hebrew original until 1897, when MSS. containing about ten chapters (xxxix. 15–xlix. 11), came to Oxford, and the text has now been edited. The language of the fragment does not differ in style from that of the canonical Book of Proverbs; it is classical, but with a small admixture of later words. This fact is of great literary interest, as helping to the solution of the question how long classical Hebrew continued to be used in books: it appears that it was employed certainly as late as 190 B.C.; the occurrence of some late words is of course to be expected in this period. It further appears that the Versions, while they in general render the Hebrew correctly, differ from it in not a few instances. Several scholars had undertaken to reproduce the Hebrew from the Greek and the Syriac; it turns out that they had not in a single case written the Hebrew of a verse as it is given in this MS., but have in many instances departed widely from it,—a fact which should teach us caution in attempting to restore Hebrew texts from ancient Greek, Syriac, Latin, and Ethiopic translations. Another important point is settled by this text. It had been contended (especially by Professor Margoliouth of Oxford) that the poetical form of the Hebrew Ben-Sira was metrical, and that the original could often be restored by the aid of the laws of metre. The form, however, is distinctly not metrical; it is simply the old Hebrew rhythm, such as appears in Psalms, Proverbs, and all the poetical parts of the Old Testament. One leaf of the MS. was brought by Mrs. Lewis from the East; the remainder was secured for the Bodleian Library through Professor Sayce. The MS. contains variants, and must be subjected to critical sifting.  69
  Not long after Ben-Sira came the apocalyptic Book of Enoch, which now exists mainly in an Ethiopic translation. The apocalypse had come to be a favorite form of literature among the Jews, and so continued for two hundred and fifty years. Amid depressing circumstances, it was pleasant to put into the mouth of some ancient seer a prediction of future success and glory for the nation. In this case it is the old patriarch Enoch who receives the revelation. The book is composite, having been added to from time to time. The first section, Chapters i.–xxxvi. (perhaps the oldest part of the book), describes the fate of evil angels, and the abodes of good and bad men after death. Next should come the section Chapters lxxxiii.–xc., in which we have the judgment of the world, ending with the victorious career of Judas Maccabæus. In addition, the section Chapters xxxvii.–lxxi. (partly a distinct work) describes further the Messianic judgment of the world. Chapters lxxii.–lxxxii. contain a description of Enoch’s journey through the heavens,—a picture of the celestial physics of the time. And finally, in the last section, Chapters xci.–civ., the problem of the fate of the righteous and the wicked is discussed in a new form. The book in its present form has little literary interest, but is valuable as giving a glimpse of the religious notions of the time. The best English translation is that of R. H. Charles (1893). Along with this may be mentioned a similar work entitled ‘The Secrets of Enoch,’ translated from the Slavonic by W. R. Morfill, and edited by Mr. Charles (1896); it is held by him to have been composed about the beginning of our era.  70
  Nearly contemporary with Enoch is the earliest part of the Sibylline Oracles, a work written in Greek hexameters. The Jews, not to be behind other nations of the time, would have their own Sibyl, who should tell their national fortunes, and make manifest their national greatness. The work, as we now have it, is a congeries of diverse productions, the composition of which (partly by Jews, partly by Christians) extends from the Maccabean period to the end of the first Christian century. Though it has no literary value, it formerly enjoyed extraordinary popularity, as the “teste David cum Sibylla” of the ‘Dies Iræ’ indicates. Its predictions traverse the periods extending from the creation of the world down to the times of the various authors. An excellent English metrical translation is that of M. S. Terry (1890).  71
  Other apocalypses may be briefly mentioned. The Assumption (or Ascension) of Moses, written in the first quarter of the first century of our era, puts into the mouth of Moses a prediction of Jewish history, which comes on down, through the time of Antiochus Epiphanes, to Herod the Great, and possibly even to a later period. The period after the capture of Jerusalem by the Romans was prolific in this species of writing. The Apocalypse of Baruch (the scribe of Jeremiah) sketches the history down to the destruction of the Second Temple. The Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (predictions uttered by the twelve sons of Jacob), come down to about the same time. To the end of the first century also belongs the Fourth Book of Esdras, remarkable for its elaborate visions. Many of these works are based on Jewish originals, with Christian additions.  72
  The Jewish skill in story-telling is illustrated in the books of Tobit and Judith. The former of these is a charming sketch of family life in the second century B.C. The well-ordered households of Tobit and Raguel, the ingenuous youth and maiden Tobias and Sara, the affable angel Rafael, his disingenuousness and his business capacity, are drawn to the life. The Persian demon Asmodeus, and the exorcism by the heart and liver of the fish, show how far the Jews then practiced magic arts; and the golden rule (iv. 15) indicates the advance of their ethical ideas. The historical data are thoroughly confused. The Book of Judith, though somewhat inflated in style, is dramatically powerful; in spite of its absurd historical framework, and the dubious procedure of the heroine, the dénouement has a heroic coloring. Both books furnished subjects to the older painters and sculptors, and are entitled to our gratitude for having given us Donatello’s Judith and Botticelli’s Tobias.  73
  The historical literature is meager. The only work which can properly lay claim to the name “history” is the First Book of Maccabees; which, written probably in the earlier part of the first century B.C., narrates the story of the Maccabean uprising, to the death of Simon, the successor of Judas, B.C. 175–135. The style is simple and effective, and the work is valuable as an authority for the times. Second Maccabees is largely a collection of legendary matter relating to the period 175–160 B.C. It contains (Chapters vi. and vii.) two famous descriptions of the constancy of Jewish martyrs.  74
  The Third and Fourth Books of Maccabees, which are not contained in our Greek Apocrypha, belong in the category not of history but of romance. The Third Book deals with a great deliverance of the Jews from the purposed revenge of Ptolemy IV. The Fourth Book is a philosophical treatise on the supremacy of reason, the discourse being based on the story of Eleazar and the Seven Brothers, in Second Maccabees, referred to above. The book is of interest as giving an example of Jewish attempts to deal with Jewish beliefs in the spirit of Stoicism. The historian Josephus, and the philosopher Philo, may be mentioned here, but are entitled to independent treatment.  75
  The Wisdom of Solomon appears to have been composed in the first century B.C., and to have been written in Greek. For elevation of thought and beauty of style it deserves the first place among the Apocryphal books, and high rank in the literature of the world. It is the first Jewish work in which the belief in ethical immortality appears; and this belief is for the author a complete solution of the problem (hitherto unsolved) of the earthly sufferings of the righteous. A student of Greek philosophy, his conception of wisdom and of the Cosmos differs from earlier Jewish ideas in its distinctly Stoic form; his Wisdom approaches nearly the Logos of Philo. The following extract (Chapter v.) will exhibit his resemblances to and differences from the older poetry and rhythmical prose:—  76
The Lament of the Wicked
        THEN shall the righteous man take bold stand
        Before those who afflict him and ignore his labors.
        Seeing it, they shall be seized with terrible fear
        And amazed at his unexpected deliverance.
        Repenting and groaning for anguish of spirit,
        They shall say to themselves:—
        This was he whom we fools once had in derision,
        As a proverb of reproach.
        We accounted his life madness and his end without honor.
        But he is numbered among the children of God,
        And his lot is among the saints.
        We have erred from the way of truth,
        The light of righteousness has not shined upon us,
        Nor the sun of righteousness risen upon us.
        We have trod the paths of lawlessness and destruction,
        We have traversed trackless deserts,
        The way of the Lord we have not known.
        What has pride profited us?
        What good has riches with vaunting brought us?
        All those things have passed like a shadow,
        Like a post that hastes by,
        Like a ship that passes over the tossing deep,
        Of whose transit no trace can be found,
        Nor the pathway of its keel in the waves;
        Or as, when a bird has flown through the air,
        No token of her way is to be found,
        But the light air beaten with the stroke of her wings
        And cleft by the violence of their motion
        Is passed through, and no sign of its flight is found;
        Or as, when an arrow is shot at a mark,
        The parted air straightway comes together again,
        So that one knows not its course:
        So we as soon as born, began to fail;
        Of virtue we had no sign to show,
        But in our wickedness were consumed.
For the hope of the ungodly is like dust blown away by the wind,
Like froth driven by the storm, like smoke dispersed by the tempest,
And it passes as the remembrance of the guest of a day.
        But the righteous live for evermore;
        Their reward is with the Lord,
        The care of them with the most High.
        Therefore shall they receive a glorious kingdom
        And a beautiful crown from the hand of the Lord.
        For with his right hand he will cover them,
        With his arm he will shield them.
        He will take his zeal as panoply
        And make the creation his weapon to ward off foes.
        He will put on righteousness as breastplate,
        And unfeigned justice as helmet;
        He will take holiness as an invincible shield;
        His piercing wrath he will sharpen for a sword,
        And the world shall fight with him against the wicked.
        Then shall the right-aiming thunderbolts speed;
From the clouds, as from a well-drawn bow, they shall fly to the mark,
        And wrathful hailstones shall be cast as out of a bow.
        The sea shall rage against them,
        The floods shall fiercely drown them.
        A mighty wind shall withstand them,
        Like a storm blow them away.
        And so iniquity shall lay waste the whole earth,
        And wrong-doing overthrow the thrones of the mighty.
  As an illustration of the variety of style in the gnomic poetry, we append three odes in praise of wisdom, taken from Job, Ben-Sira, and Wisdom.  78
THERE is a mine for silver,
And a place where gold is washed.
Iron is taken out of the dust,
And copper melted out of stone.
Man penetrates to the extremity of darkness,
Searches out the farthest bound,
The dark and gloomy rock,
Sinks a shaft under the abodes of men—
Forgotten, without foothold they hang,
Swinging out of human sight.
Out of the earth comes bread,
Its depths are upheaved as by fire,
In its stones are sapphires,
And in its dust is gold.
The path thereto no vulture knows,
Nor does eye of falcon see it;
Wild beasts tread it not,
The lion stalks not over it.
Man lays his hand on the rock,
Upturns mountains by the roots,
Cuts passages in the rocks,
All precious things he sees,
Binds the streams that they flow not,
Hidden things he brings to light.
But wisdom, where is it found,
And the place of understanding, where?
The way to it man knows not;
It is not in the land of the living.
Says the deep, it is not in me;
Says the sea, it is not with me.
It is not bought with gold,
Silver is not weighed as its price;
It is not estimated in gold of Ophir,
Or by precious onyx or sapphire;
Gold and glass do not equal it,
Nor is it to be exchanged for golden vessels;
Coral and crystal are not to be mentioned,
The price of wisdom is above pearls.
The topaz of Ethiopia does not equal it,
Its value is not reckoned in gold.
Wisdom, then, whence comes it?
Where is the place of understanding?
It is hid from the eyes of all living,
Concealed from the birds of heaven.
Abaddon and Death can but say:
We have heard of it with our ears.
God understands its way,
He alone knows its place.
He looked to the ends of the earth,
Under the whole heaven he saw,
Settled the weight of the wind,
Fixed the water by measure,
Made a law for the rain,
A path for the lightning of thunder,—
Then he saw it and declared it,
Established and searched it out,
And to man he said:
The fear of the Lord, that is wisdom,
And to depart from evil is understanding.
Ecclesiasticus XXIV.
WISDOM shall praise herself,
Glory in the midst of her people,
In the congregation of the Most High open her mouth
And triumph before his power.
From the mouth of the Most High I came,
And covered the earth as a cloud.
In high places I dwelt,
My throne was in the pillar of cloud.
Alone I compassed the heaven,
Walked in the depth of the abyss.
In every people and nation I got a possession.
With all these did I seek rest.
In whose land should I abide?
Then the Creator of all things commanded,
My Maker set down my tent,
And said, Thy dwelling be in Jacob,
And thy domain in Israel!
Of old in the beginning he created me,
And I shall never fail.
Before him in the sacred tabernacle I ministered;
Thus was I established in Sion.
In the beloved city he placed me,
In Jerusalem was my authority.
I took root in an honored people,
In the portion of the Lord’s possession.
Lofty I grew, like a cedar in Lebanon,
Like a cypress on the mountains of Hermon;
I was high like a palm-tree in Engaddi.
I resembled a rose-plant in Jericho,
A fair olive-tree in the field.
Like a plane-tree I grew up.
I was fragrant as cinnamon and aspalath,
Yielded an odor like myrrh,
Like galbanum and onyx and storax
And the fume of frankincense in the tabernacle.
Like the terebinth I stretched out my branches,
Branches of honor and grace.
Like the vine I put forth fair buds,
And my flowers were honor and riches.
Come unto me, all ye that desire me,
And sate yourselves with my fruits.
My memorial is sweeter than honey,
And mine inheritance than the honeycomb.
They that eat me shall yet be hungry,
They that drink me shall yet be thirsty.
He who obeys me shall never be put to shame,
They who work by me shall not do amiss.
All these things are the book of the covenant of God the Most High,
The law which Moses commanded
As an heritage to the congregations of Jacob,
Filling all things with wisdom like Pison,
Like Tigris in the time of new fruits;
Making understanding abound like Euphrates,
Like Jordan in the time of harvest;
Bringing instruction to light like the Nile,
Like Geon in time of vintage.
The first man knew her not perfectly,
Nor shall the last find her out.
For her thoughts are vaster than the sea,
Her counsels profounder than the great Deep.
I came forth as a brook from a river,
As a conduit into a garden.
I said, I will water my garden,
Abundantly water my bed.
And lo, my brook became a river,
And my river became a sea.
I will yet make wisdom shine as the dawn
And send forth her light afar off.
I will yet pour out wisdom as prophecy
And leave it to all ages forever.
Not for myself alone have I labored,
But for all them that seek wisdom.
Wisdom of Solomon, VII. 22–29
WISDOM, the architect of all things, taught me.
In her is a spirit, intelligent, holy,
One, manifold, subtle,
Lively, clear, undefiled,
Lucid, unharmable, right-loving, quick,
Unfettered, beneficent, philanthropic,
Steadfast, sure, free from care,
Having all power, overseeing all things,
Permeating all spirits,
All that are wise and pure and subtlest.
Wisdom, of all things, is freest in movement;
By her pureness she traverses and permeates all things;
She is the breath of the power of God,
A pure effluence from the glory of the Almighty;
With her no impure thing may mingle.
She is the brightness of the everlasting light,
The unspotted mirror of the power of God,
The image of his goodness.
Being but one, she yet can do all things;
Remaining in herself, she makes all things new:
In all ages entering into holy souls,
She makes them friends of God and prophets.
For God loves none but him who dwells with wisdom.
She is more beautiful than the sun,
Fairer than the host of stars;
Being compared with light, she is found to excel it.

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