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In the book of Joshua (x, 12, 13) there is a poetic quotation from “ the Book of the Upright,” which was probably a collection of patriotic songs :
“Sun, stand still upon Gibeon,
And thou, moon, upon the valley of Ajalon!"
Until the nation were avenged of the enemies.
The song of Deborah (Judges v.), from the heroic period of the Judges, eight centuries before Pindar, is a stirring battle-song full of fire and dithyrambic swing, and breathing the spirit of an age of disorder and tumult, when might was right.*
Another but very different specimen of female poetry is Hannah's hymn of joy and gratitude when she dedicated her son Samuel, the last of the Judges, to the service of Jehovah (1 Sam. ii, 1-10). It furnished the key-note to the Magnificat of the Virgin Mary after the miraculous conception.
The reign of David was the golden age of lyric poetry. He was himself the prince of ingers in Israel. His religious poetry is incorporated in the Psalter. Of his secular poetry the author of the Books of Samuel has preserved us two specimens, a brief stanza on the death of Abner, and his lament for the death of Saul and Jonathan (2 Sam. i. 19-27). The latter is a most pathetic and touching elegy full of the strength and tenderness of the love of friendship. His generosity in lamenting the death of his persecutor who stood in his way to the throne, enhances the beauty and effect of the elegy.
* An admirable German translation is given by Herder, and another by Prof. Cassel, in his Com. on Judges, translated by Prof. Steenstra.
+ Or: “The Glory (the Beanty) of Israel.” Ewald, Bunsen, Keil, take bina, as vocative, “O Israel;" the E. V. (“ the beauty of Israel”), De Wette, Erdmann (Die Zierde Israels), and others, as genitive. *?y means splendor, glory (Isa. iv. 2; xiii. 19; xxiv. 16, and is often used of the land of Israel, and of Mount Zion, which is called “the mountain of holy beauty," u op '33 vn, Dan. xi. 45); also a gazelle, from the beauty of its form (1 Kings v. 3; Isa. xiii. 14). The gazellos were so much admired by the 'Hebrews and Arabs that they even swore by them (Cant. ii. 7; iii. 5). Herder (Israel's Reh), and Ewald (Der Sleinbock, Israel—to avoid the feminine die Gazelle) take it in the latter sense, and refer it to Jonathan alone. Ewald conjectures that Jonathan was familiarly known among the soldiers of Israel as the Gazelle on account of his beauty and swiftness. Jonathan was, of course, much nearer to the heart of the poet, but in this national song David bad to identify him with Saul, so that both are included in the Glory of Israel.
I higina '92, Sept. áypoi átapxwv, Vulg. neque sint agri primitiarum, fertile fields from which the first fruits are gathered. The E. V. renders with Jerome: "nor (let there be) fields of offerings.” On the different interpretations and conjectures see Erdmann in Lange's Com. It is a poetical malediction or imprecation of such complete barrenness that not even enough may grow on that bloody field for an offering of first-fruits.
2 By blood and dust. A great indignity to a soldier. Homer says that the helmet of Patroclus was rolled under the
horses' feet, and soiled with blood and dust (II. xvi. 794). The E. V., following the Vulgate (abjectus), translates ya?
vilely cast away.
But with blood. The E. V., following again the Vulgate (quasi non esset), supplies “as though he had not been anointed," i. e., as if he had not been a king (1 Sam. x. 1). So also Herder: “ Königes Schild, als wär er nimmer mit Oel geheiligt." But the more natural interpretation is: “the shield of Saul was not anointed with oil," as was usual in preparation for battle, and after it had been polluted by blood or corrupted by rast (Isa. xxi. 5). The unanointed shield here is an emblem of utter defeat and helplessness.
(CHORUS) How are the heroes fallen, I
And the weapons of war 2 perished. Lyric poetry flourished during the reigns of David and Solomon, then declined with the decline of the nation, and revived for a short period with the restoration of the temple and the theocracy, when the harps were taken from the willows to accompany again the songs of Zion. It is altogether improbable that the Psalter contains hymns of the Maccabæan age, as Hitzig conjectures. The canon was closed long before (B. C. 450). ||
The Magnificat of the Virgin Mary, the Benedictus of Zacharias, and the Nunc dimittis of Simeon are the golden sunset of Hebrew psalmody, and the dawn of Christian hymnody.
The various kinds of lyric poetry are designated by the following names, which occur in the titles of the Psalms: 1
Shir (Sept. «8ń), song for the voice alone.
Maschil (ovvégews, eis oiveou), a skilfully constructed ode, a reflective, contemplative, didactic song.
Michtham (ornhoypapia, or eis orndoypaplav, lit., song of inscription), a golden poem, or a song of mysterious, deep import. (Delitzsch : catch-word poem).
Shiggaion, an excited, irregular, dithyrambic ode.
Shir hamma'aloth (Sept. on tūv úváßaðuõv, Vulg. canticum graduum, E. V. “song of degrees '), most probably a song of the goings up, i. e., pilgrim song for the journeys to the yearly festivals of Jerusalem.
כְּלֵי מִלְחָמָה The
Lowth: “This passage is most exquisite composition. The women of Israel are most happily introduced, and tho subject of the encomium is most admirably adapted to the female characters."
+ The sweet, tender, devoted, enduring love with which women love. A picture of the ideal of friendship sanctified by the consecration of their hearts to Jehovah. The Vulgate inserts here the clauso: Sicut mater unicum amat filium suum, ita epo te amabam, which has no foundation either in the Hebrew or the Septuagint.
* The repetition of this lament, probably by the chorus, is entirely in keeping with the nature of an elogy, which likes to dwell upon the grief, and finds relief by its repeated utterancs.
are the heroes themselves, as the living weapons of war. So Ewald and Erdmann (die Rüstzeuge des Streits). Comp. Isa. xiii. 5; Acts ix. 15, where St. Paul is called “a chosen vessel" (OKEūOS). It is less lively and poetic to understand it literally of the material of war, as the Vulgate does (arma bellica), and Herder who ronders:
Ach, wie fielen die Helden und ihre Waffen des Krieges
Liegen zerschlagen umher. | Hengstenberg, Hävernick, Keil, among the orthodox divines, Gesenius, Ewald, Thenius, Dillmann, among the liberal critics, deny the possibility of Maccabæan Psalms. Ewald says (Preface to third ed. of his Com, on the Ps.) against Hitzig: “ Nothing can be more false and perverse than to suppose that there can be Maccabwan poems in the Psalter.” DeHitzsch (Com. über den Psalter, new ed. 1867, p. 9) admits the possibility, but denies the existence of such late Psalms.
For particulars on the names and musical titles in the inscriptions of the Psalms, some of which are very obscure and variously interpreted, we must refer to the commentaries of Ewald, Hitzig, Delitzsch, Moll (in Lange), and Perowne.
Kinah (Upīvos), a lament, dirge, elegy.* Here belong the laments of David for Saul and Jonathan, 2 Sam. i. 19-27, for Abner (2 Sam. iii. 33, 34), and for Absalom (2 Sam. xviii. 33), the psalms of mourning over the disasters of Judah, Ps. xlix., lx., lxxiii., cxxxvii.), and the Lamentations of Jeremiah.
The PSALTER is the great depository of the religious lyric poetry of the Jewish Church, and the inexhaustible fountain of devotion for all ages. The titles are not original, but contain the ancient Jewish traditions more or less valuable concerning the authorship, historical occasion, musical character, liturgical use of the Psalms. Seventy-three poems are ascribed to David (7175);t twelve to Asaph (7085), one of David's musicians (Ps. 1., lxxiii.-Ixxxiii.); eleven or twelve to the sons of Korah, a family of priests and singers of the age of David Pss. xlii.xlix., lxxxiv., lxxxv., lxxxvii., lxxxviii.); one to Heman the Ezrahite (lxxxviii.);£ one to Ethan the Ezrahite (lxxxix.); two to Solomon (lxxii., cxxvii.); one to Moses (xc.); while fifty are anonymous and hence called Orphan Psalms in the Talmud. The Septuagint assigns some of them to Jeremiah (cxxxvii.), Haggai and Zechariah (cxlvi., cxlvii.).
The PSALTER is divided into five books, and the close of each is indicated by a doxology and a double Amen. In this division several considerations seem to have been combinedauthorship and chronology, liturgical use, the distinction of the divine names (Elohistic and Jehovistic Psalms), perhaps also the five-fold division of the Thorah (the Psalter being, as Delitzsch says, the subjective response or echo from the heart of Israel to the law of God). We have an analogy in Christian hymn- and tune-books, which combine the order of subjects and the order of the ecclesiastical year, modifying both by considerations of convenience, and often adding one or more appendixes. The five books represent the gradual growth of the collection till its completion after the exile, about the time of Ezra. The collection of first book, consisting chiefly of Psalms of David, may be traced to Solomon, who would naturally provide for the preservation of his father's poetry, or, at all events, to King Hezekiah, who "commanded the Levites to sing praise unto the Lord with the words of David and of Asaph, the Seer” (2 Chron. xxi. 30; Prov. xxxv. 1).
If we regard chiefly the contents, we may divide the Psalms into Psalms of praise and adoration, Psalms of thanksgiving, Psalms of faith and hope under affliction, penitential Psalms, didactic Psalms, historic Psalms, Pilgrim Songs (cxx.-cxxxvi.), prophetic or Messianic Psalms. But we cannot enter here into details, and refer to the full and able Introduction of MOLL's Commentary in this series.
Before we leave lyric poetry, we must say a few words on the LAMENTATIONS (nis'p., Opřvou, elegiæ) of Jeremiah—the most extensive elegy in the Bible. They are a funeral dirge of the theocracy and the holy city after its destruction by Nebuchadnezzar and the Chaldees, and give most pathetic utterance to the most intense grief. The first lines strike the key-note. Jerusalem is personified and bewailed as a solitary widow:
How sitteth solitary
The city once full of people!
She that was great among the nations,
Has become subject to tribute.
* From é é déyelv, to cry woe, woe! Comp. the German, Klaglied, Trauerlied, Todtenlied, Grablied.
+ Thirty-seven in the first Book, Ps. lii.-xli., 18 in the second, 1 in the third, 2 in the fourth, 15 in the fifth Book. The Septuagint ascribes to David 85 Psalms (including xcix. and civ., which are probably his). The N. T. quotes as his also the anonymous Pss. ii. and xcv. (Acts iv. 25, 26; Hebr. iv.7), and Ps. ii. certainly has the impress of his style and age (as Ewald admits). But some of the Psalms ascribed to him, either in the Hebrew or Greek Bible, betray hy their Chaldaisms a later age. Hengstenberg and Alexander mostly follow the Jewish tradition; Delitzsch (Commentar über die Psalmen, p. 7) thinks tbat at least fifty may be defended as Davidic; wbile Hupfeld, Ewald, and especially Hitzig, considerably reduce the number. Ewald regards Ps. iii., iv., vii., viii., xi., xv., xviii., xix., xxiv., xxix., xxxii., ci., as undoubtedly Davidic; Ps. ii., xxiii., xxvii., Ixii., lxiv., cx., cxxxviii., as coming very dear to David.
This Psalm is called shir mismor and maschil, and is ascribed both to the sons of Korah and to Heman the Ezrahite, of the age of Solomon (1 Kings v. 11). The older commentators generally regard the former as the singers of the shir, the latter as the author of the maschil. Hupfeld thinks that the title combines two conflicting traditions,
& What the Germans would call Kreuz- und Trost-Psalmen.
The rain and desolation, the carnage and famine, the pollution of the temple, the desecration of the Sabbath, the massacre of the priests, the dragging of the chiefs into exile, and all the horrors and miseries of a long siege, contrasted with the remembrance of former glories and glad festivities, and intensified by the awful sense of Divine wrath, are drawn with life-like colors and form a picture of overwhelming calamity and sadness. “Every letter is written with a tear, every word is the sob of a broken heart!" Yet Jeremiah does not forget that the covenant of Jehovah with His people still stands. In the stormy sunset of the theocracy he beheld the dawn of a brighter day, and a new covenant written, not on tables of stone, but on the heart. The utterance of his grief, like the shedding of tears, was also a relief, and left his mind in a calmer and serener frame. Beginning with wailing and weeping, he ends with a question of hope, and with the prayer:
Turn us, O Jehovah, and we shall turn;
Renew our days of old !
These Lamentations have done their work very effectually, and are doing it still. They have soothed the weary years of the Babylonian Exile, and after the return they have kept up the lively remembrance of the deepest humiliation and the judgments of a righteous God. On the ninth day of the month of Ab (July) they are read year after year with fasting and weeping by that remarkable people who are still wandering in exile over the face of the earth, finding a grave in many lands, a home in none. Among Christians the poem is best appreciated in times of private afliction and public calamity; a companion in mourning, it serves also as a book of comfort and consolation.
The poetic structure of the Lamentations is the most artificial in the Bible. The first four chapters are alphabetically arranged, like the 119th and six other Psalms, and Proverbs xxxi. 10-31. Every stanza begins with a letter of the Hebrew alphabet in regular order; all the stanzas are nearly of the same length; each stanza has three nearly balanced clauses or members which together constitute one meaning; chaps. i., ii. and iv. contain twenty-two stanzas each, according to the number of Hebrew letters; the third chapter has three alphabetic series, making sixty-six stanzas in all. Dante chose the terza rima for his vision of hell, purgatory, and paradise; Petrarca the complicated sonnet for the tender and passionate language of love. The author of Lamentations may have chosen this structure as a discipline and check upon the intensity of his sorrow-perhaps also as a help to the memory. Poems of this kind, once learnt, are not easily forgotten.*
88. DIDACTIC POETRY. Didactic poetry is the combined product of imagination and reflection. It seeks to in-. struct as well as to please. It is not simply the outpouring of subjective feeling which carries in it its own end and reward, but aims at an object beyond itself. It is the connecting
* " In the scatterings and wanderings of families,” says Isaac Taylor (p. 375), “and in lonely journeyings, in deserts and cities, where no synagogne-service could be enjoyed, the metrical Scriptures--infixed as they were in the memory, by the very means of these artificial devices of versets and of alphabetic order, and of alliteration-became food to the sool. Thus was the religious constancy of the people and its brave endurance of injury and insult sustained and animated."
link between pure poetry and philosophy. It supplies among the Shemitic nations the place of ethics, with this difference, that it omits the reasoning and argumentative process, and gives only the results of observation and reflection in a pleasing, mostly proverbial, sententious style, which sticks to the memory. It is laid down in the Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. Many Psalms also are didactic (i., xix., xxxvii., cxix., etc.), and the Book of Job is a didactic drama (see below).
The palmy period of didactic or gnomic poetry is the peaceful and brilliant reign of Solomon, which lasted forty years (B. C. 1015-975). He was a favorite child of nature and grace. He occupies the same relation to the Proverbs as David to the Psalter, being the chief author and model for imitation. He was the philosopher, as David was the singer, of Israel. The fame of his wisdom was so great that no less than three thousand proverbs were ascribed to him. “God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much, and largeness of heart, even as the sand that is on the sea-shore. And Solomon's wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the east country, and all the wisdom of Egypt. For he was wiser than all men; than Ethan the Ezrahite, and Heman, and Chalcol, and Darda, the sons of Mahol: and his fame was in all nations round about. And he spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five. And he spake of trees, from the cedar tree that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall: he spake also of beasts, and of fowl, and of creeping things, and of fishes. And there came of all people to hear the wisdom of Solomon, from all kings of the earth, which had heard of his wisdom” (1 Kings iv. 29–34). According to a rabbinical tradition, Aristotle derived his philosophy from the Solomonic writings which Alexander the Great sent him from Jerusalem.*
The usual word for a didactic poem is máshál (50p, napoipia, Tapaßoań), a likeness, similitude, comparison; then, in a wider sense, a short, sharp, pithy maxim, sententious saying, gnome, proverb couched in figurative, striking, pointed language. A proverb contains multum in parvo, and condenses the result of long observation and experience in a few words which strike the nail on the head and are easily remembered. It is the philosophy for the people, the wisdom of the street. The Orientals, especially the Arabs, are very fond of this kind of teaching. It suited their wants and limits of knowledge much better than an elaborate system of philosophy. And even now a witty or pithy proverb has more practical effect upon the common people than whole sermons and tracts.
The PROVERBS of the Bible are far superior to any collection of the kind, such as the sayings of the Seven Wise Men of Greece, the Aurea Carmina attributed to Pythagoras, the Remains of the Poetæ Gnomici, the collections of Arabic proverbs. They bear the stamp of divine inspiration. They abound in polished and sparkling gems. They contain the practical wisdom (chokma) of Israel, and have furnished the richest contributions to the dictionary of proverbs among Christian nations. They trace wisdom to its true source, the fear of Jehovah (chap. i. 7). Nothing can be finer than the description of Wisdom in the eighth chapter, where she is personified as the eternal companion and delight of God, and commended beyond all earthly treasures :
". Wisdom is better than rubies,
And no precious things compare with her.
I, wisdom, dwell with prudence,
And find out knowledge of wise counsels.
The fear of Jehovah is to hate evil;
Pride, haughtiness, and an evil way,
Counsel is mine, and reflection;
I am understanding; I have strength.
* Comp. on the wisdom of Solomon, Ewald's Geschichte des Volkes Israel, Vol. III. pp. 374 sqq.; and Stanley's Lectures on the History of the Jewish Church, Vol. II. pp. 252 sqq. Ewald exclaims with reference to the visit of the Queen of Sheba (p. 379): "O glückliche Zeit wo müchtige Fürslen mitten in ihren von heiliger Gottesruhe um friediglen Ländern 80 zu einander wallfahrlen, 80 in Weisheit und was noch mehr ist, im regen Suchen derselben wetteifern können /".
| Cicero says: "Gravissimæ sunt ad beate vivendum breviter enunciatæ sententiæ."