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There shall come forth a Star out of Jacob,
And a Sceptre shall rise out of Israel
And break down all the sons of tumult.
And Seir shall be a possession, his enemies;
While Israel doeth valiantly.
And shall destroy the remnant from the city.
The nearest approach which the prophecy of the Old Testament several hundred years before Christ made to the very heart of the gospel salvation, is in the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah:
Who hath believed our report?
And to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed ?
And as a root out of a dry ground:
There is no beauty that we should desire Him.
A Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief :
He was despised and we esteemed Him not.
Surely He hath borne our griefs,
And carried our sorrows:
Smitten of God and amicted,
He was bruised for our iniquities.
And with His stripes we are healed.
We have turned every one to his own way;
He was oppressed, and He was afflicted,
Yet He opened not His mouth :
And as a sheep before her shearers is dumb,
80 He openeth not His mouth.
And who shall declare his generation?
For the transgression of my people was He stricken.
And with the rich in His death;
Neither was any deceit in His mouth :
He hath put Him to grief.
When Thou shalt make His soul an offering for sin,
He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days,
Ho shall see the travail of His soul, and bo satisfied.
For He shall bear their iniquities.
And He sball divide the spoil with the strong;
And He was numbered with the transgressors;
And made intercession for the transgressorg.
8 10. DRAMATIC POETRY. If we start with the Greek conception of the drama, there is none in the Bible. But if we take the word in a wider sense, and apply it to lengthy poetic compositions, unfolding an action and introducing a number of speakers or actors, we have two dramas in the Old Testa ment. The Song of Solomon is a lyric drama or melo-drama; the Book of Job, a didactic drama.
The best judges of different ages and churches, as Gregory of Nazianzen, Bossuet, Lowth, Ewald, Renan, Stanley, recognize the dramatic element in these two poems, and some have even gone so far as to suppose that both, or at least the Canticles, were really intended for the stage.* But there is not the slightest trace of a theatre in the history of Israel before the age of Herod, who introduced foreign customs; as there is none at the present day in the Holy Land, and scarcely among the Mohammedan Arabs, unless we regard the single reciters of romances (always men or boys) with their changing voice and gestures as dramatic actors. The modern attempts to introduce theatres in Beirut and Algeria have signally failed.
1. The CANTICLES presents the Hebrew ideal of pure bridal and conjugal love in a series of monologues and dialogues by different persons: a lover, king Solomon (Shelonoh, the Peaceful), a maiden named Shulamith, and a chorus of virgins, daughters of Jerusalem. There are no breaks or titles to indicate the change of scene or speakers, and they can be recognized only from the sense and the change of gender and number in the personal pronoun. The English version is much obscured by a neglect of the distinction of feminine and masculine pronouns in the Hebrew.
The poem is full of the fragrance of spring, the beauty of flowers, and the loveliness of love. How sweet and charming is Solomon's description of spring, ch. ii. 10-14, which a German poet calls "a kiss of heaven to earth.”
Rise up, my love, my fair one, and go forth!
And thy countenance is comely. The Song of Solomon canonizes the love of nature, and the love of sex, as the Book of Esther (where the name of God never occurs) canonizes patriotism or the love of country. It gives a place in the Book of God to the noblest and strongest passion which the Creator has planted in man, before the fall, and which reflects His own infinite love to His creatures, and the love of Christ to His Church. Procul abeste profani! The very depth of perversion to which the passion of love can be degraded, only reveals the height of its origin and destiny. Love in its primal purity is a "blaze" or "lightning flash from Jehovah” (Shalhebeth-Jah, ch. viii. 6), and stronger than death, and as it proceeds from God so it returns to Him; for “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love, dwelleth in God, and God in him” (1 John iv. 16).†
* Ewald (Die Dichter des A, B., I. 72 sqq.) asserts very positively, but without proof, that dramas were enacted on the great festivals, and at the courts of David and Solomon. He calls the Canticles “the purest model of a comedy (Lustspiel)"; Job, "a genuine tragedy (Trauerspiel).” He admits, however, that in no case could God (who is one of the actors in Job) bave been introduced on a Jewish stage, like the gods in the Greek dramas. Renan (Le Cantique des Cantiques) denies the existence of public theatres among the Hebrews, owing to the absence of a complicated mythology which stimulated the development of the drana among the Hindoos and Greeks, but maintains that the Song of Songs, being a dramatic poem, must have been represented in private families at marriage feasts.
† That most pure and godly German hymnist Tersteegen, in his sweet hymn : “ Ich bete an die Macht der Liebe,” traces ell true love to Christ as the fountain-head, in these beautiful lines :
Ehr' sei dem hohen Jesusnamen,
In dem der Liebe Quell entspringl,
Aus dem der Selgen Schaar dort trinkta
As to the artistic arrangement or the number of acts and cantos in each act of this melodrama of Love there is considerable difference among commentators. Some divide it into five acts, according to the usual arrangement of dramas (Ewald, Böttcher, Zöckler, Moody Stuart, Davidson, Ginsburg), some into six (Delitzsch, Hahn), some into seven, corresponding to the seven days of the Jewish marriage festival for which the successive portions of the poem are supposed to have been intended to be sung (Bossuet, Percy, Williams). Ewald subdivides the five acts into thirteen, Renan into sixteen, others into more or less cantos. On the other hand Thrupp and Green give up the idea of a formal artistic construction, such as the Indo-European conception of a drama would require, and substitute for it a looser method of arrangement or aggregation with abrupt transitions and sudden changes of scene. All the parts are variations of the same theme, “the love of king Solomon and his bride, the image of a divine and spiritual love." Those who regard the poem as an idyl rather than a drama (Sir William Jones, Good, Fry, Noyes, Herbst, Heiligstedt) divide it into a series of songs, but likewise differ as to the number and the
pauses. This is not the place to enter into the wilderness of interpretations of this wonderful and much abused Song, which are fully discussed in this Commentary by Drs. Zöckler and Green. But I must protest against the profane, or exclusively erotic interpretation which in various contradictory shapes has of late become so fashionable among scholars, and which makes the position of this book in the canon an inexplicable enigma. I add the judicious remarks of Dr. Angus on the subject.* “Much of the language of this poem has been misunderstood by early expositors. Some have erred by adopting a fanciful method of explanation, and attempting to give a mystical meaning to every minute circumstance of the allegory. In all figurative representations there is always much that is mere costume. It is the general truth only that is to be examined and explained. Others, not understanding the spirit and luxuriancy of eastern poetry, have considered particular passages as defective in delicacy, an im- . pression which the English version has needlessly confirmed, and so have objected to the whole, though the objection does not apply with greater force to this book than to Hesiod and Homer, or even to some of the purest of our own authors. If it be remembered, that the figure employed in this allegory is one of the most frequent in Scripture, that in extant oriental poems it is constantly employed to express religious feeling, that many expressions which are applied in our translation to the person, belong properly to the dress, that
every generation has its own notions of delicacy (the most delicate in this sense being by no means the most virtuous), that nothing is described but chaste affection, that Shulamith speaks and is spoken of collectively, and that it is the general truth only which is to be allegorized, the whole will appear to be no unfit representation of the union between Christ and true believers in every age. Properly understood, this portion of Scripture will minister to our holiness. It may be added, however, that it was the practice of the Jews to withhold the book from their children till their judgments were matured.” The most recent commentator, too, justly remarks :f “Shall we then regard it as a mere fancy, which for so many ages past has been wont to find in the pictures and melodies of the Song of Songs types and echoes of the actings and emotions of the highest Love, of Love Divine, in its relations to Humanity; which, if dimly discerned through their aid by the Synagogue, have been amply revealed in the gospel to the Church? Shall we not still claim to trace in the noble and gentle history thus presented foreshadowings of the infinite condescensions of Incarnate Love?--that Love which, first stooping in human form to visit us in our low estate in order to seek out and win its object (Ps. cxxxvi. 23), and then raising along with itself a sanctified Humanity to the Heavenly Places (Eph. ii. 6), is finally awaiting there an invitation from the mystic Bride, to return to earth once more and seal the union for eternity (Rev. xxii, 17) ?"
2. The Book of JOB is a didactic drama, with an epic introduction and close. The prologue (chs. i. and ii.) and the epilogue (ch. xlii. 7-17) are written in plain prose, the body of the poem
in poetry. It has been called the Hebrew tragedy, but differing from other trage
* Bible Handbook, Lond. ed., p. 449. † Kingsbury, in the “Speaker's Commentary" (vol. IV., p. 673).
dies by its happy termination. We better call it a dramatic theodicy. It wrestles with the perplexing problem of ages, viz., the true meaning and object of evil and suffering in the world under the government of a holy, wise and merciful God. The dramatic form shows itself in the symmetrical arrangement, the introduction of several speakers, the action, rather the suffering of the hero, the growing passion and conflict, the secret crime supposed to underlie his misfortune, and the awful mystery in the background. Bụt there is little external action (dpāua) in it, and this is almost confined to the prologue and epilogue. Instead of it we have here an intellectual battle of the deepest moral import, mind grappling with mind on the most serious problems which can challenge our attention. The outward drapery only is dramatic, the soul and substance of the poem is didactic, with all the Hebrew ideas of Divine Providence, which differ from the Greek notion of blind Fate as the light of day differs from midnight. It is intended for the study, not for the stage.*
The book opens, like a Greek drama, with a prologue, which introduces the reader into the situation, and makes him acquainted with the character, the prosperous condition, the terrible misfortunes, and the exemplary patience of the hero. Even God, and His great antagonist, Satan, who appears, however, in heaven as a servant of God, are drawn into the scenery, and a previous arrangement in the Divine counsel precedes and determines the subsequent transaction. History on earth is thus viewed as an execution of the decrees of heaven, and as controlled throughout by supernatural forces. But we have here the unsearchable wisdom of the Almighty Maker and Ruler of men, not the dark impersonal Fate of the heathen tragedy. This grand feature of Job has been admirably imitated by Göthe in the prologue of his Faust.
The action itself commences after seven days and seven nights of most eloquent silence. The grief over the misfortunes which, like a succession of whirlwinds, had suddenly hurled the patriarchal prince from the summit of prosperity to the lowest depths of misery, culminating in the most loathsome disease, and intensified by the heartless sneers of his wife, at last bursts forth in a passionate monologue of Job, cursing the day of his birth. Then follows the metaphysical conflict with his friends, Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar, who now turn to enemies, and “miserable comforters," forgers of lies, and botchers of vanities.” The debate has three acts, with an increasing entanglement, and every act consists of three assaults of the false friends, and as many defences of Job (with the exception that in the third and last battle Zophar retires and Job alone speaks). The poem reaches its height in the triumphant assertion of faith in his Redeemer (ch. xix. 25-27), by which “the patriarch of Uz rises to a level with the patriarch of Ur as a pattern of faith.” | After a closing monologue of Job, expressing fully his feelings and thoughts in view of the past controversy, the youthful Elihu, who had silently listened, comes forward, and in three speeches administered deserved rebuke to both parties, with as little mercy for Job as for his friends, but with a better philosophy of suffering, whose object he represents to be correction and reformation, the reproof of arrogance and the exercise of humility and faith. He begins the disentanglement of the problem and makes the transition to the final decision. At last God Himself, to whom Job had appealed, appears as the Judge of the controversy, and Job humbly submits to His infinite power and wisdom, and penitently confesses his sin and folly. This is the internal solution of the mighty problem, if solution it can be called.
A brief epilogue relates the historical issue, the restoration and increased prosperity of Job after this severest trial of his faith, and patient submission to God.
To the external order corresponds the internal dialectic development in the warlike motion of conflicting sentiments and growing passions. The first act of the debate shows yet a
* W.A. Wright (in W. Smith's Dictionary of the Bible, III. 2553) says of the Book of Job: “Inasmuch as it represents an action and a progress, it is a drama as truly and really as any poem can be which develops the working of passion and the alterations of faith, hope, distrust, triumphant confidence, and black despair, in the struggle which it depicts the human mind as engaged in, while attempting to solve one of the most intricate problems it can be called upon to regard. It is a drama as life is a drama, the most powerful of all tragedies; but that it is a dramatic poem intended to be represented apon the stage, or capable of being so represented, may be confidently denied.”
+ The significance of the ruling number three reminds one of the trilogies in Dante's Divina Comedia. I see a fine exposition of this passage in Dr. Green's Argument of the Book of Job Unfolded, New York, 1874, pp. 181 sqq.
tolerable amount of friendly feeling on both sides. In the second the passion is much increased, and the charges of the opponents against Job made severer. In the last debate Eliphaz, the leader of the rest, proceeds to the open accusation of heavy crimes against the sufferer with an admonition to repent and to convert himself to God. Job, after repeated declarations of his innocence and vain attempts at convincing his opponents, appeals at last to God as his Judge. God appears, convinces him, by several questions on the mysteries of nature, of his ignorance, and brings him to complete submission under the infinite power and wisdom of the Almighty, chap. xlii. 2–6.
I know that Thou canst do all things;
The Book of Job, considering its antiquity and artistic perfection, rises like a pyramid in the history of literature, without a predecessor and without a rival.
11. POETIC DICTION. The language of Hebrew as well as of all other poetry, is, in one respect, more free, in other respects more bound, than the language of prose. It is the language of imagination and feeling, as distinct from the language of sober reflection and judgment. It is controlled by the idea of beauty and harmony. It is the speech of the Sabbath-day. It soars above what is ordinary and common. It is vivid, copious, elevated, sonorous, striking, impressive. To this end the poet has more license than the prose-writer; while, on the other hand, it imposes on him certain restraints of versification to secure greater æsthetic effect. He is permitted to use words which are uncommon or obsolete, but which, for this very reason, strike the attention and excite the emotion. He may also use ordinary words in an extraordinary sense. The licenses of the Hebrew poets are found in the following particulars :
1. Archaic forms and peculiar words, some of Aramaic or even a prior Shemitic dialect : Eloah for Elohim (God), enosh for adam (man), orach for derech (path), havah for haiah (to be), millah for dabar (word), paal for asah (to do), katal for razah (to kill). Sometimes they are accumulated for poetic effect.
2. Common words in an uncommon sense: Joseph for the nation of Israel; adjectives for substantive objects, as 'the hol' for the sun, 'the white' for the moon (Cant. vi. 10), 'the strong' for a bull (Ps. 1. 13), “the flowing' for streams (Isa. xliv. 3).
3. Peculiar grammatical forms, or additional syllables, which give the word more sound and harmony, or an air of antiquity; as the paragogic ah (7.) affixed to nouns in the absolute state, o (\-), and i (+-) affixed to nouns in the construct state; the feminine termination ath (for the ordinary ah); the plural ending in and ai (for im); the verbal suffixes mo, amo, and emo; the pronominal suffixes to nouns and prepositions—amo (for am), and ehu (for an); also lengthened vowel forms of pronouns and prepositions-lamo (for lo or lahem), lemo (for), bemo (for ?), kemo (for ?), eleh (for ), adai (for 7).
Dx?! (from Ox?] to reject, to despise, to abhor), without the pronominal object, which is esther the person of Job (Sept. évautóv; Vulg. me; E. V., myself ; Luther, mich), or his argument, his foolish wisdom (Aben Ezra: quicquid antea in le sum temere loquutus et imperite). Ewald translates indefinitely: Drum widerrufe ich und übe Reue; Similarly Zöckler: Darum widerrufe ich und lhue Busse.
+ So in the highly poetic Ps. viii. 8 we have zoneh (sheep) for the prosaic 98%, alaphim (oxen) for 479, sadai (field) for , and bahamoth sadai (beasts of the field) instead of y.?NT nin.