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International Standard Bible Encyclopedia

a'-nem (`anem, "two springs"; Anam): Anem is mentioned with Ramoth among the cities of Issachar assigned to the priests, the sons of Gershom (1 Chronicles 6:73). In the parallel list (Joshua 21:29), there are mentioned Jarmuth and En-gannim, corresponding to Ramoth and Anim, therefore Anim and En-gannim (Jenin) are identical. As the name denotes (Anem = "two springs"; En-gannim = "the spring of gardens"), it was well watered. Anem is identified by Eusebius with Aner, but Conder suggests the village of "Anim," on the hills West of the plain of Esdraelon which represents the Anea of the 4th century A.D. (Onom under the word "Aniel" and "Bethara"), a city lying 15 Roman miles from Caesarea, which had good baths.

M. O. Evans




1. Invasion and Conquest of Western Palestine

2. Allotment of the Country to the Tribes of Israel


1. The Book of Joshua as History

2. Chronology



1. Parallel Narratives

2. Omissions in the History



1. The Greek

2. Other Ancient Versions



I. Title and Authorship.

The name Joshua signifies "Yahweh is deliverance" or "salvation" (see JOSHUA). The Greek form of the name is Jesus (Iesous, Acts 7:45 Hebrews 4:8). In later Jewish history the name appears to have become popular, and is even found with a local significance, as the designation of a small town in Southern Palestine (yeshua`), Nehemiah 11:26). The use of the title by the Jews to denote the Book of Joshua did not imply a belief that the book was actually written or dictated by him; or even that the narratives themselves were in substance derived from him, and owed their authenticity and reliability to his sanction and control. In the earliest Jewish literature the association of a name with a book was not intended in any case to indicate authorship. And the Book of Joshua is no exception to the rule that such early writings, especially when their contents are of a historical nature, are usually anonymous. The title is intended to describe, not authorship, but theme; and to represent that the life and deeds of Joshua form the main subject with which the book is concerned.

II. Contents.

With regard to the contents of Joshua, it will be found to consist of two well-marked divisions, in the first of which (Joshua 1-2) are narrated the invasion and gradual conquest under the command of Joshua of the land on the West of the Jordan; while the 2nd part describes in detail the allotment of the country to the several tribes with the boundaries of their territories, and concludes with a brief notice of the death and burial of Joshua himself.

1. Invasion and Conquest of Western Palestine:

Joshua 1: Renewal of the Divine promise to Joshua and exhortation to fearlessness and courage (1:1-9); directions to the people to prepare for the passage of the river, and a reminder to the eastern tribes (Reuben, Gad, and half and Manasseh) of the condition under which they held their possession beyond Jordan; the renewal by these tribes of their pledge of loyalty to Moses' successor (1:10-18).

Joshua 2: The sending of the two spies from Shittim and their escape from Jericho through the stratagem of Rahab.

Joshua 3: The passage of Jordan by the people over against Jericho, the priests bearing the ark, and standing in the dry bed of the river until all the people had crossed over.

Joshua 4: Erection of 12 memorial stones on the other side of Jordan, where the people encamped after the passage of the river (4:1-14); the priests with the Ark of the Covenant ascend in their turn from out of the river-bed, and the waters return into their wonted course (4:15-24).

Joshua 5: Alarm excited among the kings on the West of Jordan by the news of the successful crossing of the river (5:1); circumcision of the people at Gilgal (5:2-9); celebration of the Passover at Gilgal in the plains of Jericho (5:10, 11); cessation of the supply of the manna (5:12); appearance to Joshua of the captain of the Lord's host (5:13-15).

Joshua 6: Directions given to Joshua for the siege and taking of Jericho (6:1-5); capture of the city, which is destroyed by fire, Rahab and her household alone being saved (6:6-25); a curse is pronounced on the man who rebuilds Jericho (6:26).

Joshua 7: The crime and punishment of Achan, who stole for himself part of the spoil of the captured city (7:1, 16-26); incidentally his sin is the cause of a disastrous defeat before Ai (7:2-12).

Joshua 8: The taking of Ai by a stratagem, destruction of the city, and death of its king (8:1-29); erection of an altar on Mt. Ebal, and reading of the Law before the assembled people (8:30-35).

Joshua 9: Gathering of the peoples of Palestine to oppose Joshua (9:1-2); a covenant of peace made with the Gibeonites, who represent themselves as strangers from a far country (9:3-26); they are, however, reduced to a condition of servitude (9:27).

Joshua 10: Combination of 5 kings of the Amorites to punish the inhabitants of Gibeon for their defection, and defeat and rout of the kings by Joshua at Beth-horon (10:1-14); return of the Israelites to Gilgal (10:15); capture and death by hanging of the 5 kings at Makkedah (10:16-27); taking and destruction of Makkedah (10:28), Libnah (10:29, 30), Lachish (10:31, 32), Gezer (10:33), Eglon (10:34, 35), Hebron (10:36, 37), Debir (10:38, 39), and summarily all the land, defined as from Kadesh-barnea unto Gaza, and as far North as Gibeon (10:40-42); return to Gilgal (10:43).

Joshua 11: Defeat of Jabin, king of Hazor, and allied kings at the waters of Merom (11:1-9); destruction of Hazor (11:10-15); reiterated summary of Joshua's conquests (11:16-23).

Joshua 12: Final summary of the Israelite conquests in Canaan, of Sihon and Og on the East of the Jordan under the leadership of Moses (12:1-6); of 31 kings and their cities on the West of the river under Joshua (12:7-24).

2. Allotment of the Country to the Tribes of Israel:

Joshua 13: Command to Joshua to allot the land on the West of the Jordan, even that which was still unsubdued, to the nine and a half tribes (13:1-7); recapitulation of the inheritance given by Moses on the East of the river (13:8-13, 32); the border of Reuben (13:15-23), of Gad (13:24-28), of the half-tribe of Manasseh (13:29-31); the tribe of Levi alone received no the landed inheritance (13:14, 33).

Joshua 14: Renewed statement of the principle on which the division of the land had been made (14:1-5); Hebron given to Caleb for his inheritance (14:6-15).

Joshua 15. The inheritance of Judah, and the boundaries of his territory (15:1-20), including that of Caleb (15:13-19); enumeration of the cities of Judah (15:21-63).

Joshua 16: Inheritance of the sons of Joseph (16:1-4); the border of Ephraim (16:5-10).

Joshua 17: Inheritance of Manasseh and the border of the half-tribe on the West of the Jordan (17:1-13); complaint of the sons of Joseph of the insufficiency of their inheritance, and grant to them by Joshua of an extension of territory (17:14-18).

Joshua 18: The land yet unsubdued divided by lot into 7 portions for the remaining 7 tribes (18:1-10); inheritance of the sons of Benjamin and the border of their territory (18:11-20); enumeration of their cities (18:21-28).

Joshua 19: Inheritance of Simeon and his border (19:1-9); of Zebulun and his border (19:10-16); of Issachar and his border (19:17-23); of Asher and his border (19:24-31); of Naphtali and his border (19:32-39); and of Dan and his border (19:40-48); inheritance of Joshua (19:49, 50); concluding statement (19:51).

Joshua 20: Cities of Refuge appointed, three on each side of the Jordan.

Joshua 21: 48 cities with their suburbs given to the Levites out of the territories of the several tribes (21:1-41); the people had rest in the land, their enemies being subdued, according to the Divine promise (21:43-45).

Joshua 22: Dismissal of the eastern tribes to their inheritance, their duty to their brethren having been fulfilled (22:1-9); the erection by them of a great altar by the side of the Jordan aroused the suspicion of the western tribes, who feared that they intended to separate themselves from the common cause (22:10-20); their reply that the altar is to serve the purpose of a witness between themselves and their brethren (22:21-34).

Joshua 23: Joshua's address of encouragement and warning to the people.

Joshua 24: Second address of Joshua, recalling to the people their history, and the Divine interventions on their behalf (24:1-23); the people's pledge of loyalty to the Lord, and formal covenant in Shechem (24:24, 25); the book of the law of God is committed to writing, and a stone is erected as a permanent memorial (24:26-28); death and burial of Joshua (24:29-31); burial in Shechem of the bones of Joseph, brought from Egypt (24:32); death and burial of Eleazar, son of Aaron (24:33).

III. Historical Character and Chronology.

1. The Book of Joshua as History:

As a historical narrative, therefore, detailing the steps taken to secure the conquest and possession of Canaan, Joshua is incomplete and is marked by many omissions, and in some instances at least includes phrases or expressions which seem to imply the existence of parallel or even divergent accounts of the same event, e.g. in the passage of the Jordan and the erection of memorial stones (Joshua 3; 4), the summary of the conquests of Joshua (10:40-43; 11:16-23), or the references to Moses' victories over the Amorite kings on the East of the Jordan.

This last fact suggests, what is in itself sufficiently probable, that the writer or compiler of the book made use of previously existing records or narratives, not necessarily in every instance written, but probably also oral and traditional, upon which he relied and out of which by means of excerpts with modifications and omissions, the resultant history was composed. The incomplete and defective character of the book therefore, considered merely as a history of the conquest of Western Palestine and its allotment among the new settlers, would seem to indicate that the "sources" available for the writer's use were fragmentary also in their nature, and did not present a complete view either of the life of Joshua or of the experiences of Israel while under his direction.

2. Chronology:

Within the limits of the book itself, moreover, notifications of chronological sequence, or of the length of time occupied in the various campaigns, are almost entirely wanting. Almost the only references to date or period are the statements that Joshua himself was 110 years old at the time of his death (24:29), and that his wars lasted "a long time" (11:18; compare 23:1). Caleb also, the son of Jephunneh, companion of Joshua in the mission of the spies from Kadesh-barnea, describes himself as 85 years old, when he receives Hebron as his inheritance (14:10; compare 15:13;); the inference would be, assuming 40 years for the wanderings in the desert, that 5 years had then elapsed since the passage of the Jordan "on the tenth day of the first month" (4:19). No indication, however, is given of the chronological relation of this event to the rest of the history; and 5 years would be too short a period for the conquest of Palestine, if it is to be understood that the whole was carried out in consecutive campaigns under the immediate command of Joshua himself. On the other hand, "very much land" remained still unsubdued at his death (13:1). Christian tradition seems to have assumed that Joshua was about the same age as Caleb, although no definite statement to that effect is made in the book itself; and that, therefore, a quarter of a century, more or less, elapsed between the settlement of the latter at Hebron and Joshua's death (14:10; 24:29). The entire period from the crossing of the Jordan would then be reckoned at from 28 to 30 years.

IV. Sources of the Written Narrative.

The attempt to define the "sources" of Joshua as it now exists, and to disentangle them one from another, presents considerably more difficulty than is to be encountered for the most part in the Pentateuch. The distinguishing criteria upon which scholars rely and which have led serious students of the book to conclude that there may be traced here also the use of the same "documents" or "documentary sources" as are to be found in the Pentateuch, are essentially the same. Existing and traditional accounts, however, have been used apparently with greater freedom, and the writer has allowed himself a fuller liberty of adaptation and combination, while the personal element has been permitted wider scope in molding the resultant form which the composition should take. For the most part, therefore, the broad line of distinction between the various "sources" which have been utilized may easily be discerned on the ground of their characteristic traits, in style, vocabulary or general conception; in regard to detail, however, the precise point at which one "source" has been abandoned for another, or the writer himself has supplied deficiencies and bridged over gaps, there is frequent uncertainty, and the evidence available is insufficient to justify an absolute conclusion. The fusion of material has been more complete than in the 5 books of the law, perhaps because the latter were hedged about with a more reverential regard for the letter, and at an earlier period attained the standing of canonicity.

A detailed analysis of the sources as they have been distinguished and related to one another by scholars is here unnecessary. A complete discussion of the subject will be found in Dr. Driver's LOT6, 105;, in other Introductions, or in the Commentaries on Joshua. Not seldom in the ultimate detail the distinctions are precarious, and there are differences of opinion among scholars themselves as to the precise limit or limits of the use made of any given source, or at what point the dividing line should be drawn. It is only in a broad and general sense that in Joshua especially the literary theory of the use of "documents," as generally understood and as interpreted in the case of the Pentateuch, can be shown to be well founded. In itself, however, such a theory is eminently reasonable, and is both in harmony with the general usage and methods of ancient composition, and affords ground for additional confidence in the good faith and reliability of the narrative as a whole.

V. Relation to the Book of Judges.

1. Parallel Narratives:

A comparison moreover of the history recorded in Joshua with the brief parallel account in Judges furnishes ground for believing that a detailed or chronological narrative was not contemplated by the writer or writers themselves. The introductory verses of Judges (1:1-2:5) are in part a summary of incidents recorded in Joshua, and in part supply new details or present a different view of the whole. The original notices that are added relate almost entirely to the invasion and conquest of Southern Palestine by the united or allied tribes of Judah and Simeon and the destruction of Bethel by the "house of Joseph." The action of the remaining tribes is narrated in a few words, the brief record closing in each case with reference to the condition of servitude to which the original inhabitants of the land were reduced. And the general scheme of the invasion as there represented is apparently that of a series of disconnected raids or campaigns undertaken by the several tribes independently, each having for its object the subjection of the territory assigned to the individual tribe. A general and comprehensive plan of conquest under the supreme leadership of Joshua appears to be entirely wanting. In detail, however, the only real inconsistency between the two narratives would appear to be that in Judges (1:21) the failure to expel the Jebusites from Jerusalem is laid to the account of the Benjamites, while in Joshua 15:63 it is charged against the children of Judah. The difficulties in the way of the formation of a clear conception of the incidents attending the capture of Jerusalem are perhaps insuperable upon any hypothesis; and the variation of the tribal name in the two texts may be no more than a copyist's error.

2. Omissions in the History:

A perhaps more striking omission in both narratives is the absence of any reference to the conquest of Central Palestine. The narrative of the overthrow of Bethel and Ai (Joshua 6:1-8:29) is followed immediately by the record of the building of an altar on Mt. Ebal and the recitation of the Law before the people of Israel assembled in front of Mts. Ebal and Gerizim (Joshua 8:30). Joshua then turns aside to defeat at Beth-horon the combination of the Amorite kings, and completes the conquest of the southern country as far south as Kadesh-barnea (10:41). Immediately thereafter he is engaged in overthrowing a confederacy in the far north (11:1-15), a work which clearly could not have been undertaken or successfully accomplished, unless the central region had been already subdued; but of its reduction no account is given. It has been supposed that the silence of the narrator is an indication that at the period of the invasion this district was in the occupation of tribes friendly or even related to the Israelite clans; and in support of the conjecture reference has been made to the mention of Israel on the stele of Merenptah, the Egyptian ruler in whose reign, according to the most probable view, the exodus took place. In this record the nation or a part thereof is regarded as already settled in Palestine at a date earlier by half a century than their appearance under Moses and Joshua on the borders of the Promised Land. The explanation is possible, but perhaps hardly probable. The defects of the historical record are irremediable at this distance of time, and it must be acknowledged that with the available material no complete and consistent narrative of the events of the Israelite conquest of Palestine can be constructed.

VI. Place of Joshua in the Hebrew Canon.

In the Hebrew Canon Joshua is the first in order of the prophetical books, and the first of the group of 4, namely, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, which form the "Earlier Prophets" (nebhi'im ri'shonim). These books, the contents of which are history, not prophecy in the ordinary sense of the term, were assigned by the Jews to the 2nd division of their sacred Canon, and found a place by the side of the great writings of the "Later Prophets" (nebhi'im 'acharonim). This position was given to them in part perhaps because they were believed to have been written or composed by prophets, but mainly because Jewish history was regarded as in purpose and intent "prophetic," being directed and presided over by Yahweh Himself, and conveying direct spiritual instruction and example. The Canon of the Law, moreover, was already closed; and however patent and striking might be the resemblance of Joshua in style and method of composition to the books of the Pentateuch, it was impossible to admit it therein, or to give a place within the Torah, a group of writings which were regarded as of Mosaic authorship, to a narrative of events which occurred after Moses' death. Later criticism reviewed and reversed the verdict as to the true character of the book. In every Canon except the Hebrew, its historical nature was recognized, and the work was classified accordingly. Modern criticism has gone further, and, with increasing consciousness of its close literary relationship to the books of the Law, has united it with them in a Hexateuch, or even under the more comprehensive title of Octateuch combines together the books of Judges and Ruth with the preceding six on the ground of similarity of origin and style. VII. Greek and Other Ancient Versions.

1. The Greek:

In the ancient versions of Joshua there is not much that is of interest. The Greek translation bears witness to a Hebrew original differing little from the Massoretic Text. In their renderings, however, and general treatment of the Hebrew text, the translators seem to have felt themselves at liberty to take up a position of greater independence and freedom than in dealing with the 5 books of the Law. Probably also the rendering of Joshua into Greek is not to be ascribed to the same authors as the translation of the Pentateuch. While faithful to the Hebrew, it is less constantly and exactly literal, and contains many slight variations, the most important of which are found in the last 6 chapters.

Joshua 19: The Septuagint transposes 19:47, 48, and, omitting the first clause of 19:47, refers the whole to the sons of Judah, without mention of Dan; it further adds 19:47a, 48a on the relation between the Amorites and Ephraim, and the Amorites and the Danites respectively. With 19:47a compare 16:10 and Judges 1:29, and with 19:48a compare 19:47 (Hebrew) and Judges 1:34.

Joshua 20:4-6 inclusive are omitted in B, except a clause from 20:6; A, however, inserts them in full. Compare Driver, LOT6, 112, who, on the ground of their Deuteronomic tone, regards it as probable that the verses are an addition to the Priestly Code (P), and therefore did not form part of the original text as used by the Greek translators.

Joshua 21:36, 37, which give the names of the Levitical cities in Judah, are omitted in the Hebrew printed text although found in many Hebrew manuscripts. Four verses also are added after 21:42, the first three of which repeat 19:50, and the last is a reminiscence of 5:3.

Joshua 24:29 which narrate the death and burial of Joshua are placed in the Greek text after 24:31; and a verse is inserted after 24:30 recording that the stone knives used for the purposes of the circumcision (5:2;) were buried with Joshua in his tomb (compare 21:42). After 24:33 also two new verses appear, apparently a miscellany from Judges 2:6, 11-15; Judges 3:7, 12, 14, with a statement of the death and burial of Phinehas, son and successor of Eleazar, of the idolatrous worship by the children of Israel of Astarte and Ashtaroth, and the oppression under Eglon, king of Moab.

2. Other Ancient Versions:

The other VSS, with the exception of Jerome's translation from the Hebrew, are secondary, derived mediately through the Greek. The Old Latin is contained in a manuscript at Lyons, Cod. Lugdunensis, which is referred to the 6th century. Of the Coptic version only small portions are extant; they have been published by G. Maspero, Memoires de la mission archeologique frantsaise, tom. VI, fasc. 1, le Caire, 1892, and elsewhere. A Sam translation also is known, for parts of which at least an early origin and an independent derivation from the Hebrew have been claimed. The ancient character of the version, however, is contested, and it has been shown that the arguments on which reliance was placed are insufficient to justify the conclusions drawn. The translation appears to be in reality of quite recent date, and to have been made originally from the Arabic, perhaps in part compared with and corrected by the Massoretic Text. The subject was fully and conclusively discussed by Dr. Yehuda of Berlin, at the Oriental Congress in the summer of 1908, and in a separate pamphlet subsequently published. It was even stated that the author of the version was still living, and his name was given. Dr. Gaster, the original discoverer of the Sam MS, in various articles and letters maintains his contention that the translation is really antique, and therefore of great value, but he has failed to convince scholars. (SeeM. Gaster in JRAS (1908), 795;, 1148;; E. N. Adler, ib, 1143;. The text of the manuscript was published by Dr. Caster in ZDMG (1908), 209;, and a specimen chapter with English rendering and notes in PSBA, XXXI (1909), 115;, 149;.)

VIII. Religious Purpose and Teaching. As a whole, then, Joshua is dominated by the same religious and hortatory purpose as the earlier writings of the Pentateuch; and in this respect as well as in authorship and structure the classification which assigns to it a place by the side of the 5 books of Moses and gives to the whole the title of Hexateuch is not unjustified. The author or authors had in view not merely the narration of incident, nor the record of events in the past history of their people of which they judged it desirable that a correct account should be preserved, but they endeavored in all to subserve a practical and religious aim. The history is not for its own sake, or for the sake of the literal facts which it enshrines, but for the sake of the moral and spiritual lessons which may be elucidated therein, and enforced from its teaching. The Divine leading in history is the first thought with the writer. And the record of Israel's past presents itself as of interest to him, not because it is a record of events that actually happened, but because he sees in it the ever-present guidance and overruling determination of God, and would draw from it instruction and warning for the men of his own time and for those that come after him. Not the history itself, but the meaning and interpretation of the history are of value. Its importance lies in the illustrations it affords of the controlling working of a Divine Ruler who is faithful to His promises, loving righteousness and hating iniquity, and swaying the destinies of men in truth. Thus the selection of materials, and the form and arrangement of the book are determined by a definite aim: to set forth and enforce moral lessons, and to exhibit Israel's past as the working out of a Divine purpose which has chosen the nation to be the recipient of the Divine favor, and the instrument for the carrying forward of His purposes upon earth.


A Complete bibliography of the literature up to date will be found in the dictionaries, under the word "Joshua," DB2, 1893, HDB, II, 1899, EB, II, 1901; compare W. H. Bennett, "The Book of Josh," in SBOT, Leipzig, 1895; W.G. Blaikie, "Joshua," in Expositor's Bible, 1893; A. Dillmann, Nu, De u. Josua2, Leipzig, 1886; H. Holzinger, "Das Buch Josua," in Kurzer Hand-Comm. zum A T, Tubingen, 1901; C. Steuernagel, "Josua," in Nowack's Handcommentar zum Altes Testament, 1899; S. Oettli, "Deuteronomy, Josua u. Richter," in Kurzgef. Komm, Munchen, 1893; W.J. Deane, Joshua, His Life and Times, in "Men of the Bible Series," London.

A. S. Geden



1. Title

2. Place in the Canon

3. Contents

(1) Introductory, Judges 1-2:5

(2) Central and Main Portion, Judges 2:6-16

(3) An Appendix, Judges 17-21

4. Chronology

5. Authorship and Sources

6. Relation to Preceding Books

7. Relation to Septuagint and Other versions

8. Religious Purpose and Value


1. Title:

The English name of the Book of Judges is a translation of the Hebrew title (shopheTim), which is reproduced in the Greek Kritai, and the Latin Liber Judicum. In the list of the canonical books of the Old Testament given by Origen (apud Euseb., HE, VI, 25) the name is transliterated Saphateim, which represents rather "judgments" (shephatim; krimata) than "judges." A passage also is quoted from Philo (De Confus. Linguarum, 26), which indicates that he recognized the same form of the name; compare the Greek title of "Kingdoms" (Basileiai) for the four books of Samuel and Kings.

2. Place in the Canon:

In the order of the Hebrew Canon the Book of Judges invariably occupies the 7th place, following immediately upon Joshua and preceding Samuel and Kings. With these it formed the group of the four "earlier prophets" (nebhi'im ri'shonim), the first moiety of the 2nd great division of the Hebrew Scriptures. As such the Book of Judges was classified and regarded as "prophetical," equally with the other historical books, on the ground of the religious and spiritual teaching which its history conveyed. In the rearrangement of the books, which was undertaken for the purposes of the Greek translation and Canon, Judges maintained its position as 7th in order from the beginning, but the short historical Book of Ruth was removed from the place which it held among the Rolls (meghilloth) in the 3rd division of the Jewish Canon, and attached to Judges as a kind of appendix, probably because the narrative was understood to presuppose the same conditions and to have reference to the same period of time. The Greek order was followed in all later VSS, and has maintained itself in modern Bibles. Origen (loc. cit.) even states, probably by a mere misunderstanding, that Judges and Ruth were comprehended by the Jews under the one title Saphateim.

3. Contents:

The Book of Judges consists of 3 main parts or divisions, which are readily distinguished.

(1) Introductory, Judges 1-2:5.

A brief summary and recapitulation of the events of the conquest of Western Palestine, for the most part parallel to the narrative of Joshua, but with a few additional details and some divergences from the earlier account, in particular emphasizing (Judges 1:27-36) the general failure of the Israelites to expel completely the original inhabitants of the land, which is described as a violation of their covenant with Yahweh (Judges 2:1-3), entailing upon them suffering and permanent weakness. The introductory verse (Judges 1:1), which refers to the death of Joshua as having already taken place, seems to be intended as a general indication of the historical period of the book as a whole; for some at least of the events narrated in Judges 1-2:5 took place during Joshua's lifetime.

(2) The Central and Main Portion, Judges 2:6-16.

A series of narratives of 12 "judges," each of whom in turn, by his devotion and prowess, was enabled to deliver Israel from thralldom and oppression, and for a longer or shorter term ruled over the people whom he had thus saved from their enemies. Each successive repentance on the part of the people, however, and their deliverance are followed, on the death of the judge, by renewed apostasy, which entails upon them renewed misery and servitude, from which they are again rescued when in response to their prayer the Lord "raises up" for them another judge and deliverer. Thus the entire history is set as it were in a recurrent framework of moral and religious teaching and warning; and the lesson is enforced that it is the sin of the people, their abandonment of Yahweh and persistent idolatry, which entails upon them calamity, from which the Divine longsuffering and forbearance alone makes for them a way of escape.

(a) Judges 2:6-3:6:

A second brief introduction, conceived entirely in the spirit of the following narratives, which seems to attach itself to the close of the Book of Joshua, and in part repeats almost verbally the account there given of the death and burial of Israel's leader (Judges 2:6-9 parallel Joshua 24:28-31), and proceeds to describe the condition of the land and people in the succeeding generation, ascribing their misfortunes to their idolatry and repeated neglect of the warnings and commands of the judges; closing with an enumeration of the peoples left in the land, whose presence was to be the test of Israel's willingness to obey Yahweh and at the same time to prevent the nation from sinking into a condition of lethargy and ease.

(b) Judges 3:7-3:11:

Judgeship of Othniel who delivered Israel from the hand of Cushan-rishathaim.

(c) Judges 3:12-30:

Victory of Ehud over the Moabites, to whom the Israelites had been in servitude 18 years. Ehud slew their king Eglon, and won for the nation a long period of tranquillity.

(d) Judges 3:31:

In a few brief words Shamgar is named as the deliverer of Israel from the Philistines. The title of "judge" is not accorded to him, nor is he said to have exercised authority in any way. It is doubtful, therefore, whether the writer intended him to be regarded as one of the judges.

(e) Judges 4; 5:

Victory of Deborah and Barak over Jabin the Canaanite king, and death of Sisera, captain of his army, at the hands of Jael, the wife of Kenite chief; followed by a So of Triumph, descriptive and commemorative of the event.

(f) Judges 6-8:

A 7-year oppression at the hands of the Midianites, which is described as peculiarly severe, so that the land became desolate on account of the perpetual raids to which it was subject. After a period of hesitation and delay, Gideon defeats the combined forces of the Midianites and Amalekites and the "children of the east," i.e. the wandering Bedouin bands from the eastern deserts, in the valley of Jezreel. The locality and course of the battle are traced by the sacred writer, but it is not possible to follow his account in detail because of our inability to identify the places named. After the victory, Gideon is formally offered the position of ruler for himself and his descendants, but refuses; nevertheless, he seems to have exercised a measure of restraining influence over the people until his death, although he himself and his family apparently through covetousness fell away from their faithfulness to Yahweh (Judges 8:27, 33).

(g) Judges 9:

Episode of Abimelech, son of Gideon by a concubine, who by the murder of all but one of his brethren, the legitimate sons of Gideon, secured the throne at Shechem for himself, and for 3 years ruled Israel. After successfully stamping out a revolt at Shechem against his authority, he is himself killed when engaged in the siege of the citadel or tower of Thebez by a stone thrown by woman.

(h) (i) Judges 10:1-5:

Tola and Jair are briefly named as successive judges of Israel for 23 and 22 years respectively.

(j) Judges 10:6-12:7:

Oppression of Israel for 18 years by the Philistines and Ammonites. The national deliverance is effected by Jephthah, who is described as an illegitimate son of Gilead who had been on that account driven out from his home and had become the captain of a band of outlaws. Jephthah stipulates with the elders of Gilead that if he undertakes to do battle on their behalf with the Ammonites, he is afterward to be recognized as their ruler; and in accordance with the agreement, when the victory has been won, he becomes judge over Israel (Judges 11:9; Judges 12:7).


(k) (l) (m) Judges 12:8-15:

Three of the so-called "minor" judges, Ibzan, Elon and Abdon, judged Israel in succession for 7, 10 and 8 years respectively. As they are not said to have delivered the nation from any calamity or oppression, it is perhaps to be understood that the whole period was a time of rest and tranquillity.

(n) Judges 13-16:

The history of Samson (see separate article).

(3) An Appendix, Judges 17-21.

The final section, in the nature of an appendix, consisting of two narratives, independent apparently of the main portion of the book and of one another. They contain no indication of date, except the statement 4 times repeated that "in those days there was no king in Israel" Judges 6; Judges 18:1; Judges 19:1; 21:25). The natural inference is that the narratives were committed to writing in the days of the monarchy; but the events themselves were understood by the compiler or historian to have taken place during the period of the Judges, or at least anterior to the establishment of the kingdom. The lawless state of society, the violence and disorder among the tribes, would suggest the same conclusion. No name of a judge appears, however, and there is no direct reference to the office or to any central or controlling authority. Josephus also seems to have known them in reverse order, and in a position preceding the histories of the judges themselves, and not at the close of the book (Ant., V, ii, 8-12; iii, 1; see E. Konig in HDB, II, 810). Even if the present form of the narratives is thus late, there can be little doubt that they contain elements of considerable antiquity.

(a) Judges 17-18:

The episode of Micah the Ephraimite and the young Levite who is consecrated as priest in his house. A war party, however, of the tribe of Dan during a migration northward, by threats and promises induced the Levite to accompany them, taking with him the priestly ephod, the household goods of his patron, and a costly image which Micah had caused to be made. These Micah in vain endeavors to recover from the Danites. The latter sack and burn Laish in the extreme North of Palestine, rebuilding the city on the same site and renaming it "Dan." There they set up the image which they had stolen, and establish a rival priesthood and worship, which is said to have endured "all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh" (18:31).

(b) Judges 19-21:

Outrage of the Benjamites of Gibeah against the concubine of a Levite lodging for a night in the city on his way from Bethlehem to the hill country of Ephraim. The united tribes, after twice suffering defeat at the hands of the men of Benjamin, exact full vengeance; the tribe of Benjamin is almost annihilated, and their cities, including Gibeah, are destroyed. In order that the tribe may not utterly perish, peace is declared with the 600 survivors, and they are provided with wives by stratagem and force, the Israelites having taken a solemn vow not to permit intermarriage between their own daughters and the members of the guilty tribe.

4. Chronology:

The period covered by the history of the Book of Judges extends from the death of Joshua to the death of Samson, and adds perhaps a later reference in Judges 18:31, "all the time that the house of God was in Shiloh" (compare 1 Samuel 1:3). It is, however, difficult, perhaps impossible, to compute in years the length of time that the writer had in mind. That he proceeded upon a fixed chronological basis, supplied probably by tradition but modified or arranged on a systematic principle, seems evident. The difficulty may be due in part to the corruption which the figures have suffered in the course of the transmission of the text. In 1 Kings 6:1 an inclusive total of 480 years is given as the period from the Exodus to the building of the Temple in the 4th year of the reign of Solomon. This total, however, includes the 40 years' wandering in the desert, the time occupied in the conquest and settlement of the Promised Land, and an uncertain period after the death of Joshua, referred to in the Book of Judges itself (2:10), until the older generation that had taken part in the invasion had passed away. There is also to be reckoned the 40 years' judgeship of Eli (1 Samuel 4:18), the unknown length of the judgeship of Samuel (Judges 7:15), the years of the reign of Saul (compare 1 Samuel 13:1, where, however, no statement is made as to the length of his reign), the 40 years during which David was king (1 Kings 2:11), and the 4 years of Solomon before the building of the Temple. The recurrence of the number 40 is already noticeable; but if for the unknown periods under and after Joshua, of Samuel and of Saul, 50 or 60 years be allowed-a moderate estimate-there would remain from the total of 480 years a period of 300 years in round numbers for the duration of the times of the Judges. It may be doubted whether the writer conceived of the period of unsettlement and distress, of alternate oppression and peace, as lasting for so long a time.

The chronological data contained in the Book of Judges itself are as follows:

A total of 410 years, or, if the years of foreign oppression and of the usurpation of Abimelech are omitted, of 296.

It has been supposed that in some instances the rule of the several judges was contemporaneous, not successive, and that therefore the total period during which the judges ruled should be reduced accordingly. In itself this is sufficiently probable. It is evident, however, that this thought was not in the mind of the writer, for in each case he describes the rule of the judge as over "Israel" with no indication that "Israel" is to be understood in a partial and limited signification. His words must therefore be interpreted in their natural sense, that in his own belief the rulers whose deeds he related exercised control in the order named over the entire nation. Almost certainly, however, he did not intend to include in his scheme the years of oppression or the 3 years of Abimelech's rule. If these be deducted, the resultant number (296) is very near the total which the statement in 1 Kings 6:1 suggests.

No stress, however, must be laid upon this fact. The repeated occurrence of the number 40, with its double and half, can hardly be accidental. The same fact was noted above in connection with earlier and later rulers in Israel. It suggests that there is present an element of artificiality and conscious arrangement in the scheme of chronology, which makes it impossible to rely upon it as it stands for any definite or reliable historical conclusion.

5. Authorship and Sources:

Within the Book of Judges itself no author is named, nor is any indication given of the writer or writers who are responsible for the form in which the book appears; and it would seem evident, also, that the 3 parts or divisions of which the book is composed are on a different footing as regards the sources from which they are drawn. The Talmudic tradition which names Samuel as the author can hardly be seriously regarded. The historical introduction presents a form of the traditional narrative of the conquest of Palestine which is parallel to but not identical with that contained in the Book of Joshua. Brief and disconnected as it is, it is of the greatest value as a historical authority, and contains elements which in origin, if not in their present form, are of considerable antiquity. The main portion of the book, comprising the narratives of the judges, is based upon oral or written traditions of a local and perhaps a tribal character, the value of which it is difficult to estimate, but which undoubtedly in some instances have been more carefully preserved than in others. In particular, around the story of Samson there seem to have gathered elements derived from the folklore and the wonder-loving spirit of the countryside; and the exploits of a national hero have been enhanced and surrounded with a glamor of romance as the story of them has passed from lip to lip among a people who themselves or their forefathers owed so much to his prowess. Of this central part of Judges the Song of Deborah (Judges 5) is the most ancient, and bears every mark of being a contemporary record of a remarkable conflict and victory. The text is often difficult, almost unintelligible, and has so greatly suffered in the course of transmission as in some passages to be beyond repair. As a whole the song is an eloquent and impassioned ode of triumph, ascribing to Yahweh the great deliverance which has been wrought for His people over their foes.

The narratives of Judges, moreover, are set in a framework of chronology and of ethical comment and teaching, which are probably independent of one another. The moral exhortations and the lessons drawn from hardships and sufferings, which the people of Israel incur as the consequence of their idolatry and sin, are conceived entirely in the spirit of Deuteronomy, and even in the letter and form bear a considerable resemblance to the writings of that book. In the judgment of some scholars, therefore, they are to be ascribed to the same author or authors. Of this, however, there is no proof. It is possible, but perhaps hardly probable. They certainly belong to the same school of thought, of clear-sighted doctrine, of reverent piety, and of jealous concern for the honor of Yahweh. With the system of chronology, the figures and dates, the ethical commentary and inferences would seem to have no direct relation. The former is perhaps a later addition, based in part at least upon tradition, and applied to existing accounts, in order to give them their definite place and succession in the historical record. Finally, the three strands of traditional narrative, moral comment, and chronological framework were woven into one whole by a compiler or reviser who completed the book in the form in which it now exists. Concerning the absolute dates, however, at which these processes took place very little can be determined.

The two concluding episodes are distinct, both in form and character, from the rest of the book. They do not relate the life or deeds of a judge, nor do they, explicitly at least, convey any moral teaching or warning. They are also mutually independent. It would seem therefore that they are to be regarded as accounts of national events or experiences, preserved by tradition, which, because they were understood to have reference to the period of the Judges, were included in this book. The internal nature of the narratives themselves would suggest that they belong rather to the earlier than the later part of the time during which the judges held rule; and their ancient character is similarly attested. There is no clue, however, to the actual date of their composition, or to the time or circumstances under which they were incorporated in the Book of Judges.

6. Relation to Preceding Books:

The discussion of the relation of the Book of Judges to the generally recognized sources of the Pentateuch and to Joshua has been in part anticipated in the previous paragraph. In the earliest introductory section of the book, and in some of the histories of the judges, especially in that of Gideon (Judges 6-8), it is not difficult to distinguish two threads of narrative, which have been combined together in the account as it now stands; and by some scholars these are identified with the Jahwist (Jahwist) and the Elohist (E) in the Pentateuch. The conclusion, however, is precarious and uncertain, for the characteristic marks of the Pentateuch "sources" are in great measure absent. There is more to be said for the view that regards the introduction (Judges 1-2:5), with its verbal parallels to Joshua as derived ultimately from the history of JE, from which, however, very much has been omitted, and the remainder adapted and abbreviated. Even this moderate conclusion cannot be regarded as definitely established. The later author or compiler was in possession of ancient documents or traditions, of which he made use in his composite narrative, but whether these were parts of the same historical accounts that are present in the books of Moses and in Joshua must be regarded as undetermined. There is no trace, moreover, in Judges of extracts from the writing or school of P; nor do the two concluding episodes of the book (Judges 17-21) present any features which would suggest an identification with any of the leading "sources" of the Pentateuch.

The moral and religious teaching, on the other hand, which makes the varied national experiences in the times of the Judges a vehicle for ethical instruction and warning, is certainly derived from the same school as Deuteronomy, and reproduces the whole tone and spirit of that book. There is no evidence, however, to identify the writer or reviser who thus turned to spiritual profit the lessons of the age of the Judges with the author of Deuteronomy itself, but he was animated by the same principles, and endeavored in the same way to expound the same great truths of religion and the Providence of God.

7. Relation to Septuagint and Other Versions:

There are two early Greek translations of the Book of Judges, which seem to be on the whole independent of one another. These are represented by the two great uncial manuscripts, B (Codex Vaticanus) and A (Codex Alexandrinus). With the former is associated a group of cursive manuscripts and the Sahidic or Upper Egyptian version. It is therefore probable that the translation is of Egyptian origin, and by some it has been identified with that of Hesychius. It has been shown, moreover, that in this book, and probably elsewhere, the ancient character of the text of B is not always maintained, but in parts at least betrays a later origin. The other version is contained in AV and the majority of the uncial and cursive manuscripts of the Greek texts, and, while certainly a real and independent translation from the original, is thought by some to show acquaintance with the version of B. There is, however, no definite evidence that B's translation is really older. Some of the cursives which agree in general with A form sub-groups; thus the recension of Lucian is believed to be represented by a small number of cursives, the text of which is printed by Lagarde (Librorum VT Canonicorum, Pars Prior, 1883), and is substantially identical with that in the "Complutensian Polyglot" (see G. F. Moore, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Judges, Edinburgh, 1895, xliiiff;). It is probable that the true original text of the Septuagint is not represented completely either by the one or the other version, but that it partially underlies both, and may be traced in the conflicting readings which must be judged each on its own merits.

Of the other principal versions, the Old Latin and the Hexaplar Syriac, together with the Armenian and the Ethiopic, attach themselves to a sub-group of the manuscripts associated with A. The Bohairic version of the Book of Judges has not hitherto been published, but, like the rest of the Old Testament, its text would no doubt be found to agree substantially with B. Jerome's translation follows closely the Massoretic Text, and is independent of both Greek VSS; and the Peshitta also is a direct rendering from the Hebrew.

8. Religious Purpose and Value:

Thus the main purpose of the Book of Judges in the form in which it has been preserved in the Old Testament is not to record Israel's past for its own sake, or to place before the writer's contemporaries a historical narrative of the achievements of their great men and rulers, but to use these events and the national experiences of adversity as a text from which to educe religious warning and instruction. With the author or authors spiritual edification is the first interest, and the facts or details of the history, worthy of faithful records, because it is the history of God's people, find their chief value in that they are and were designed to be admonitory, exhibiting the Divine judgments upon idolatry and sin, and conveying the lesson that disobedience and rebellion, a hard and defiant spirit that was forgetful of Yahweh, could not fail to entail the same disastrous consequences. The author is preeminently a preacher of righteousness to his fellow-countrymen, and to this aim all other elements in the book, whether chronological or historical, are secondary and subordinate. In his narrative he sets down the whole truth, so far as it has become known to him through tradition or written document, however discreditable it may be to his nation. There is no ground for believing that he either extenuates on the one hand, or on the other paints in darker colors than the record of the transgressions of the people deserved. Neither he nor they are to be judged by the standards of the 20th century, with its accumulated wealth of spiritual experience and long training in the principles of righteousness and truth. But he holds and asserts a lofty view of the character of Yahweh, of the immutability of His wrath against obstinate transgression and of the certainty of its punishment, and yet of the Divine pitifulness and mercy to the man or nation that turns to Him with a penitent heart. The Jews were not mistaken when they counted the Book of Judges among the Prophets. It is prophecy, more than history, because it exhibits and enforces the permanent lessons of the righteousness and justice and loving-kindness of God.


A complete bibliography of the literature up to date will be found in the Dicts. under the word "Judges," D B2, 1893; HDB, II, 1899; EB, II, 1901; compare G. F. Moore, Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Judges, Edinburgh, 1895; SBOT, Leipzig, 1900; R. A. Watson, "Judges" and "Ruth," in Expositor's Bible, 1889; G. W. Thatcher, "Judges" and "Ruth," in Century Bible; S. Oettli, "Das Deuteronomium und die Bucher Josua und Richter," in Kurzgefasster Kommentar, Munchen, 1893; K. Budde, "Das Buch der Richter," in Kurzer HandKommentar zum Altes Testament, Tubingen, 1897; W. Nowack, "Richter," in Hand-kommentar zum Altes Testament, 1900.

A. S. Geden







1. Probably during the Maccabean Age

2. Other Opinions

(1) Invasion of Pompey

(2) Insurrection under Bar Cochba



1. Greek

2. Syriac

3. Latin

4. Hebrew


I. Name.

This apocryphal book is called after the name of its principal character Judith (yehudhith), "a Jewess"; Ioudith, Ioudeth). The name occurs in Genesis 26:34 and the corresponding masculine form (yehudhi, "a Jew") in Jeremiah 36:14, 21, 23 (name of a scribe). In other great crises in Hebrew history women have played a great part (compare Deborah, Judges 5, and Esther). The Books of Ruth, Esther, Judith and Susannah are the only ones in the Bible (including the Apocrypha) called by the names of women, these women being the principal characters in each case.

II. Canonicity.

Though a tale of Jewish patriotism written originally in Hebrew, this book was never admitted into the Hebrew Canon, and the same applies to the Book of Tobit. But both Judith and Tobit were recognized as canonical by the Council of Carthage (397 A.D.) and by the Council of Trent (1545 A.D.). Though, however, all Romanists include these books in their Bible (the Vulgate), Protestant versions of the Bible, with very few exceptions, exclude the whole of the Apocrypha (see APOCRYPHA). In the Septuagint and Vulgate, Tobit and Judith (in that order) follow Nehemiah and precede Esther. In the English Versions of the Bible of the Apocrypha, which unfortunately for its understanding stands alone, 1 Esdras, 2 Esdras, Tobit and Judith occupy the first place and in the order named. In his translation of the Apocrypha, Luther, for some unexplained reason, puts Judith at the head of the apocryphal books, Wisdom taking the next place.

III. Contents.

The book opens with an account of the immense power of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Assyria, whose capital was Nineveh. (In the days of the real Nebuchadnezzar, Assyria had ceased to be, and its capital was destroyed.) He calls upon the peoples living in the western country, including Palestine, to help him to subdue a rival king whose power he feared-Arphaxad, king of the Medes (otherwise quite unknown). But as they refused the help he demanded, he first conquered his rival, annexing his territory, and then sent his general Holofernes to subdue the western nations and to punish them for their defiance of his authority. The Assyrian general marched at the head of an army 132,000 strong and soon took possession of the lands North and East of Palestine, demolishing their idols and sanctuaries that Nebuchadnezzar alone might be worshipped as god (Judith 1-3). He now directed his forces against the Jews who had recently returned from exile and newly rebuilt and rededicated their temple. Having heard of the ruin of other temples caused by the invading foe, the Jews became greatly alarmed for the safety of their own, and fortified the mountains and villages in the south, providing themselves with food to meet their needs in the event of war. At the urgent request of Joakim ("Eliakim" in the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) and Peshitta), the inhabitants of Bethulia (so the Latin, English, and other VSS, but Betuloua is more correct according to the Greek) and of Betomestham (both places otherwise unknown) defended the adjoining mountain passes which commanded the way to Jerusalem. Holofernes at once laid siege to Bethulia, and by cutting off the water supply aimed at starving the people to submission. But he knows little of the people he is seeking to conquer, and asks the chiefs who are with him who and what these Jews are. Achior, the Ammonite chief, gives an account of the Israelites,

cluding that when faithful to their God they were invincible, but that when they disobeyed Him they were easily overcome. Achior is for this saying expelled and handed over to the Jews. After holding out for some days, the besieged people insisted that Onias their governor should surrender. This he promises to do if no relief comes in the course of five days. A rich, devout and beautiful widow called Judith (daughter of Merari, of the tribe of Simeon (Judith 8:1)), hearing of these things, rebukes the murmurers for their lack of faith and exhorts them to trust in God. As Onias abides by his promise to the people, she resolves to attempt another mode of deliverance. She obtains consent to leave the fortress in the dead of night, accompanied by her maidservant, in order to join the Assyrian camp. First of all she prays earnestly for guidance and success; then doffing her mourning garb, she puts on her most gorgeous attire together with jewels and other ornaments. She takes with her food allowed by Jewish law, that she might have no necessity to eat the forbidden meats of the Gentiles. Passing through the gates, she soon reaches the Assyrians. First of all, the soldiers on watch take her captive, but on her assuring them that she is a fugitive from the Hebrews and desires to put Holofernes in the way of achieving a cheap and easy victory over her fellow-countrymen, she is warmly welcomed and made much of. She reiterates to Holofernes the doctrine taught by Achior that these Jews can easily be conquered when they break the laws of their Deity, and she knows the necessities of their situation would lead them to eat food prohibited in their sacred laws, and when this takes place she informs him that he might at once attack them. Holofernes listens, applauds, and is at once captured by her personal charms. He agrees to her proposal and consents that she and her maid should be allowed each night to say their prayers out in the valley near the Hebrew fortress. On the 4th night after her arrival, Holofernes arranges a banquet to which only his household servants and the two Jewesses are invited. When all is over, by a preconcerted plan the Assyrian general and the beautiful Jewish widow are left alone. He, however, is dead drunk and heavily asleep. With his own scimitar she cuts off his head, calls her maid who puts it into the provision bag, and together they leave the camp as if for their usual prayers and join their Hebrew compatriots, still frantic about the immediate future. But the sight of the head of their arch foe puts new heart into them, and next day they march upon the enemy now in panic at what had happened, and win an easy victory. Judith became ever after a heroine in Jewish romance and poetry, a Hebrew Joan of Arc, and the tale of the deliverance she wrought for her people has been told in many languages. For later and shorter forms of the tale see VII, 4 (Hebrew Midrashes).

IV. Fact or Fiction?

The majority of theologians down to the 19th century regarded the story of Judith as pure history; but with the exception of O. Wolf (1861) and yon Gumpach, Protestant scholars in recent times are practically agreed that the Book of Judith is a historical novel with a purpose similar to Daniel, Esther and Tobit. Schurer classes it with "parenetic narratives" (paranetische Erzahlung). The Hebrew novel is perhaps the earliest of all novels, but it is always a didactic novel written to enforce some principle or principles. Roman Catholic scholars defend the literal historicity of the book, though they allow that the proper names are more or less disguised. But the book abounds with anachronisms, inconsistencies and impossibilities, and was evidently written for the lesson it teaches: obey God and trust Him, and all will be well. The author had no intention to teach history. Torrey, however, goes too far when he says (see Jewish Encyclopedia, "Book of Judith") that the writer aimed at nothing more than to write a tale that would amuse. A tone of religious fervor and of intense patriotism runs through the narrative, and no opportunity of enforcing the claims of the Jewish law is lost. Note especially what is taught in the speeches of Achior (Judith 5:12-21) and Judith (8:17-24; compare 11:10), that, trusting in God and keeping His commandments, the nation is invulnerable.

According to the narrative Nebuchadnezzar has been for 12 years king of Assyria and has his capital at Nineveh, though we know he never was or could be king of Assyria. He became king of Babylon in 604 B.C., upon the death of his father Nabopolassar, who in 608 had destroyed Assyria. The Jews had but recently returned from exile (Judith 4:3; 5:19), but were independent, and Holofernes knew nothing about them (Judith 5:3). Nebuchadnezzar died in 561 B.C. and the Jews returned under Cyrus in 538. Bethulia to which Holofernes lay siege was otherwise quite unknown: it is probably a disguised form of Beth 'Elohim or Beth 'Eloah, "house of God," and means the place where God is with His people. The detailed description of the site is but part of the writer's art; it was the place which every army must pass on its way to Jerusalem. As a matter of fact, there is no such position in Palestine, and least of all Shechem, which Torrey identified with Bethulia. We know nothing besides what Judith 1 tells us of "Arphaxad who reigned over the Medes in Ecbatana"; on the contrary, in every other mention of the name it stands for a country or a race (see Genesis 10:22, 24; Genesis 11:10-13).

V. Date.

1. Probably during the Maccabean Age:

It is evident that this religious romance was prompted by some severe persecution in which the faith of the Jews was sorely tried, and the writer's dominant aim is identical with that of the author of Daniel, namely, to encourage those suffering for their religion by giving instances of Divine deliverance in the darkest hour. "Only trust and keep the law; then deliverance will unfailingly come"-that is the teaching. Judith might well have been written during the persecution of the Maccabean age, as was almost certainly the Book of Daniel. We have in this book that zeal for orthodox Judaism which marked the age of the Maccabees, and the same strong belief that the war in which the nation was engaged was a holy one. The high priest is head of the state (see Judith 4:6), as suiting a period when the religious interest is uppermost and politics are merged in religion, though some say wrongly that John Hyrcanus (135-106 B.C.) was the first to combine priestly and princely dignities. We have another support for a Maccabean date in the fact that Onias was high priest during the siege of Bethulia (Judith 4:6), the name being suggested almost certainly by Onias III, who became high priest in 195 (or 198) B.C., and who died in 171 after consistently opposing the Hellenizing policy of the Syrians and their Jewish allies.

That the persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes (175-164 B.C.) supply as good a background for this book as any other event in Jewish history is the least that can be said; but one may not be dogmatic on the matter, as similar conditions recurred in the nation's history, and there is no external or internal evidence that fixes the date definitely. The following scholars decide for a date in the Maccabean age: Fritzsche, Ewald, Hilgenfeld, Schurer, Ball, Cornill and Lohr. The author was certainly a resident in Palestine, as his local knowledge and interests show; and from his punctilious regard for the law one may judge that he belonged to the Hasidean (chacidhim) party. Since he so often mentions Dothan (Greek Dothae, Dothaim) (Judith 3:9; 4:06; 7:3, 18; 8:3), it is probable that he belonged to that neighborhood. Though, however, the author wrote in the time of the Maccabees, he seems to set his history in a framework that is some 200 years earlier, as Noldeke (Die alttest. Lit., 1868, 96; Aufsatze zur persischen Geschichte, 1887, 78) and Schurer (GJV, III, 323;) show. In 350 B.C., Artaxerxes Ochus (361-338 B.C.) invaded Phoenicia and Egypt, his chief generals being Holofernes (Judith 2:4, etc.) and Bagoas (Judith 12:11), both of whom are in Judith officials of King Nebuchadnezzar and take part in the expedition against the Jews. This was intended probably to disarm the criticism of enemies who might resent any writing in which they were painted in unfavorable colors.

2. Other Opinions:

(1) Invasion of Pompey.

That it was the invasion of Pompey which gave rise to the book is the opinion held by Gaster. If this were so, Judith and the Psalms of Solomon arose under the pressure of the same circumstances (see Ryle and James, The Psalms of Solomon, XL, and J. Rendel Harris, The Odes and Psalms of Solomon, XIII) But in the Psalms of Solomon the supreme ruler is a king (17:22), not a high priest (Judith 4:6). Besides, anyone who reads the Psalm of Solomon and Judith will feel that in the former he has to do with a different and later age.

(2) Insurrection under Bar Cochba.

Hitzig (who held that the insurrection under Bar Cochba, 132 A.D., is the event referred to), Volkmar and Graetz date this book in the days of the emperor Trajan (or Hadrian?). Volkmar gives himself much trouble in his attempt to prove that the campaigns of Nebuchadnezzar stand really for those of Trajan. But it is a sufficient refutation of this opinion that the book is quoted by Clement of Rome (55), who died in 100 A.D., and whose reference to the book shows that it was regarded in his day as authoritative and even as canonical, so that it must have been written long before.

VI. Original Language.

That a Hebrew or (less likely) an Aramaic original once existed is the opinion of almost all modern scholars, and the evidence for this seems conclusive. There are many Hebraisms in the book, e.g. en tais hemerais ("in the days of," Judith 1:7, and 9 t besides); the frequent use of sphodra, in the sense of the Hebrew me'odh, and even its repetition (also a Hebraism, Judith 4:8); compare epi polu sphodra (Judith 5:18) and plethos polu sphodra (Judith 2:17). Note further the following: "Let not thy eye spare" etc. (Judith 2:11; compare Ezekiel 5:11, etc.); "as I live" (in an oath, Judith 2:12); "God of heaven" (Judith 5:8; 11:17); "son of man," parallel with "man," and in the same sense (Judith 8:16); "and it came to pass when she had ceased crying," etc. (Judith 10:1); "the priests who serve in Jerusalem before the face of our God" (Judith 11:13). In Judith 16:3 we have the words: "For a god that shatters battle is (the) Lord." Now "Lord" without the article can be only the Hebrew "Yahweh," read always 'adhonay, "Lord." But the phrase, "to shatter battle," is not good Greek or good sense. The Hebrew words shabhath ("to rest"; compare shabbath, "Sabbath") and shabhar ("to break") are written much alike, and in the original Hebrew we must have had the causative form of the first vb.: "A God that makes war cease is (the) Lord" (see Psalm 46:9). Moreover, the Hebrew idiom which strengthens a finite verb by placing a cognate (absolute) infinitive before it is represented in the Greek of this book in the usual form in which it occurs in the Septuagint (and in Welsh), namely, a participle followed by a finite verb (see Judith 2:13). The present writer has noted other examples, but is prevented by lack of space from adding them here. That the original book was Hebrew and not Aramaic is made extremely likely by the fact that the above examples of Hebrew idiom are peculiar to this language. Note especially the idiom, "and it came to pass that," etc. (Judith 2:4), with the implied "waw consecutive," and what is said above about Judith 11:13, where the senseless Greek arose through the confusion of two similarly written Hebrew (not Aramaic) words. There are cases also of mistakes in the Greek text due to wrong translation from the Hebrew, as in Judith 1:8 (where for "nations" read "cities" or "mountains"); Judith 2:2 (where for "concluded," Hebrew wa-yekhal, read "revealed," wa-ye-ghal); Judith 3:1, 9, 10 (see Fritzsche, under the word), etc.

VII. Versions.

1. Greek:

The Greek text appears in three forms:

(1) that of the principal Greek uncials (A, B, agreeing closely), which is followed in printed editions of the Septuagint (Septuagint);

(2) that of codices 19, 108 (Lucian's text), an evident revision of (1);

(3) codex 58 which closely resembles (2) and with which the Old Latin and Peshitta agree in most points.

2. Syriac:

There are two extant Syriac VSS, both of them dependent on the Greek text (3) noted above. The Peshitta is given in Walton's Polyglot and in a critically revised form in Lagarde, Lib. Vet. Test Apocrypha Syriac, 104-26. The so-called Hexaplar Syriac text was made by Paul of Tella in the 6th century

3. Latin:

(1) The Old Latin seems to have been made from the Greek text, codex 58 (see above).

(2) Jerome made his Latin version (with which the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) is identical) from a lost Chaldee version. That this last is not the original text of the book is certain, because neither Origen nor his Jewish teachers knew anything of a Hebrew or Aramaic text of Judith.

4. Hebrew;

Several late Hebrew versions of the book have been found, no one of them with strong claims to be considered the original text, though Caster (see EB, II, col 2,642) does make such a claim for the manuscript found, edited and translated by him (see PSBA, XVI, 156-63). The Hebrew midrashes were made to be read in Jewish homes and vary according to the circumstances of their origin. But they agree in these points: Proper names are often omitted. Jerusalem is the scene of action, the wars being those of the Maccabees. Judith is a Jewish maiden and daughter of Ahitah, according to the Gaster MS, and she belongs apparently to the Maccabean family. It is Nicanor who is beheaded, the occasion being the Feast of Dedication; in the Gaster manuscript it is the king who is killed. Translations of these midrashes may be seen in Jellinck, Beth Hammidrash, I, 130-41; II, 12 f; Lepsius, Zeitschr. fur wiss. Theologie, 1867, 337;; Ball, Speaker's Apocrypha, I, 25;; Scholz, Comm.2, Anhange I and II; Gaster, in the work quoted Gaster argues that the much shorter form of the tale in his manuscript is older than the longer version. But if a writer were to expand a short story, he would hardly be likely to invent several proper names and to change others. It is probable that Judith came to be represented as a pure maiden (a virgin) under the influence of the low conception of marriage fostered in the medieval Christian church.


For the editions of the Greek text and for commentaries on the Apocrypha, see under APOCRYPHA. But on Judith note in particular the commentaries by Fritzsche and Ball, the latter containing elaborate bibliography. But the following must in addition be mentioned: Scholz, Commentar uber das Buch Judith und uber Bel und Drache, 1896; a 2nd edition has appeared; A.S. Weissmann, Das Buch Judith historisch-kritisch beleuchtet, Wien, 1891; Schurer, GJV4, III, 230-37, with full bibliography; compare HJP, II, iii, 32-37; Pentin, The Apocrypha in English Lit., Judith, 1908; and the relevant articles in the Bible dicts., especially that by F. C. Porter in HDB.

T. Witton Davies


lam-en-ta'-shunz,-The Lamentations of Jeremiah:

1. Name:

This is a collective name which tradition has given to 5 elegies found in the Hebrew Canon that lament the fate of destroyed Jerusalem. The rabbis call this little book 'Ekhah ("how"), according to the word of lament with which it begins, or qinoth. On the basis of the latter term the Septuagint calls it threnoi, or Latin Threni, or "Lamentations."

2. Form:

The little book consists of 5 lamentations, each one forming the contents of a chapter. The first 4 are marked by the acrostic use of the alphabet. In addition, the qinah ("elegy") meter is found in these hymns, in which a longer line (3 or 4 accents) is followed by a shorter (2 or 3 accents). In Lamentations 1 and 2 the acrostic letters begin three such double lines; in Lamentations 4, however, two double lines. In Lamentations 3 a letter controls three pairs, but is repeated at the beginning of each line. In Lamentations 5 the alphabet is wanting; but in this case too the number of pairs of lines agrees with the number of letters in the Hebrew alphabet, i.e. 22. In Lamentations 2; Lamentations 3 and 4, the letter `ayin (`) follows pe (p), as is the case in Psalm 34. Lamentations 1, however, follows the usual order.

3. Contents:

These 5 hymns all refer to the great national catastrophe that overtook the Jews and in particular the capital city, Jerusalem, through the Chaldeans, 587-586 B.C. The sufferings and the anxieties of the city, the destruction of the sanctuary, the cruelty and taunts of the enemies of Israel, especially the Edomites, the disgrace that befell the king and his nobles, priests and prophets, and that, too, not without their own guilt, the devastation and ruin of the country-all this is described, and appeal is made to the mercy of God. A careful sequence of thought cannot be expected in the lyrical feeling and in the alphabetical form. Repetitions are found in large numbers, but each one of these hymns emphasizes some special feature of the calamity. Lamentations 3 is unique, as in it one person describes his own peculiar sufferings in connection with the general calamity, and then too in the name of the others begins a psalm of repentance. This person did not suffer so severely because he was an exceptional sinner, but because of the unrighteousness of his people. These hymns were not written during the siege, but later, at a time when the people still vividly remembered the sufferings and the anxieties of that time and when the impression made on them by the fall of Jerusalem was still as powerful as ever.

4. Author:

Who is the author of these hymns? Jewish tradition is unanimous in saying that it was Jeremiah. The hymns themselves are found anonymously in the Hebrew text, while the Septuagint has in one an additional statement, the Hebrew style of which would lead us to conclude that it was found in the original from which the version was made. This statement reads: "And it came to pass, after Israel had been taken away captive and Jerusalem had been laid waste, that Jeremiah sat weeping, and uttered this lamentation over Jerusalem and said." The Targum also states that Jeremiah was the author. The rabbis and the church Fathers have no doubts on the subject. Jerome (compare on Zechariah 12:11) thinks that 2 Chronicles 35:25 refers to these hymns. The same is said by Josephus (Ant., X, v, 1). If this were the case, then the writer of Chronicles would have regarded La as having been written because of the death of Josiah. But this misunderstanding is not to be ascribed to him. It was easily possible that he was acquainted with lamentations of such a nature, but which afterward were lost. At all events, Jeremiah was by nature adapted to the composition of such elegies, as is proved by his book of prophecies.

Only in modern times has the authorship of these hymns by Jeremiah been seriously called into question; and it is now denied by most critics. For this they give formal and material reasons: The language of these lamentations shows many similarities to the discourses of Jeremiah, but at the same time also many differences. The claim that the alphabetical scheme is not worthy of Jeremiah is a prejudice caused by the taste of our times. Hebrew poets had evidently been making use of such methods for a long time, as it helps materially in memorizing. At the time of the first acute suffering on account of the destruction of Jerusalem, in fact, he would probably not have made use of it. But. we have in this book a collection of lamentations' written some time after this great catastrophe. The claim has also been made that the views of Jeremiah and those of the composer or the composers of these poems differ materially. It is said that Jeremiah emphasizes much more strongly the guilt of the people as the cause of the calamity than is done in these hymns, which lament the fate of the people and find the cause of it in the sins of the fathers (Lamentations 5:7), something that Jeremiah is said not to accept (Jeremiah 31:29 f). However, the guilt of the people and the resultant wrath of God are often brought out in these hymns; and Jeremiah does not deny (31:29) that there is anything like inherited guilt. He declares rather that in the blessed future things would be different in this respect. Then, too, we are not to forget that if Jeremiah is the author of these patriotic hymns, he does not speak in them as the prophet and the appointed accuser of his people, but that he is at last permitted to speak as he humanly feels, although there is no lack of prophetical reminiscences (of Lamentations 4:21). In these hymns he speaks out of the heart that loves his Jerusalem and his people, and he utters the priestly prayer of intercession, which he was not allowed to do when announcing the judgment over Israel. The fact that he also evinces great reverence for the unfortunate king and his Divinely given hereditary dignity (Lamentations 4:20), although as a prophet he had been compelled to pronounce judgment over him, would not be unthinkable in Jeremiah, who had shown warm sympathies also for Jehoiachim (22:24, 28). A radical difference of sentiment between the two authors is not to be found. On the other hand, a serious difficulty arises if we claim that Jeremiah was not the author of Lamentations in the denunciations of Lamentations over the prophets of Jerusalem (2:14; 4:13). How could the great prophet of the Destruction be so ignored if he himself were not the author of these sentiments? If he was himself the author we can easily understand this omission. In his book of prophecies he has spoken exactly the same way about the prophets. To this must be added, that Lamentations 3 forces us to regard Jeremiah as the author, because of the personal sufferings that are here described. Compare especially Lamentations 3:14, 37, 53;, 61, 63. What other person was during the period of this catastrophe the cynosure of all eyes as was the prophet, especially, too, because he was guiltless? The claim that here, not an individual, but the personified nation is introduced as speaking, is altogether improbable, and in some passages absolutely impossible (Lamentations 3:14, 48).

This little book must accordingly be closely connected with the person of Jeremiah. If he himself is the author, he must have composed it in his old age, when he had time and opportunity to live over again all the sufferings of his people and of himself. It is, however, more probable, especially because of the language of the poems, that his disciples put this book in the present shape of uniform sentential utterances, basing this on the manner of lamentations common to Jeremiah. In this way the origin of Lamentaions 3 can be understood, which cannot artificially be shaped as his sayings, as in this case the personal feature would be more distinctly expressed. It was probably compiled. from a number of his utterances.

In the Hebrew Canon this book is found in the third division, called kethabhim, or Sacred Writings, together with the Psalms. However, the Septuagint adds this book to Jeremiah, or rather, to the Book of Baruch, found next after Jerusalem. The Hebrews count it among the 5 meghilloth, or Rolls, which were read on prominent anniversary days. The day for the Lamentation was the 9th of Abib, the day of the burning of the temple. In the Roman Catholic church it is read on the last three days of Holy Week.


Comms. of Thenius, Ewald, Nagelsbach, Gerlach, Keil, Cheyne, Oettli, Lohr, Budde; article by Robertson Smith on "Lamentations" in EB.

C. von Orelli




1. The Name

2. Life and Home of Nahum

The Four Traditions

3. Date, as Related to Assyrian History

(1) The Revolt of Shamash-shumukin

(2) The Invasion of 625 B.C.

(3) The Final Attack

(4) Probable Date


1. Contents (Nahum 1-3)

2. Style

3. Integrity


1. The Character of Yahweh

2. Nahum's Glee over the Ruin of Nineveh

3. Universality of Yahweh's Rule

4. The Messianic Outlook


I. Authorship and Date.

1. The Name:

The name Nahum (nachum; Septuagint and New Testament Naoum; Josephus, Naoumos) occurs nowhere else in the Old Testament; in the New Testament it is found in Luke 3:25. It is not uncommon in the Mishna, and it has been discovered in Phoenician inscriptions. It means "consolation," or "consoler," and is therefore, in a sense, symbolical of the message of the book, which is intended to comfort the oppressed and afflicted people of Judah.

2. Life and Home of Nahum:

Of the personal life of Nahum, practically nothing is known. In Nahum 1:1 he is called "the Elkoshite," that is, an inhabitant of Elkosh. Unfortunately, the location of this place is not known.

The Four Traditions

One tradition, which cannot be traced beyond the 16th century A.D., identifies the home of Nahum with a modern village Elkush, or Alkosh, not far from the left bank of the Tigris, two days' journey North of the site of ancient Nineveh. A second tradition, which is at least as old as the days of Jerome, the latter part of the 4th century, locates Elkosh in Galilee, at a place identified by many with the modern El-Kauze, near Ramieh. Others identify the home of the prophet with Capernaum, the name of which means "Village of Nahum." A fourth tradition, which is first found in a collection of traditions entitled "Lives of the Prophets," says "Nahum was from Elkosh, beyond Bet Gabre, of the tribe of Simeon." A place in the South is more in harmony with the interest the prophet takes in the Southern Kingdom, so that the last-mentioned tradition seems to have much in its favor, but absolute certainty is not attainable.

3. Date, as Related to Assyrian History:

The Book of Nahum centers around the fall and destruction of Nineveh. Since the capture of the city is represented as still in the future, it seems evident that the prophecies were delivered some time before 607-606 B.C., the year in which the city was destroyed. Thus the latest possible date of Nahum's activity is fixed. The earliest possible date also is indicated by internal evidence. In 3:8; the prophet speaks of the capture and destruction of No-amon, the Egyptian Thebes, as an accomplished fact. The expedition of Ashurbanipal, king of Assyria, against Egypt, which resulted in the fall of Thebes, occurred about 663 B.C. Hence, the activity of Nahum must be placed somewhere between 663 and 607.

As to the exact period between the two dates there is disagreement among scholars. One thing is made quite clear by the prophecy itself, namely, that at the time the words were spoken or written, Nineveh was passing through some grave crisis. Now we know that during the second half of the 7th century B.C. Assyria was threatened three times:

(1) The Revolt of Shamash-shumukin:

The revolt of Shamash-shumukin of Babylon against his brother, the king of Assyria, 650-648 B.C.

(2) The Invasion of 625 B.C.:

The invasion of Assyria and threatened attack upon Nineveh by some unknown foe, perhaps the Scythians, about 625 B.C.

(3) The Final Attack:

The final attack, which resulted in the fall and destruction of Nineveh in 607-606 B.C. (4) Probable Date:

The first crisis does not offer a suitable occasion for Nahum's prophecy, because at that time the city of Nineveh was not in any danger. Little is known concerning the second crisis, and it is not possible either to prove or to disprove that it gave rise to the book. On the other hand, the years immediately preceding the downfall of Nineveh offer a most suitable occasion. The struggle continued for about 2 years. The united forces of the Chaldeans and Scythians met determined resistance; at last a breach was made in the northeast corner of the wall, the city was taken, pillaged and burned. Judah had suffered much from the proud Assyrian, and it is not difficult to understand how, with the doom of the cruel oppressor imminent, a prophet-patriot might burst into shouts of exultation and triumph over the distress of the cruel foe. "If," says A.B. Davidson, "the distress of Nineveh referred to were the final one, the descriptions of the prophecy would acquire a reality and naturalness which they otherwise want, and the general characteristics of Hebrew prophecy would be more truly conserved." There seems to be good reason, therefore, for assigning Nahum's activity to a date between 610 and 607 B.C.

II. The Book.

1. Contents (Nahum 1-3):

Nahum is the prophet of Nineveh's doom. Nahum 1 (plus 2:2) contains the decree of Nineveh's destruction. Yahweh is a God of vengeance and of mercy (1:2, 3); though He may at times appear slack in punishing iniquity, He will surely punish the sinner. No one can stand before Him in the day of judgment (1:4-6). Yahweh, faithful to those who rely upon Him (1:7), will be terrible toward His enemies and toward the enemies of His people (1:8). Judah need not fear: the present enemy is doomed (1:9-14), which will mean the exaltation of Judah (1:15; 2:2). The army appointed to execute the decree is approaching, ready for battle (2:1-4). All efforts to save the city are in vain; it falls (2:5, 6), the queen and her attendants are captured (2:7), the inhabitants flee (2:8), the city is sacked and left a desolation (2:9-13). The destruction of the bloody city is imminent (3:1-3); the fate is well deserved and no one will bemoan her (3:4-7); natural strength and resources will avail nothing (3:8-11); the soldiers turn cowards and the city will be utterly cut off (3:12-18); the whole earth will rejoice over the downfall of the cruel oppressor (3:19).

2. Style:

Opinions concerning the religious significance of the Book of Nahum may differ, but from the stand-point of language and style all students assign to Nahum an exalted place among the prophet-poets of the ancient Hebrews; for all are impressed with the intense force and picturesqueness of his language and style. "Each prophet," says Kirkpatrick, "has his special gift for his particular work. Nahum bears the palm for poetic power. His short book is a Pindaric ode of triumph over the oppressor's fall." So also G.A. Smith: "His language is strong and brilliant; his rhythm rumbles and rolls, leaps and flashes, like the horsemen and chariots he describes."

3. Integrity:

Until recently no doubts were expressed concerning the integrity of the book, but within recent years scholars have, with growing unanimity, denied the originality of Nahum 1:2-2:2 (Hebrew 2:3), with the exception of 2:1, which is considered the beginning of Nahum's utterances. This change of opinion is closely bound up with the alleged discovery of distorted remnants of an old alphabetic poem in Nahum 1 (HDB, article "Nahum"; The Expositor, 1898, 207;; ZATW, 1901, 225;; Eiselen, Minor Prophets, 422;). Now, it is true that in 1:2-7 traces of alphabetic arrangement may be found, but even here the artistic arrangement is not carried through consistently; in the rest of the chapter the evidence is slight.

The artificial character of acrostic poetry is generally supposed to point to a late date. Hence, those who believe that Nahum 1 was originally an alphabetic poem consider it an exilic or post-exilic production, which was at a still later date prefixed to the genuine prophecies of Nahum. In support of this view it is pointed out further that the prophecy in Nahum 1 is vague, while the utterances in Nahum 2 and 3 are definite and to the point. Some derive support for a late date also from the language and style of the poem.

That difficulties exist in Nahum 1, that in some respects it differs from Nahum 2 and 3, even the students of the English text can see; and that the Hebrew text has suffered in transmission is very probable. On the other hand, the presence of an acrostic poem in Nahum 1 is not beyond doubt. The apparent vagueness is removed, if Nahum 1 is interpreted as a general introduction to the more specific denunciation in Nahum 2 and 3. And a detailed examination shows that in this, as in other cases, the linguistic and stylistic data are indecisive. In view of these facts it may safely be asserted that no convincing argument has been presented against the genuineness of 1:2-2:2. "Therefore," says G.A. Smith, "while it is possible that a later poem has been prefixed to the genuine prophecies of Nahum, and the first chapter supplies many provocations to belief in such a theory, this has not been proved, and the able essays of proof have much against them. The question is open."

III. Teaching.

1. The Character of Yahweh:

The utterances of Nahum center around a single theme, the destruction of Nineveh. His purpose is to point out the hand of God in the impending fall of the city, and the significance of this catastrophe for the oppressed Hebrews. As a result they contain little direct religious teaching; and what there is of it is confined very largely to the opening verses of Nahum 1. These verses emphasize the twofold manifestation of the Divine holiness, the Divine vengeance and the Divine mercy (1:2, 3). The manifestation of the one results in the destruction of the wicked (1:2), the other in the salvation of the oppressed (1:15; 2:2). Faith in Yahweh will secure the Divine favor and protection (1:7).

2. Nahum's Glee over the Ruin of Nineveh:

The fierceness of Nahum, and his glee at the thought of Nineveh's ruin, may not be in accord with the injunction, "Love thine enemy"; but it should be borne in mind that it is not personal hatred that prompts the prophet; he is stirred by a righteous indignation over the outrages committed by Assyria. He considers the sin and overthrow of Nineveh, not merely in their bearing upon the fortunes of Judah, but in their relation to the moral government of the whole world; hence, his voice gives utterance to the outraged conscience of humanity.

3. Universality of Yahweh's Rule:

While Nahum's message, in its direct teaching, appears to be less spiritual and ethical than that of his predecessors, it sets in a clear light Yahweh's sway over the whole universe, and emphasizes the duty of nations as well as of individuals to own His sway and obey His will. This attitude alone will assure permanent peace and prosperity; on the other hand, disobedience to His purpose and disregard of His rule will surely bring calamity and distress. The emphasis of these ethical principles gives to the message of Nahum a unique significance for the present day and generation. "Assyria in his hands," says Kennedy, "becomes an object-lesson to the empires of the modern world, teaching, as an eternal principle of the Divine government of the world, the absolute necessity, for a nation's continued vitality, of that righteousness, personal, civic, and national, which alone exalteth a nation."

4. The Messianic Outlook:

In a broad sense, Nahum 1:15 is of Messianic import. The downfall of Nineveh and Assyria prepares the way for the permanent redemption and exaltation of Zion: "the wicked one shall no more pass through thee."


Comms. on the Minor Prophets by Ewald, Pusey, Keil, Orelli; G.A. Smith (Expositor's Bible); Driver (New Century); B.A. Davidson, commentary on "Nahum," "Habakkuk," "Zephaniah" (Cambridge Bible); A.F. Kirkpatrick, Doctrine of the Prophets; Eiselen, Prophecy and the Prophets; F.W. Farrar, Minor Prophets ("Men of the Bible" series); Driver, Introduction to the Lit. of the Old Testament; HDB, article "Nahum"; EB, article "Nahum."

F. C. Eiselen




1. Title

2. Contents


1. Alleged Grounds of Distribution

2. Objections to Same

(1) Hypothesis Unproved

(2) Written Record Not Impossible

(3) No Book Ever Thus Constructed

(4) Inherent Difficulties of Analysis

(a) The Story of the Spies

(b) Rebellion of Korah

(c) Story of Balaam


1. See ming Chronological Inaccuracies

(1) The Second Passover (Numbers 9:1-5)

(2) The Thirty-seven Years' Chasm

(3) Fortieth Year

2. So-called Statistical Errors

(1) Number of the Fighting Men

(2) Size of the Congregation

(a) Multiplication of People

(b) Exodus in One Day

(c) Support in Wilderness

(d) Room at Mt. Sinai

(e) Slow Conquest of Canaan

(3) Number of the Firstborn

3. Alleged Physical Impossibilities

(1) Duties of the Priests

(2) Assembling of the Congregation

(3) Marching of the Host

(4) Victory over Midian


1. Against the Mosaic Authorship

(1) Alternating Use of Divine Names

(2) Traces of Late Authorship

2. For the Mosaic Authorship

(1) Certain Passages Have the Appearance of Having Been Written by Moses

(2) Acquaintance on the Part of the Author with Egyptian Manners and Customs


I. Title and Contents.

1. Title:

Styled in the Hebrew Bible bemidhbar, "in the wilderness," from the 5th word in Numbers 1:1, probably because of recording the fortunes of Israel in the Sinaitic desert. The 4th book of the Pentateuch (or of the Hexateuch, according to criticism) was designated Arithmoi in the Septuagint, and Numeri in the Vulgate, and from this last received its name "Numbers" in the King James Version, in all 3 evidently because of its reporting the 2 censuses which were taken, the one at Sinai at the beginning and the other on the plains of Moab at the close of the wanderings.

2. Contents:

Of the contents the following arrangement will be sufficiently detailed:

(1) Before leaving Sinai, Numbers 1:1-10:10 (a period of 19 days, from the 1st to the 20th of the 2nd month after the exodus), describing:

(a) The numbering and ordering of the people, Numbers 1-4.

(b) The cleansing and blessing of the congregation, Numbers 5; 6.

(c) The princes' offerings and the dedication of the altar, Numbers 7; 8.

(d) The observance of a second Passover, Numbers 9:1-14.

(e) The cloud and the trumpets for the march, Numbers 9:15-10:10.

(2) From Sinai to Kadesh, Numbers 10:11-14:45 (a period of 10 days, from the 20th to the 30th of the 2nd month), narrating:

(a) The departure from Sinai, Numbers 10:11-35.

(b) The events at Taberah and Kibroth-hattaavah, Numbers 11.

(c) The rebellion of Miriam and Aaron, Numbers 12.

(d) The mission of the spies, Numbers 13; 14.

(3) The wanderings in the desert, Numbers 15-19 (a period of 37 years, from the end of the 2nd to the beginning of the 40th year), recording:

(a) Sundry laws and the punishment of a Sabbath breaker, Numbers 15.

(b) The rebellion of Korah, Numbers 16.

(c) The budding of Aaron's rod, Numbers 17.

(d) The duties and revenues of the priests and Levites, Numbers 18.

(e) The water of separation for the unclean, Numbers 19.

(4) From Kadesh to Moab, Numbers 20; 21 (a period of 10 months, from the beginning of the 40th year), reciting:

(a) The story of Balaam, Numbers 22:2-24:25.

(b) The zeal of Phinehas, Numbers 25.

(c) The second census, Numbers 26:1-51.

(d) Directions for dividing the land, Numbers 26:52-27:11.

(e) Appointment of Moses' successor, Numbers 27:12-23.

(f) Concerning offerings and vows, Numbers 28-30.

(g) War with Midian, Numbers 31.

(h) Settlement of Reuben and Gad, Numbers 32.

(i) List of camping stations, Numbers 33:1-49.

(j) Canaan to be cleared of its inhabitants and divided, Numbers 33:50-34:29.

(k) Cities of refuge to be appointed, Numbers 35.

(l) The marriage of heiresses, Numbers 36.

II. Literary Structure.

According to modern criticism, the text of Numbers, like that of the other books of the Pentateuch (or Hexateuch), instead of being regarded as substantially the work of one writer (whatever may have been his sources of information and whoever may have been its first or latest editor), should be distributed-not always in solid blocks of composition, but frequently in fragments, in sentences, clauses or words, so mysteriously put together that they cannot now with certainty be separated-among three writers, J, E and P with another D (at least in one part)-these writers, individuals and not schools (Gunkel), belonging, respectively: J to the 9th century B.C. (circa 830), E to the 8th century B.C. (circa 750), P to the 5th century B.C. (circa 444), and D to the 7th century B.C. (circa 621).

1. Alleged Grounds of Distribution:

The grounds upon which this distribution is made are principally these:

(1) the supposed preferential use of the Divine names, of Yahweh (Yahweh, "Lord") by J, and of Elohim ("God") by E and P-a theory, however, which hopelessly breaks down in its application, as Orr (POT, chapter vii), Eerdmans (St, 33;) and Wiener (EPC, I) have conclusively shown, and as will afterward appear;

(2) distinctions in style of composition, which are not always obvious and which, even if they were, would not necessarily imply diversity of authorship unless every author's writing must be uniform and monotonous, whatever his subject may be; and

(3) perhaps chiefly a preconceived theory of religious development in Israel, according to which the people in pre-Mosaic times were animists, totemists and polytheists; in Mosaic times and after, henotheists or worshippers of one God, while recognizing the existence of other gods; and latterly, in exilic and post-exilic times, monotheists or worshippers of the one living and true God-which theory, in order to vindicate its plausibility, required the reconstruction of Israel's religious documents in the way above described, but which is now rejected by archaeologists (Delitzsch and A. Jeremias) and by theologians (Orr, Baentsch (though accepting the analysis on other grounds) and Konig) as not supported by facts.

2. Objections to Same:

Without denying that the text-analysis of criticism is on the first blush of it both plausible and attractive and has brought to light valuable information relative to Scripture, or without overlooking the fact that it has behind it the names of eminent scholars and is supported by not a few considerations of weight, one may fairly urge against it the following objections.

(1) Hypothesis Unproved.

At the best, theory is an unproved and largely imaginary hypothesis, or series of hypotheses-"hypothesis built on hypothesis" (Orr); and nothing more strikingly reveals this than

(a) the frequency with which in the text-analysis conjecture ("perhaps" and "probably") takes the place of reasoned proof

(b) the arbitrary manner in which the supposed documents are constructed by the critics who, without reason given, and often in violation of their own rules and principles, lift out of J (for instance) every word or clause they consider should belong to E or the Priestly Code (P), and vice versa every word or clause out of E or P that might suggest that the passage should be assigned to J, at the same time explaining the presence of the inconvenient word or clause in a document to which it did not belong by the careless or deliberate action of a redactor; and

(c) the failure even thus to construct the documents successfully, most critics admitting that J and E cannot with confidence be separated from each other-Kuenen himself saying that "the attempt to make out a Jehovistic and an Elohistic writer or school of writers by means of the Divine names has led criticism on a wrong way"; and some even denying that P ever existed as a separate document at all, Eerdmans (St, 33, 82), in particular, maintaining, as the result of elaborate exegesis, that P could not have been constructed in either exilic or post-exilic times "as an introduction to a legal work."

(2) Written Record Not Impossible.

It is impossible to demonstrate that the story of Israel's "wanderings" was not committed to writing by Moses, who certainly was not unacquainted with the art of writing, who had the ability, if any man had, to prepare such a writing, whose interest it was, as the leader of his people, to see that such writing, whether done by himself or by others under his supervision, was accurate, and who besides had been commanded by God to write the journeyings of Israel (Numbers 33:2). To suppose that for 500 years no reliable record of the fortunes of Israel existed, when during these years writing was practiced in Egypt and Babylon; and that what was then fixed in written characters was only the tradition that had floated down for 5 centuries from mouth to mouth, is simply to say that little or no dependence can be placed upon the narrative, that while there may be at the bottom of it some grains of fact, the main body of it is fiction. This conclusion will not be readily admitted.

(3) No Book Ever Thus Constructed.

No reliable evidence exists that any book either ancient or modern was ever constructed as, according to criticism, the Pentateuch, and in particular Numbers, was. Volumes have indeed been composed by two or more authors, acting in concert, but their contributions have never been intermixed as those of J, E, D and P are declared to have been; nor, when joint authorship has been acknowledged on the title-page, has it been possible for readers confidently to assign to each author his own contribution. And yet, modern criticism, dealing with documents more than 2,000 years old and in a language foreign to the critics-which documents, moreover, exist only in manuscripts not older than the 10th century A.D. (Buhl, Canon and Text of the Old Testament, 28), and the text of which has been fixed not infallibly either as to consonant or vowel-claims that it can tell exactly (or nearly so) what parts, whether paragraphs, sentences, clauses or words, were supplied by J, E, P and D respectively. Credat Judaeus Apella!

(4) Inherent Difficulties of Analysis.

The critical theory, besides making of the text of Numbers, as of the other books of the Pentateuch, such a patchwork as is unthinkable in any document with ordinary pretension to historical veracity, is burdened with inherent difficulties which make it hard to credit, as the following examples taken from Numbers, will show.

(a) The Story of the Spies:

Numbers 13 and 14 are thus distributed by Cornill, Driver, Strack and E B:

JE, Numbers 13:17 b-20, 22-24, 26b-31, 32b, 33; 14:3, 4, 8, 9, 11-25, 39-45.

P, Numbers 13:1-17 a, 21, 25, 26a (to Paran), 32a; 14:1, 2 (in the main), 5-7, 10, 26-38 (in the main).

Kautzsch generally agrees; and Hartford-Battersby in HDB professes ability to divide between J and E.

(i) According to this analysis, however, up to the middle of the 5th century B.C., either JE began at Numbers 13:17 b, in which case it wanted both the instruction to search the land and the names of the searchers, both of which were subsequently added from P (assuming it to have been a separate document, which is doubtful); or, if JE contained both the instruction and the names, these were supplanted by 13:1-17a from P. As the former of these alternatives is hardly likely, one naturally asks why the opening verses of JE were removed and those of P substituted? And if they were removed, what has become of them? Does not the occurrence of Yahweh in 13:1-17a, on the critical principles of some, suggest that this section is the missing paragraph of JE?

(ii) If the JE passages furnish a nearly complete narrative (Driver), why should the late compiler or editor have deemed it necessary to insert two whole verses, 13:21 and 25, and two halves, 13:26a and 32a, if not because without these the original JE narrative would have been incomplete? Numbers 13:21 states in general terms that the spies searched the whole land, proceeding as far North as Hamath, after which 13:22 mentions that they entered the country from the South and went up to Hebron and Eshcol, without at all stating an incongruity (Gray) or implying (Driver) that they traveled no farther North-the reason for specifying the visit to Eshcol being the interesting fact that there the extraordinary cluster of grapes was obtained. Numbers 13:25, 26 a relate quite naturally that the spies returned to Kadesh after 40 days and reported what they had found to Moses and Aaron as well as to all the congregation. Without these verses the narrative would have stated neither how long the land had been searched nor whether Moses and Aaron had received any report from their messengers, although 13:26b implies that a report was given to some person or persons unnamed. That Moses and Aaron should not have been named in JE is exceedingly improbable. Numbers 13:32 a is in no way inconsistent with 13:26b-31, which state that the land was flowing with milk and honey. What 13:32a adds is an expression of the exaggerated fears of the spies, whose language could not mean that the land was so barren that they would die of starvation, a statement which would have expressly contradicted 13:27 (JE)-in which case why should it have been inserted?-but that, notwithstanding its fruitfulness, the population was continually being wasted by internecine wars and the incursions of surrounding tribes. The starvation theory, moreover, is not supported by the texts (Leviticus 26:38 Ezekiel 36:13) usually quoted in its behalf.

(iii) To argue (Driver) for two documents because Joshua is not always mentioned along with Caleb is not strikingly convincing; while if Joshua is not included among the spies in JE, that is obviously because the passages containing his name have been assigned beforehand to P. But if Joshua's name did not occur in JE, why would it have been inserted in the story by a post-exilic writer, when even in Deuteronomy 1:36 Joshua is not expressly named as one of the spies, though again the language in Deuteronomy 1:38 tacitly suggests that both Caleb and Joshua were among the searchers of the land, and that any partition of the text which conveys the impression that Joshua was not among the spies is wrong?

(iv) If the text-analysis is as the critics arrange, how comes it that in JE the name Yahweh does not once occur, while all the verses containing it are allocated to P?

(b) Rebellion of Korah:

Numbers 16 and 17 are supposed to be the work of "two, if not three," contributors (Driver, Kautzsch)-the whole story being assigned to P (enlarged by additions about which the text analysts are not unanimous), with the exception of 16:1b, 2a, 12-15, 25, 26, 27b-34, which are given to JE, though variations here also are not unknown.

It is admitted that the JE verses, if read continuously, make out a story of Dathan and Abiram as distinguished from Korah and his company; that the motives of Dathan and Abiram probably differed from those of Korah and his company, and that Dathan and Abiram were swallowed up by an earthquake, while the 250 incense-offerers were destroyed by fire. To conclude from this, however, that three or even two narratives have been intermixed is traveling beyond the premises.

(i) If JE contained more about the conspiracy of the Reubenites, Dathan and Abiram, than has been preserved in the verses assigned to it, what has become of the excised verses, if they are not those ascribed to P; and, if they are not, what evidence exists that P's verses are better than the lost verses of JE? And how comes it that in P the Divine name used throughout, with one exception, 16:22, is Yahweh, while in JE it occurs only 6 t? (ii) If JE contained only the parts assigned to it and nothing more happened than the Reubenite emeute, why should the Korahite rebellion have been added to it 4 centuries later, if that rebellion never happened? (iii) If the Korahite conspiracy did happen, why should it have been omitted in JE, and nothing whispered about it till after the exile? (iv) If the two conspiracies, ecclesiastical (among the princes) and civil (among the laymen), arose contemporaneously, and the conspirators made common cause with one another, in that there was nothing unusual or contrary to experience. (v) If Moses addressed himself now to Korah and again to Dathan and Abiram, why should not the same document say so? (vi) If Dathan and Abiram were engulfed by an earthquake, and the 250 princes were consumed by fire from the tabernacle, even that does not necessitate two documents, since both events might have occurred together. (vii) It is not certain that P (16:35-43) represents Korah as having been consumed by fire, while JE (16:31-33) declares he was swallowed up by the earth. At least P (26:10) distinctly states that Korah was swallowed up by the earth, and that only the 250 were consumed by fire.

Wherefore, in the face of these considerations, it is not too much to say that the evidence for more documents than one in this story is not convincing.

(c) Story of Balaam:

Numbers 22-24 fare more leniently at the hands of analysis, being all left with JE, except 22:1, which is generously handed over to P. Uncertainty, however, exists as to how to partition chapter 22 between J and E. Whether all should be given to E because of the almost uniform use of Elohim rather than of Yahweh, with the exception of 22:22-35a, which are the property of J because of the use of Yahweh (Driver, Kautzsch); or whether some additional verses should not be assigned to J (Cornill, HDB), critics are not agreed. As to Numbers 23 and 24, authorities hesitate whether to give both to J or to E, or chapter 23 to E and chapter 24 to J, or both to a late redactor who had access to the two sources-surely an unsatisfactory demonstration in this case at least of the documentary hypothesis. Comment on the use of the Divine names in this story is reserved till later.

Yet, while declining to accept this hypothesis as proved, it is not contended that the materials in Numbers are always arranged in chronological order, or that the style of composition is throughout the same, or that the book as it stands has never been revised or edited, but is in every jot and tittle the same as when first constructed. In Numbers 7, e.g., the narrative goes back to the 1st day of the 1st month of the 2nd year, and in chapter 9 to the 1st month of the 2nd year, though chapter 1 begins with the 1st day of the 2nd month of the 2nd year. There are also legislative passages interspersed among the historical, and poetical among the prosaic, but diversity of authorship, as already suggested, cannot be inferred from either of these facts unless it is impossible for a writer to be sometimes disorderly in the arrangement of his materials; and for a lawgiver to be also a historian, and for a prose writer occasionally to burst into song. Assertions like these, however, cannot be entertained. Hence, any argument for plurality of documents rounded on them must be set aside. Nor is it a fair conclusion against the literary unity of the book that its contents are varied in substance and form and have been subjected, as is probable, to revision and even to interpolations, provided always these revisions and interpolations have not changed the meaning of the book. Whether, therefore, the Book of Numbers has or has not been compiled from preexisting documents, it cannot be justly maintained that the text-analysis suggested by the critics has been established, or that the literary unity of Numbers has been disproved.

III. Historical Credibility.

Were the narrative in this book written down immediately or soon after the events it records, no reason would exist for challenging its authenticity, unless it could be shown either from the narrative itself or from extraneous sources that the events chronicled were internally improbable, incredible or falsified. Even should it be proved that the text consists of two or more preexisting documents interwoven with one another, this would not necessarily invalidate its truthfulness, if these documents were practically contemporaneous with the incidents they report, and were not combined in such a way as to distort and misrepresent the occurrences they related. If, however, these pre-existing documents were prepared 500 (JE) or 1,000 (P) years after the incidents they narrate, and were merely a fixing in written characters of traditions previously handed down (JE), or of legislation newly invented and largely imaginary (P), it will not be easy to establish their historical validity. The credibility of this portion of the Pentateuch has been assailed on the alleged ground that it contains chronological inaccuracies, statistical errors and physical impossibilities.

1. See ming Chronological Inaccuracies:

(1) The Second Passover (Numbers 9:1-5)

The critical argument is that a contemporary historian would naturally have placed this paragraph before Numbers 1:1. The answer is that possibly he would have done so had his object been to observe strict chronological order, which it manifestly was not (see Numbers 7 and 9), and had he when commencing the book deemed it necessary to state that the Israelites had celebrated a second Passover on the legally appointed day, the 14th of the 1st month of the 2nd year. This, however, he possibly at first assumed would be understood, and only afterward, when giving the reason for the supplementary Passover, realized that in after years readers might erroneously conclude that this was all the Passover that had been kept in the 2nd year. So to obviate any such mistaken inference, he prefixed to his account of the Little Passover, as it is sometimes called, a statement to the effect that the statutory ordinance, the Great Passover, had been observed at the usual time, in the usual way, and that, too, in obedience to the express commandment of Yahweh.

(2) The Thirty-seven Years' Chasm.

Whether Numbers 20:1 be considered the beginning of the 3rd or of the 40th year, in either case a period of 37 years is passed over-in the one case in almost unbroken silence; in the other with scarcely anything of moment recorded save Korah's rebellion and the publication of a few laws concerning offerings to be made when the people reached the land of their habitation. To pronounce the whole book unhistorical because of this long interval of absolute or comparative silence (Bleek) is unreasonable. Most histories on this principle would be cast into the wastebasket. Besides, a historian might have as good reason for passing over as for recording the incidents of any particular period. And this might have been the case with the author of Numbers. From the moment sentence of death was passed upon the old generation at Kadesh, till the hour when the new generation started out for Canaan, he may have counted that Israel had practically ceased to be the people of Yahweh, or at least that their fortunes formed no part of the history of Yahweh's kingdom; and it is noticeable that scarcely had the tribes reassembled at Kadesh in preparation for their onward march than Miriam and Aaron, probably the last of the doomed generation, died. Accordingly, from this point on, the narrative is occupied with the fortunes of the new generation. Whether correct or not, this solution of the 37 years' silence (Kurtz) is preferable to that which suggests (Ewald) that the late compiler, having found it impossible to locate all the traditions he had collected into the closing years of the wanderings, placed the rest of them in the first 2 years, and left the interval a blank-a solution which has not even the merit of being clever and explains nothing. It does not explain why, if the narrator was not writing history, there should have been an interval at all. A romancer would not have missed so splendid an opportunity for exercising his art, would not have left a gap of 37 years unfilled, but like the writers of the apocryphal Gospels would have crowded it with manufactured tales.

On the better theory, not only is the silence explained, but the items inserted are accounted for as well. Though the unbelieving generation had ceased to be the people of Yahweh, Aaron had not yet been sentenced to exclusion from the promised land, He was still one of the representatives of the kingdom of Yahweh, and Korah's rebellion practically struck a blow at that kingdom. As such it was punished, and the story of its breaking out and suppression was recorded, as a matter that vitally concerned the stability of the kingdom. For a like reason, the legislative sections were included in the narrative. They were Yahweh's acts and not the people's. They were statutes and ordinances for the new generation in the new land.

(3) Fortieth Year.

The events recorded as having taken place between the 1st of the 5th month (the date of Aaron's death) and the 1st of the 11th month (the date of Moses' address) are so numerous and important as to render it impossible, it is said, to maintain the credibility of this portion of the narrative. But

(a) it is not certain that all the events in this section were finished before Moses began his oration; neither

(b) is it necessary to hold that they all occurred in succession; while

(c) until the rapidity with which events followed one another is ascertained, it will not be possible to decide whether or not they could all have been begun and finished within the space of 6 months.

2. So-called Statistical Errors:

(1) Number of the Fighting Men.

This, which may be set down roughly at 600,000, has been challenged on two grounds:

(a) that the number is too large, and

(b) that the censuses at Sinai and in Moab are too nearly equal.

The first of these objections will be considered in the following section when treating of the size of the congregation. The second will not appear formidable if it be remembered

(a) that it is neither impossible nor unusual for the population of a country to remain stationary for a long series of years;

(b) that there was a special fitness in Israel's ease that the doomed generation should be replaced by one as nearly as possible equal to that which had perished;

(c) that had the narrative been invented, it is more than likely that the numbers would have been made either exactly equal or more widely divergent; and

(d) that so many variations occurring in the strength of the tribes as numbered at Sinai and again in Moab, while the totals so nearly correspond, constitutes a watermark of truthfulness which should not be overlooked.

(2) Size of the Congregation.

Taking the fighting men at 600,000 and the whole community at 4 1/2 times that number, or about 2 1/2 millions, several difficulties emerge which have led to the suggestion (Eerdmans, Conder, Wiener) that the 600,000 should be reduced (to, say, 6,000), and the entire population to less than 30,000. The following alleged impossibilities are believed to justify this reduction:

(a) that of 70 families increasing to 2 1/2 millions between the descent into, and the departure from, Egypt;

(b) that of 2 1/2 millions being led out of Egypt in one day;

(c) that of obtaining support for so large a multitude with their flocks in the Sinaitic desert;

(d) that of finding room for them either before the Mount at Sinai, or in the limited territory of Palestine; and

(e) that of the long time it took to conquer Palestine if the army was 600,000 strong.

(a) Multiplication of People:

As to the possibility of 70 souls multiplying in the course of 215 years or 7 generations (to take the shorter interval rather than the longer of 430 years) into 2 1/2 millions of persons giving 600,000 fighting men, that need not be regarded as incredible till the rate of increase in each family is exactly known. Allowing to each of Jacob's grandsons who were married (say 51 out of 53), 4 male descendants (Colenso allows 4 1/2), these would in 7 generations-not in 4 (Colenso)-amount to 835, 584, and with surviving fathers and grandfathers added might well reach 900,000, of whom 600,000 might be above 20 years of age. But in point of fact, without definite data about the number of generations, the rates of birth and of mortality in each generation, all calculations are at the best problematical. The most that can be done is to consider whether the narrative mentions any circumstances fitted to explain this large number of fighting men and the great size of the congregation, and then whether the customary objections to the Biblical statement can be satisfactorily set aside.

As for corroborative circumstances, the Bible expressly states that during the years of the oppression the Hebrews were extraordinarily fruitful, and that this was the reason why Pharaoh became alarmed and issued his edict for the destruction of the male children. The fruitfulness of the Hebrews, however, has been challenged (Eerdmans, Verger schichte Israels, 78) on the ground that were the births so numerous as this presupposes, two midwives (Exodus 1:15) would not have sufficed for the necessary offices. But if the two to whom Pharaoh spake were the superintendents of the midwives throughout Goshen, to whom the king would hardly address himself individually, or if they were the two officiating in Hellopolls, the statement in Exodus 1:15 will appear natural enough, and not opposed to the statement in Exodus 1:10 that Pharaoh was alarmed at the multiplication of the Hebrews in his land. And, indeed, if the Hebrews were only 30,000 strong, it is not easy to see why the whole might of Egypt could not have kept them in subjection. Then as to the congregation being 2 1/2 millions if the 2 fighting men were 600,000, that corresponds with the proportion which existed among the Helvetii, who had 92,000 men capable of bearing arms out of a population, including children, old men and women, of 368,000 souls (Caesar, BG, i, 20). This seems to answer the objection (Eerdmans, Vorgeschichte Israels, 78) that the unschooled Oriental is commonly addicted to exaggeration where numbers are concerned.

(b) Exodus in One Day:

The second difficulty would be serious were it necessary to suppose that the Israelites had never heard about their projected journey till the 14th of the 1st month.

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Obadiah is the shortest book in the Old Testament. The theme of the book is the destruction of Edom. Consequent upon the overthrow of Edom is the enlargement of the borders of Judah and the establishment of the kingship of Yahweh. Thus far all scholars are agreed; but on questions of authorship and date there is wide divergence of opinion.

1. Contents of the Book:

(1) Yahweh summons the nations to the overthrow of proud Edom. The men of Esau will be brought down from their lofty strongholds; their hidden treasures will be rifled; their confederates will turn against them; nor will the wise and the mighty men in Edom be able to avert the crushing calamity (Obadiah 1:1-9).

(2) The overthrow of Edom is due to the violence and cruelty shown toward his brother Jacob. The prophet describes the cruelty and shameless gloating over a brother's calamity, in the form of earnest appeals to Edom not to do the selfish and heartless deeds of which he had been guilty when Jerusalem was sacked by foreign foes (Obadiah 1:10-14).

(3) The day of the display of Yahweh's retributive righteousness upon the nations is near. Edom shall be completely destroyed by the people whom he has tried to uproot, while Israel's captives shall return to take possession of their own land and also to seize and rule the mount of Esau. Thus the kingship of Yahweh shall be established (Obadiah 1:15-21).

2. Unity of the Book:

The unity of Obadiah was first challenged by Eichhorn in 1824, 1:17-21 being regarded by him as an appendix attached to the original exilic prophecy in the time of Alexander Janneus (104-78 B.C.). Ewald thought that an exilic prophet, to whom he ascribed 1:11-14 and 19-21, had made use of an older prophecy by Obadiah in 1:1-10, and in 1:15-18 of material from another older prophet who was contemporary, like Obadiah, with Isaiah. As the years went on, the material assigned to the older oracle was limited by some to 1:1-9 and by others to 1:1-6. Wellhausen assigned to Obadiah 1:1-5, 7, 10, 11, 13, 14, 15b, while all else was regarded as a later appendix. Barton's theory of the composition of Obadiah is thus summed up by Bewer: " Obadiah 1:1-6 are a pre-exilic oracle of Obadiah, which was quoted by Jeremiah, and readapted with additions (Obadiah 1:7-15) by another Obadiah in the early post-exilic days; 1:16-21 form an appendix, probably from Maccabean times" (ICC, 5). Bewer's own view is closely akin to Barton's. He thinks that Obadiah, writing in the 5th century B.C., "quoted 1:1-4 almost, though not quite, literally; that he commented on the older oracle in 1:5-7, partly in the words of the older prophet, partly in his own words, in order to show that it had been fulfilled in his own day; and that in 1:8, 9 he quoted once more from the older oracle without any show of literalness." He ascribes to Obadiah 1:10-14 and 15b. The appendix consists of two sections, 1:15a, 16-18 and 1:19-21, possibly by different authors, 1:18 being a quotation from some older prophecy. To the average Bible student all this minute analysis of a brief prophecy must seem hypercritical. He will prefer to read the book as a unity; and in doing so will get the essence of the message it has for the present day.

3. Date of the Book:

Certain preliminary problems require solution before the question of date can be settled.

(1) Relation of Obadiah and Jeremiah 49.

(a) Did Obadiah quote from Jeremiah? Pusey thus sets forth the impossibility of such a solution: "Out of 16 verses of which the prophecy of Jeremiah against Edom consists, four are identical with those of Obadiah; a fifth embodies a verse of Obadiah's; of the eleven which remain, ten have some turns of expression or idioms, more or fewer, which recur in Jeremiah, either in these prophecies against foreign nations, or in his prophecies generally. Now it would be wholly improbable that a prophet, selecting verses out of the prophecy of Jeremiah, should have selected precisely those which contain none of Jeremiah's characteristic expressions; whereas it perfectly fits in with the supposition that Jeremiah interwove verses of Obadiah with his own prophecy, that in verses so interwoven there is not one expression which occurs elsewhere in Jeremiah" (Minor Prophets, I, 347).

(b) Did Jeremiah quote from Obadiah? It is almost incredible that the vigorous and well-articulated prophecy in Obadiah could have been made by piecing together detached quotations from Jer; but Jeremiah may well have taken from Obadiah many expressions that fell in with his general purpose. There are difficulties in applying this view to one or two verses, but it has not been disproved by the arguments from meter advanced by Bewer and others.

(c) Did both Obadiah and Jeremiah quote from an older oracle? This is the favorite solution among recent scholars, most of whom think that Obadiah preserves the vigor of the original, while Jeremiah quotes with more freedom; but Bewer in ICC, after a detailed comparison, thus sums up: "Our conclusion is that Obadiah quoted in Obadiah 1:1-9 an older oracle, the original of which is better preserved in Jeremiah 49." The student will do well to get his own first-hand impression from a careful comparison of the two passages. With Obadiah 1:1-4 compare Jeremiah 49:14-16; with Obadiah 1:5, 6 compare Jeremiah 49:9, 10 a; with Obadiah 1:8 compare Jeremiah 49:7; with Obadiah 1:9 a compare Jeremiah 49:22 b. On the whole, the view that Jeremiah, who often quotes from earlier prophets, draws directly from Obadiah, with free working over of the older prophets, seems still tenable.

(2) Relation of Obadiah and Joel.

There seems to be in Joel 2:32 (Hebrew 3:5) a direct allusion to Obadiah 1:17. If Joel prophesied during the minority of the boy king Joash (circa 830 B.C.), Obadiah would be, on this hypothesis, the earliest of the writing prophets.

(3) What Capture of Jerusalem Is Described in Obadiah 1:10-14?

The disaster seems to have been great enough to be called "destruction" (Obadiah 1:12). Hence, most scholars identify the calamity described by Obadiah with the capture and destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans in 587 B.C. But it is remarkable, on this hypothesis, that no allusion is made either in Obadiah or Jeremiah 49:7-22 to the Chaldeans or to the destruction of the temple or to the wholesale transportation of the inhabitants of Jerusalem to Babylonia. We know, however, from Ezekiel 35:1-15 and Psalm 137:7 that Edom rejoiced over the final destruction of Jerusalem by the Chaldeans in 587 B.C., and that they encouraged the destroyers to blot out the holy city. Certain it is that the events of 587 accord remarkably with the language of Obadiah 1:10-14. Pusey indeed argues from the use of the form of the direct prohibition in Obadiah 1:12-14 that Edom had not yet committed the sins against which the prophet warns him, and so Jerusalem was not yet destroyed, when Obadiah wrote. But almost all modern scholars interpret the language of Obadiah 1:12-14 as referring to what was already past; the prophet "speaks of what the Edomites had actually done as of what they ought not to do." The scholars who regard Obadiah as the first of the writing prophets locate his ministry in Judah during the reign of Jehoram (circa 845 B.C.). Both 2 Kings and 2 Chronicles tell of the war of rebellion in the days of Jehoram when Edom, after a fierce struggle, threw off the yoke of Judah (2 Kings 8:20-22 2 Chronicles 21:8-10). Shortly after the revolt of Edom, according to 2 Chronicles 21:16, the Philistines and Arabians broke into Judah, "and carried away all the substance that was found in the king's house, and his sons also, and his wives; so that there was never a son left him, save Jehoahaz, the youngest of his sons." Evidently the capital city fell into the hands of the invaders. It was a calamity of no mean proportions.

The advocates of a late date call attention to three points that weaken the case for an early date for Obadiah:

(a) The silence of 2 Kings as to the invasion of the Philistines and Arabians. But what motive could the author of Chronicles have had for inventing the story?

(b) The absence of any mention of the destruction of the city by the Philistines and Arabians. It must be acknowledged that the events of 587 B.C. accord more fully with the description in Obadiah 1:10-14, though the disaster in the days of Jehoram must have been terrible.

(c) The silence as to Edom in 2 Chronicles 21:16 f. But so also are the historic books silent as to the part that Edom took in the destruction of Jerusalem in 587.

It is true that exilic and post-exilic prophets and psalmists speak in bitter denunciation of the unbrotherly conduct of Edom (Lamentations 4:21, 22 Ezekiel 25:12-14; Ezekiel 35:1-15 Psalm 137:7 Malachi 1:1-5; compare also Isaiah 34 and 63:1-6); but it is also true that the earliest Hebrew literature bears witness to the keen rivalry between Esau and Jacob (Genesis 25:22; Genesis 27:41 Numbers 20:14-21), and one of the earliest of the writing prophets denounces Edom for unnatural cruelty toward his brother (Amos 1:11; compare Joel 3:19 (Hebrews 4:19)).

(4) The Style of Obadiah.

Most early critics praise the style. Some of the more recent critics argue for different authors on the basis of a marked difference in style within the compass of the twenty-one verses in the little roll. Thus Selbie writes in HDB: "There is a difference in style between the two halves of the book, the first being terse, animated, and full of striking figures, while the second is diffuse and marked by poverty of ideas and trite figures." The criticism of the latter part of the book is somewhat exaggerated, though it may be freely granted that the first half is more original and vigorous. The Hebrew of the book is classic, with scarcely any admixture of Aramaic words or constructions. The author may well have lived in the golden age of the Hebrew language and literature.

(5) Geographical and Historical Allusions.

The references to the different sections and cities in the land of Israel and in the land of Edom are quite intelligible. As to Sepharad (Obadiah 1:20) there is considerable difference of opinion. Schrader and some others identify it with a Shaparda in Media, mentioned in the annals of Sargon (722-705 B.C.). Many think of Asia Minor, or a region in Asia Minor mentioned in Persian inscriptions, perhaps Bithynia or Galatia (Sayce). Some think that the mention of "the captives of this host of the children of Israel" and "the captives of Jerusalem" (Obadiah 1:20) proves that both the Assyrian captivity and the Babylonian exile were already past. This argument has considerable force; but it is well to remember that Amos, in the first half of the 8th century, describes wholesale deportations from the land of Israel by men engaged in the slave trade (Amos 1:6-10). The problem of the date of Obadiah has not been solved to the satisfaction of Biblical students. Our choice must be between a very early date (circa 845) and a date shortly after 587, with the scales almost evenly balanced.

4. Interpretation of the Book:

Obadiah is to be interpreted as prediction rather than history. In 1:11-14 there are elements of historic description, but 1:1-10 and 15-21 are predictive.


Comms.: Caspari, Der Prophet Obadjah ausgelegt, 1842; Pusey, The Minor Prophets, 1860; Ewald, Commentary on the Prophets of the Old Testament (English translation), II, 277;, 1875; Keil (ET), 1880; T.T. Perowne (in Cambridge Bible), 1889; von Orelli (English translation), The Minor Prophets, 1893; Wellhausen, Die kleinen Propheten, 1898; G.A. Smith, The Book of the Twelve Prophets, II, 163;, 1898; Nowack, Die kleinen Propheten, 1903; Marti, Dodekapropheton, 1903; Eiselen, The Minor Prophets, 1907; Bewer, ICC, 1911. Miscellaneous: Kirkpatrick, Doctrine of the Prophets, 33;; Intros of Driver, Wildeboer, etc.; Selbie in HDB, III, 577-80; Barton in JE, IX, 369-70; Cheyne in EB, III, 3455-62; Peckham, An Introduction to the Study of Obadiah, 1910; Kent, Students' Old Testament, III, 1910.

John Richard Sampey




1. Title and Headings

2. Authorship or Literary Species?


1. The Introductory Section

2. The Classic Nucleus

3. A Body of Solicited Counsel

4. Some Left-over Precepts

5. The Hezekian Collection

6. Words of Agur

7. Words of King Lemuel

8. An Acrostic Eulogy of Woman


1. Liberation of the Mashal

2. Emergence of Basal Principles

3. The Conception of Wisdom


1. Under the Kings

2. The Concentrative Point

3. Its Stage in Progressive Wisdom

The Scripture book which in both the Hebrew and the Greek arrangements of the Old Testament Canon immediately succeeds the Psalms. In the Hebrew Canon it stands second in the final or supplementary division called kethubhim Septuagint Paroimiai), "writings"; placed there probably because it would be most natural to begin this section with standard collections nearest at hand, which of course would be psalms and proverbs. This book is an anthology of sayings or lessons of the sages on life, character, conduct; and as such embodies the distinctively educative strain of Hebrew literature.

I. The Book's Account of Itself.

1. Title and Headings:

At the beginning, intended apparently to cover the whole work, stands the title: "The proverbs of Solomon the son of David, king of Israel." It seemed good to the compilers, however, to repeat, or perhaps retain an older heading, "The proverbs of Solomon" at Proverbs 10, as if in some special sense the collection there beginning deserved it; and at Proverbs 25 still another heading occurs: "These also are proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out." All these ascribe the proverbs to Solomon; but the heading (30:1), "The words of Agur the son of Jakeh; the oracle," and the heading (31:1), "The words of king Lemuel; the oracle which his mother taught him," indicate that authorship other than that of Solomon is represented; while the mention of "the words of the wise" (1:6; 22:17), as also the definite heading, "These also are sayings of the wise" (24:23), ascribe parts of the book to the sages in general. The book is confessedly a series of compilations made at different times; confessedly, also, to a considerable extent at least, the work of a number, perhaps a whole guild, of writers.

2. Authorship or Literary Species?:

It is hazardous to argue either for or against a specific authorship; nor is it my intention to do so. The question naturally arises, however, in what sense this book, with its composite structure so outspoken, can lay claim to being the work of Solomon. Does the title refer to actual personal authorship, or does it name a species and type of literature of which Solomon was the originator and inspirer-as if it meant to say "the Solomonic proverbs"? We may work toward the answer of this question by noting some literary facts.

Outside of the prophets only three of the Old Testament books are provided in the original text with titles; and these three are all associated with Solomon-two of them, Proverbs and the So of Songs, directly; the third, Ecclesiastes, by an assumed name, which, however, personates Solomon. This would seem to indicate in the composition of these books an unusual degree of literary finish and self-consciousness, a sense on the part of writers or compilers that literature as an art has its claims upon them. The subject-matter of the books, too, bears this out; they are, relatively speaking, the secular books of the Bible and do not assume divine origin, as do law and prophecy. For the original impulse to such literary culture the history directs us to the reign of King Solomon; see 1 Kings 4:29-34, where is portrayed, on the part of king and court, an intense intellectual activity for its own sake, the like of which occurs nowhere else in Scripture. The forms then especially impressed upon the literature were the mashal (proverb) and the song, in both of which the versatile young king was proficient; compare 1 Kings 4:32. For the cultivation of the mashal these men of letters availed themselves of a favorite native form, the popular proverb; but they gave to it a literary mold and finish which would thenceforth distinguish it as the Solomonic mashal (see PROVERB). This then was the literary form in which from the time of Solomon onward the sages of the nation put their counsels of life, character, conduct; it became as distinctively the mold for this didactic strain of literature as was the heroic couplet for a similar strain in the age of Dryden and Pope.

It is reasonable therefore to understand this title of the Book of Proverbs as designating rather a literary species than a personal authorship; it names this anthology of Wisdom in its classically determined phrasing, and for age and authorship leaves a field spacious enough to cover the centuries of its currency. Perhaps also the proverb of this type was by the term "of Solomon" differentiated from mashal of other types, as for instance those of Balaam and Job and Koheleth.

II. The Successive Compilations.

1. The Introductory Section:

That the Book of Proverbs is composed of several collections made at different times is a fact that lies on the surface; as many as eight of these are clearly marked, and perhaps subdivisions might be made. The book was not originally conceived as the development of a theme, or even as a unity; whatever unity it has was an afterthought. That it did come to stand, however, for one homogeneous body of truth, and to receive a name and a degree of articulation as such, will be maintained in a later section (see III, below). Meanwhile, we will take the sections in order and note some of the salient characteristics of each. The introductory section, Proverbs 1-9, has the marks of having been added later than most of the rest; and is introductory in the sense of concentrating the thought to the concept of Wisdom, and of recommending the spiritual attitude in which it is to be received. Its style-and in this it is distinguished from the rest of the book-is hortatory; it is addressed to "my son" (1:8 and often) or "my sons" (4:1; 5:07; 7:24; 8:32), in the tone of a father or a sage, bringing stores of wisdom and experience to the young. The first six verses are prefatory, giving the purpose and use of the whole book. Then Proverbs 1:7 lays down as the initial point, or spiritual bedrock of Wisdom, the fear of Yahweh, a principle repeated toward the end of this introductory section (9:10), and evidently regarded as very vital to the whole Wisdom system; compare Job 28:28 Psalm 111:10; Sirach 1:14. The effect of this prefatory and theme-propounding matter is to launch the collection of proverbs much after the manner of modern literary works, and the rest of the section bears this out fairly well. The most striking feature of the section, besides its general homiletic tone, is its personification of Wisdom. She is represented as calling to the sons of men and commending to them her ways (Proverbs 1:20-33; Proverbs 8:1-21, 32-36); she condescends, for right and purity's sake, to enter into rivalry with the "strange woman," the temptress, not in secret, but in open and fearless dealing (Proverbs 7:6-8:9; Proverbs 9:1-6, 13-18); and, in a supremely poetic passage (Proverbs 8:22-31), she describes her relation from the beginning with God and with the sons of men. It represents the value that the Hebrew mind came to set upon the human endowment of Wisdom. The Hebrew philosopher thought not in terms of logic and dialectics, but in symbol and personality; and to this high rank, almost like that of a goddess, his imagination has exalted the intellectual and spiritual powers of man.


2. The Classic Nucleus:

The section Proverbs 10:1-22:16, with the repeated heading "The proverbs of Solomon", seems to have been the original nucleus of the whole collection. All the proverbs in this, the longest section of the book, are molded strictly to the couplet form (the one triplet, 19:7, being only an apparent exception, due probably to the loss of a line), each proverb a parallelism in condensed phrasing, in which the second line gives either some contrast to or some amplification of the first. This was doubtless the classic art norm of the Solomonic mashal.

The section seems to contain the product of that period of proverb-culture during which the sense of the model was a little rigid and severe, not venturing yet to limber up the form. Signs of a greater freedom, however, begin to appear, and possibly two strata of compilation are represented. In Proverbs 10-15 the prevailing couplet is antithetic, which embodies the most self-closed circuit of the thought. Out of 184 proverbs only 19 do not contain some form of contrast, and 10 of these are in Proverbs 15. In Proverbs 16-22:16, on the other hand, the prevailing form is the so-called synonymous or amplified couplet, which leaves the thought-circuit more open to illustrative additions. Out of 191 proverbs only 18 are antithetic, and these contain contrasts of a more subtle and hidden suggestion. As to subject-matter, the whole section is miscellaneous; in the first half, however, where the antithesis prevails, are the great elemental distinctions of life, wisdom and folly, righteousness and wickedness, industry and laziness, wise speech and reticence, and the like; while in the second half there is a decided tendency to go farther afield for subtler and less obvious distinctions. In this way they seem to reflect a growing and refining literary development, the gradual shaping and accumulation of materials for a philosophy of life; as yet, however, not articulated or reduced to unity of principle.

3. A Body of Solicited Counsel:

In the short section Proverbs 22:17-24:22, the proverb literature seems for the first time to have become as it were self-conscious-to regard itself as a strain of wise counsel to be reckoned with for its educative value. The section is introduced by a preface (22:17-21), in which these "words of the wise" are recommended to some person or delegation, "that thou mayest carry back words of truth to them that send thee" (22:21). The counsels seem intended for persons in responsible position, perhaps attached to the court (compare 23:1-3), who, as they are to deal officially with men and affairs, need the prudence, purity, and temperance which will fit them for their duties. As to form, the detached couplet appears only occasionally; the favorite form is the quatrain; but proverbs of a greater number of lines are freely used, and one, the counsel on wine drinking (23:29-35), runs to 17 lines. In tone and specific counsel the section has many resemblances to the introductory section (Proverbs 1-9), and provokes the conjecture that this latter section, as the introduction to a compiled body of Wisdom, was composed not long after it.

4. Some Left-over Precepts:

The little appendix (Proverbs 24:23-34) is headed, "These also are sayings of the wise." They refer to wise intercourse and ordered industry. The little poem on the sluggard (Proverbs 24:30-34), with its refrain (Proverbs 24:33, 14), is noteworthy as being apparently one stanza of a poem which is completed with the same refrain in the introductory section (Proverbs 6:6-11). The stanzas are of the same length and structure; and it would seem the latter named was either discovered later or composed as a supplement to the one in this section.

5. The Hezekian Collection:

The long section (Proverbs 25-29) is headed, "These also are proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out." The collection claims to be only a compilation; but if, as already suggested, we understand the term "proverbs of Solomon" as equivalent to "Solomonic proverbs," referring rather to species than personal authorship, the compilation may have been made not merely from antiquity, but from the archives of the Wisdom guilds. If so, we have a clue to the state of the Wisdom literature in Hezekiah's time. The collection as a whole, unlike secs. 3 and 4, returns predominantly to the classic form of the couplet, but with a less degree of compression and epigram. There is a tendency to group numbers of proverbs on like subjects; note for instance the group on the king (Proverbs 25:2-7). The most striking-feature of the collection is the prevalence of simile and analogy, and in general the strong figurative coloring, especially in Proverbs 25-27; it reads like a new species of proverb when we note that in all the earlier Solomonic sections there are only two clearly defined similes (10:26; 11:22). In Proverbs 25-27 are several proverbs of three, four, or five lines, and at the end (27:23-27) a charming little poem of ten lines on husbandry. Proverbs 28; 29 are entirely of couplets, and the antithetic proverb reappears in a considerable number. As to subject-matter, the thought of this section makes a rather greater demand on the reader's culture and thinking powers, the analogies being less obvious, more subtle. It is decidedly the reflection of a more literary age than that of section 2.

6. Words of Agur:

Proverbs 30 is taken up with "the words of Agur the son of Jakeh," a person otherwise unknown, who disclaims expert knowledge of Wisdom lore (30:3), and avows an agnostic attitude toward theological speculations, yet shows a tender reverence before the name and unplumbed mystery of Yahweh (30:6, 9, 32). His words amount to a plea against a too adventurous, not to say presumptuous, spirit in the supposed findings of human Wisdom, and as such supply a useful makeweight to the mounting pride of the scholar. Yet over this peculiar plea is placed the word "Massa" (ha-massa'); "burden" or "oracle," the term used for prophetic disclosures; and the word for "said" ("the man said," ne'-um ha-genjer) is the word elsewhere used for mystic or divine utterance. This seems to mark a stage in the self-consciousness of Wisdom when it was felt that its utterances could be ranked by the side of prophecy as a revelation of truth (compare what Wisdom says of herself, 8:14), and could claim the authoritative term "oracle." For the rest, apart from the humble reverence with which they are imbued, these words of Agur do not rise to a high level of spiritual thinking; they tend rather to the riddling element, or "dark sayings" (compare 1:6). The form of his proverbs is peculiar, verging indeed on the artificial; he deals mostly in the so-called numerical proverb ("three things.... yea, four"), a style of utterance paralleled elsewhere only in 6:16-19, but something of a favorite in the later cryptic sayings of the scribes, as may be seen in Pirqe 'Abhoth.

7. Words of King Lemuel:

Proverbs 31:1-9 (possibly the whole chapter should be included) is headed, "The words of king Lemuel; the oracle which his mother taught him." Here occurs again the mysterious Word "oracle," which would seem to be open to the same interpretation as the one given in the previous paragraph, though some would make this otherwise unknown monarch a king of Massa, and refer to the name of one of the descendants of Ishmael (Genesis 25:14), presumably a tribal designation. The Hebrew sages from the beginning were in rivalry and fellowship with the sages of other nations (compare 1 Kings 4:30, 31); and in the Book of Job, the supreme reach of Wisdom utterance, all of the sages, Job included, are from countries outside of Palestine. King Lemuel, if an actual personage, was not a Jew; and probably Agur was not. The words of Lemuel are a mother's plea to her royal son for chastity, temperance and justice, the kingly virtues. The form is the simple Hebrew parallelism, not detached couplets, but continuous.

8. An Acrostic Eulogy of Woman:

The Book of Proverbs ends in a manner eminently worthy of its high standard of sanity and wisdom. Without any heading (it may possibly belong to the "oracle" that the mother of Lemuel taught her son) the last 22 verses (31:10-31) constitute a single poem in praise of a worthy woman, extolling especially her household virtues. In form these verses begin in the original with the successive 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet; a favorite form of Hebrew verse, as may be seen (in the original) in several of the psalms, notably Psalm 119, and in Lamentations 1-4.

III. Movement toward a Philosophy.

It has been much the fashion with modern critics to deny to the Hebrews a truly philosophic mind; this they say was rather the distinctive gift of the Greeks; while for their solution of the problem of life the Hebrews depended on direct revelation from above, which precluded that quasi-abeyance of concepts, that weighing of cosmic and human elements, involved in the commonly received notion of philosophy. This criticism takes account of only one side of the Hebrew mind. It is true they believed their life to be in direct contact with the will and word of Yahweh, revealed to them in terms which could not be questioned; but in the findings and deliverance of their own intellectual powers, too, they had a reliance and confidence which merits the name of an authentic philosophy. But theirs was a philosophy not of speculative world-making, but of conduct and the practical management of life; and it was intuitive and analogical, not the result of dialectical reasoning. Hence, its name wisdom, the solution itself, rather than philosophy, the love of wisdom, the search for solution. This Book of Proverbs, beginning with detached maxims on the elements of conduct, reveals in many suggestive ways the gradual emergence of a philosophy, a comprehensive wisdom, as it were, in the making; it is thus the pioneer book of that Hebrew Wisdom which we see developed to maturer things in the books of Job and Ecclesiastes. Some of its salient stages may here be traced.

1. Liberation of the Mashal:

We may first note it, or the literary preparation for it, in the opening up of the mashal, or proverb unit, toward added elements of illustration, explanation, amplitude, a development that begins to appear, in the oldest section (the classic nucleus, section 2) at about Proverbs 16. The primitive antithetic mashal contrasted two aspects of truth in such a way as to leave the case closed; there was nothing for it but to go on to a new subject. This had the good effect of setting over against each other the great elemental antagonisms of life: righteousness and wickedness, obedience and lawlessness, teachableness and perversity, industry and laziness, prudence and presumption, reticence and prating, etc., and so far forth it was a masterly analysis of the essentials of individual and social conduct. As soon, however, as the synonymous and illustrative mashal prevails, we are conscious of a limbering up and greater penetrativeness of the range of thought; it is open to subtler distinctions and remoter discoveries, and the analogies tend to employ the less direct relationships of cause and effect. This is increased as we go on, especially by the greater call upon the imagination in the figurative tissue of the Hezekian section, and by the decidedly greater tendency to the riddling and paradox element. The mashal increases in length and amplitude, both by the grouping of similar subjects and by the enlargement from the couplet to the quatrain and the developed poem. All this, while not yet a self-conscious philosophy, is a step on the way thereto.

2. Emergence of Basal Principles:

One solid presupposition of the sages, like an axiom, was never called in question: namely, that righteousness and wisdom are identical, that wickedness of any sort is folly. This imparts at once a kind of prophetic coloring to the Wisdom precepts, well represented by the opening proverb in the original section (after the prefatory one about the wise son), "Treasures of wickedness profit nothing; but righteousness delivereth from death" (Proverbs 10:2). Thus from the outset is furnished an uncompromising background on which the fascinating allurements of vice, the crooked ways of injustice and dishonesty, the sober habits of goodness and right dealing, show for what they are and what they tend to. The sages thus put themselves, too, in entire harmony with what is taught by priests and prophets; there is no quarrel with the law or the word; they simply supply the third strand in the threefold cord of instruction (compare Jeremiah 18:18). From this basal presumption other principles, scarcely less axiomatic, come in view: that the fount and spring of wise living is reverence, the fear of Yahweh; that the ensuring frame of mind is teachableness, the precluding attitude perverseness; that it is the mark of wisdom, or righteousness, to be fearless and above board, of wickedness, which is folly, to be crooked and secretive. These principles recur constantly, not, as a system, but in numerous aspects and applications in the practical business of life. For their sanctions they refer naively to the Hebrew ideal of rewards on the one hand-wealth, honor, long life, family (compare Proverbs 11:31)-and of shame and loss and destruction on the other; but these are emphasized not as direct bestowments or inflictions from a personal Deity, rather as in the law of human nature. The law that evil works its own destruction, good brings its own reward, is forming itself in men's reason as one of the fundamental concepts out of which grew the Wisdom philosophy.

3. The Conception of Wisdom:

From times long before Solomon sagacity in counsel, and. skill to put such counsel into maxim or parable, gave their possessor, whether man or woman, a natural leadership and repute in the local communities (compare 2 Samuel 14:2; 2 Samuel 20:16); and Solomon's exceptional endowment showed itself not merely in his literary tastes, but in his ability, much esteemed among Orientals, to determine the merits of cases brought before him for judgment (1 Kings 3:16-28), and to answer puzzling questions (1 Kings 10:1, 6, 7). It was from such estimate of men's intellectual powers, from the recognition of mental alertness, sagacity, grasp, in their application to the practical issues of life (compare Proverbs 1:1-5), that the conception of Wisdom in its larger sense arose. As, however, the cultivation of such sagacity of utterance passed beyond the pastime of a royal court (compare 1 Kings 4:29-34) into the hands of city elders and sages it attained to greatly enhanced value; note how the influence of such sage is idealized (Job 29:7-25). The sages had definite calling and mission of their own, more potent perhaps than belonged to priests and prophets; the frequent reference to the young and the "simple" or immature in the Book of Pr would indicate that they were virtually the schoolmasters and educators of the nation. As such, working as they did in a fellowship and collaboration with each other, the subject-matter with which they dealt would not remain as casual and miscellaneous maxims, but work toward a center and system of doctrine which could claim the distinction of an articulated philosophy of life, and all the more since it was so identified with the great Hebrew ideal of righteousness and truth. We have already noted how this sense of the dignity and value of their calling manifested itself in the body of precepts sent in response to solicitation (3 above), with its appendix (4 above) (Proverbs 22:17-24:34). It was not long after this stage of Wisdom-culture, I think, that a very significant new word came into their vocabulary, the word (tushiyah, a puzzle to the translators, variously rendered "sound wisdom," "effectual working," and called by the lexicographers "a technical term of the Wisdom literature," BDB, under the word). Its earliest appearance, and the only one except in the introductory section (Proverbs 18:1), is where the man who separates himself from others' opinions and seeks his own desire is said to quarrel with all tushiyah. The word seems to designate Wisdom in its subjective aspect, as an authentic insight or intuition of truth, the human power to rise into the region of true revelation from below, as distinguished from the prophetic or legal word spoken directly from above. Outside of Proverbs and Job the word occurs only twice: once in Micah 6:9, and once in Isaiah 28:29, in which latter case the prophet has deliberately composed a passage (28:23-29) in the characteristic mashal idiom, and attributed that strain of insight to Yahweh. Evidently there came a time in the culture of Wisdom when its utterances attained in men's estimate to a parity with utterances direct from the unseen; perhaps this explains why Agur's and Lemuel's words could be boldly ranked as oracles (see above, 6 and 7). At any rate, such a high distinction, an authority derived from intimacy with the creative work of Yahweh (Proverbs 8:30, 31), is ascribed to Wisdom (chokhmah, in the introductory section; "counsel is mine," Wisdom is made to say, "and tushiyah" (Proverbs 8:14). Thus the Book of Proverbs reveals to us a philosophy, as it were, in the making and from scattered counsels attaining gradually to the summit where the human intellect could place its findings by the side of divine oracles.

IV. Considerations of Age and Literary Kinship.

To get at the history of the Book of Proverbs, several inquiries must be raised. When were the proverbs composed? The book, like the Book of Psalms, is confessedly an anthology, containing various accumulations, and both by style and maturing thought bearing the marks of different ages. When were the successive compilations made? And, finally, when did the strain of literature here represented reach that point of self-conscious unity and coordination which justified its being reckoned with as a strain by itself and choosing the comprehensive name Wisdom? What makes these inquiries hard to answer is the fact that these proverbs are precepts for the common people, relating to ordinary affairs of the village, the market, and the field, and move in lines remote from politics and dynastic vicissitudes and wars. They are, to an extent far more penetrative and pervasive than law or prophecy, the educative literature on which the sturdy rank and file of the nation was nourished. `Where there is no vision, the people let loose,' says a Hezekian proverb (Proverbs 29:18); but so they are also when there is no abiding tonic of social convention and principle. Precisely this latter it is which this Book of Prey in a large degree reveals; and in course of time its value was so felt that, as we have seen, it could rank itself as an asset of life by the side of vision. It represents, in a word, the human movement toward self-directiveness and self-reliance, without supine dependence on ruler or public sentiment (compare Proverbs 29:25, 26). When and how was this sane and wholesome communal fiber developed?

1. Under the Kings:

When Solomon and his court made the mashal an elegant fad, they builded better than they knew. They gave to the old native form of the proverb and parable, as reduced to epigrammatic mold and polish, the eclat of a popular literature. This was done orally at first (Solomon spoke his proverbs, 1 Kings 4:32, 33); but the recording of such carefully expressed utterances could not be long delayed; perhaps this brief style coupe was the most natural early exercise in the new transition from the unwieldly cuneiform to the use of papyrus and a more flexible alphabet, which probably came in with the monarchy. At any rate, here was the medium for a practical didactic literature, applied to the matters of daily life and intercourse to which in Solomon's time the nation was enthusiastically awake. There is no valid reason for denying to Solomon, or at least to his time, the initiation of the Solomonic mashal; and if, as has been suggested, the name "proverbs of Solomon" designates rather literary species than personal authorship, the title of the whole book (Proverbs 1:1), as well as the headings of sections (Proverbs 10:1; Proverbs 25:1), may be given in entire good faith, whatever the specific time or personal authorship of the utterances. Nor is there anything either in recorded history or the likelihood of the case to make improbable that the activity of the "men of Hezekiah" means just what is said; these men of letters were adding this supplementary collection (Proverbs 25-29) to a body of proverbs that already existed and were recognized as Solomon's. This would put the composition of the main body of the Proverbs (chapters 10-29) prior to the reign of Hezekiah. They represent therefore the chief literary instruction available to the people in the long period of the Kings from Solomon onward, a period which otherwise was very meagerly supplied. The Mosaic Law, as we gather from the finding of the Law in the time of Josiah (2 Kings 22), was at best a sequestered thing in the keeping-or neglect-of priests and judges; the prophetic word was a specific message for great national emergencies; the accumulations of sacred song were the property of the temple and the cult; what then was there for the education of the people? There were indeed the folk-tales and catechetical legends of their heroic history; but there were also, most influential of all, these wise sayings of the sages, growing bodies of precept and parable, preserved in village centers, published in the open places by the gate (compare Job 29:7), embodying the elements of a common-sense religion and citizenship, and representing views of life which were not only Hebrew, but to a great extent international among the neighbor kingdoms.

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samz, (tehillim, "praises," cepher tehillim, "book of praises"; Psalmoi, Psalterion):


1. Title

2. Place in the Canon

3. Number of Psalms

4. Titles in the Hebrew Text


1. David as a Psalmist

2. Psalmody after David


1. Division into Five Books

2. Smaller Groups of Psalms




1. The Soul's Converse with God

2. The Messiah

3. Problem of Sin

4. Wrestling with Doubts

5. Out of the Depths

6. Ethical Ideals

7. Praying against the Wicked

8. The Future Life


I. Introductory Topics.

1. Title:

The Hebrew title for the Psalter is cepher tehillim, "book of praises." When we consider the fact that more than 20 of these poems have praise for their keynote, and that there are outbursts of thanksgiving in many others, the fitness of the Hebrew title dawns upon us. As Ker well says, "The book begins with benediction, and ends with praise-first, blessing to man, and then glory to God." Hymns of praise, though found in all parts of the Psalter, become far more numerous in Books IV and V, as if the volume of praise would gather itself up into a Hallelujah Chorus at the end. In the Greek version the book is entitled in some manuscripts Psalmoi, in others Psalterion, whence come our English titles "Psalms," and "Psalter." The Greek word psalmos, as well as the Hebrew mizmor, both of which are used in the superscriptions prefixed to many of the separate psalms, indicates a poem sung to the accompaniment of stringed instruments. The title mizmor is found before 57 psalms. The Psalter was the hymnal of the Jewish nation. To individual psalms other titles are sometimes prefixed, such as shir, "song"; tehillah, "praise"; tephillah, "prayer," etc. The Psalter was both prayerbook and hymnal to the Jewish people. It was also a manual for the nurture of the spiritual life in private as well as public worship.

2. Place in the Canon:

The Psalms were placed in the kethubhim or "Writings," the third group of the Hebrew Scriptures. As the chief book of the kethubhim, the Psalter appears first in the great majority of German manuscripts, though the Spanish manuscripts place Psalms after Chronicles, and the Talmud puts Ruth before Psalms. There has never been any serious question as to the right of the Psalter to a place in the Canon of Scripture. The book is possibly more highly esteemed among Christians than by the Jews. If Christians were permitted to retain only one book in the Old Testament, they would almost certainly choose Psalms. By 100 B.C., and probably at a much earlier date, the Book of Psalms was completed and recognized as part of the Hagiographa, the 3rd division of the Hebrew Bible.

3. Number of Psalms:

According to the Hebrew text, followed by modern VSS, there are 150 separate poems in the Psalter. The Greek version has an additional psalm, in which David describes his victory over Goliath; but this is expressly said to be "outside the number." The Septuagint, followed by Vulgate, combined Psalms 9 and 10, and also 114 and 115, into a single psalm. On the other hand, they divide Psalms 116 and 147 each into two poems. Thus, for the greater part of the Psalter the Hebrew enumeration is one number in advance of that in the Greek and Latin Bibles.

The existing division in the Hebrew text has been called in question at various points. Psalms 42 and 43 are almost certainly one poem (see refrain in 42:5, 11; 43:5); and it is probable that Psalms 9 and 10 were originally one, as in Septuagint. On the other hand, it is thought by some that certain psalms were composed of two psalms which were originally separate. We may cite as examples Psalm 19:1-6, 7-14; Psalm 24:1-6, 7-10; 27:1-6, 7-14; 36:1-4, 5-12. It is evident that such combinations of two different poems into one may have taken place, for we have an example in Psalm 108, which is composed of portions of two other psalms (57:7-11; 60:5-12).

4. Titles in the Hebrew Text:

(1) Value of the Superscriptions.

It is the fashion among advanced critics to waive the titles of the psalms out of court as wholly worthless and misleading. This method is as thoroughly unscientific as the older procedure of defending the superscriptions as part of an inspired text. These titles are clearly very old, for the Septuagint, in the 2nd century B.C., did not understand many of them. The worst that can be said of the superscriptions is that they are guesses of Hebrew editors and scribes of a period long prior to the Greek version. As to many of the musical and liturgical titles, the best learning of Hebrew and Christian scholars is unable to recover the original meaning. The scribes who prefixed the titles had no conceivable reason for writing nonsense into their prayerbook and hymnal. These superscriptions and subscriptions all had a worthy meaning, when they were first placed beside individual psalms. This indisputable fact of the great antiquity of these titles ought forever to make it impossible for scientific research to ignore them. Grant for the sake of argument, that not one of them came from the pen of the writers of the Psalms, but only from editors and compilers of exilic or post-exilic days, it would still be reasonable to give attention to the views of ancient Hebrew scholars, before considering the conjectures of modern critics on questions of authorship and date. Sources of information, both oral and written, to which they had access, have long since perished. In estimating the value of their work, we have a right to use the best critical processes known to us; but it is unscientific to overlook the fact that their proximity to the time of the composition of the Psalms gave them an advantage over the modern scholar. If it be said by objectors that these ancient scribes formed their conclusions by the study of the life of David as portrayed in the historical books of Kings and Chronicles, the reply is ready that several historical notices in the titles cannot be thus explained. Who was Cush? Who was Abimelech? (Psalms 7 and 34). A careful weighing of the facts concerning the superscriptions will make it seem highly improbable that the earliest of these titles does not reach back into pre-exilic times. We almost certainly have in them the results of the labors of Hebrew scribes and compilers stretching over several centuries. Some of the titles may have been appended by the psalmists themselves.

We are far from claiming that the titles are always intelligible to us, or that, when understood, they are always correct. The process of constructing titles indicative of authorship had not ceased in the 2nd century B.C., the Septuagint adding many to psalms that were anonymous in the Hebrew. The view expressed nearly 50 years ago by Perowne is eminently sane: "The inscriptions cannot always be relied on. They are sometimes genuine, and really represent the most ancient tradition. At other times, they are due to the caprice of later editors and collectors, the fruits of conjecture, or of dimmer and more uncertain traditions. In short, the inscriptions of the Psalms are like the subscriptions to the Epistles of the New Testament. They are not of any necessary authority, and their value must be weighed and tested by the usual critical processes."

(2) Thirtle's Theory.

J. W. Thirtle (The Titles of the Psalms, 1904) advances the hypothesis that both superscriptions and subscriptions were incorporated in the Psalter, and that in the process of copying the Psalms by hand, the distinction between the superscription of a given psalm and the subscription of the one immediately preceding it was finally lost. When at length the different psalms were separated from one another, as in printed editions, the subscriptions and superscriptions were all set forth as superscriptions. Thus it came about that the musical subscription of a given psalm was prefixed to the literary superscription of the psalm immediately following it. The prayer of Habakkuk (Habakkuk 3) was taken by Thirtle as a model or normal psalm; and in this instance the superscription was literary. "A prayer of Habakkuk the prophet, upon Shigionoth," while the subscription is musical, "For the Chief Musician, on my stringed instruments." The poem of Hezekiah in celebration of his recovery (Isaiah 38:9-20) seems to support Thirtle's thesis, the superscription stating the authorship and the occasion that gave birth to the psalm, while Isaiah 38:20 hints at the musical instruments with which the psalm was to be accompanied in public worship. If now the musical notes be separated from the notes of authorship and date that follow them, the musical notes being appended as subscriptions, while the literary notes are kept as real superscriptions, the outcome of the separation is in many instances a more intelligible nexus between title and poem. Thus the subscript to Psalm 55, "The dove of the distant terebinths," becomes a pictorial title of 55:6-8 of the psalm. The application of the rule that the expression "for the Chief Musician" is always a subscript removes the difficulty in the title of Psalm 88. The superscription of Psalm 88, on Thirtle's hypothesis, becomes "Maschil of Heman the Ezrahite." Psalm 87 thus has a subscript that repeats the statement of its superscription, but with an addition which harmonizes with the content of the poem. "Mahalath Leannoth," with a slight correction in vocalization, probably means "Dancings with Shoutings," and 87:7 speaks of both singing and dancing. The tone of Psalm 87 is exceedingly cheerful; but Psalm 88 is the saddest in the entire Psalter. The application of Thirtle's hypothesis also leaves Psalm 88 with a consistent literary title, whereas the usual title ascribes the psalm first to the sons of Korah and then to Heman the Ezrahite.

(3) Meaning of the Hebrew Titles.

Scholars have not been able to come to agreement as to the meaning and application of a goodly number of words and phrases found in the titles of the Psalms. We append an alphabetical list, together with hints as to the probable meaning:

(a) 'Ayeleth ha-Shachar (Psalm 22) means "the hind of the morning," or possibly "the help of the morning." Many think that the words were the opening line of some familiar song.

(b) `Alamoth (Psalm 46) means "maidens." The common view is that the psalm was to be sung by soprano voices. Some speak of a female choir and compare 1 Chronicles 15:20 Psalm 68:11, 24 f. According to Thirtle, the title is a subscript to Psalm 45, which describes the marriage of a princess, a function at which it would be quite appropriate to have a female choir.

(c) 'Al-tashcheth (Psalms 57-59; 75) means "destroy not;" and is quite suitable as a subscript to Psalms 56-58 and 74 (compare Deuteronomy 9:26). Many think this the first word of a vintage song (compare Isaiah 65:8).

(d) Ascents, So of" (Psalms 120-184): the Revised Version (British and American) translates the title to 15 psalms "A So of Ascents," where the King James Version has "A So of Degrees." The most probable explanation of the meaning of the expression is that these 15 psalms were sung by bands of pilgrims on their way to the yearly feasts in Jerusalem (Psalm 122:4). Psalms 121-123; 125; 127; 128 and 132-134 are well suited for use on such occasions (see, however, Expository Times, XII, 62).

(e) "For the Chief Musician": 55 psalms are dedicated to the precentor or choir leader of the temple. "To the Chief Musician" might mean that the precentor was the author of certain psalms, or that there was a collection of hymns compiled by him for use in temple worship, or that certain psalms were placed in his hands, with suggestions as to the character of the poems and the music which was to accompany them. It is quite likely that there was an official collection of psalms for public worship in the custody of the choir master of the temple.

(f) "Dedication of the House" (Psalm 30): The title probably refers to the dedication of Yahweh's house; whether in the days of David, in connection with the removal of the ark to Jerusalem, or in the days of Zerubbabel, or in the time of Judas Maccabeus, it is impossible to say positively. If Psalm 39 was used on any one of these widely separated occasions, that fact might account for the insertion of the caption, "a So at the Dedication of the House."

(g) "Degrees": see "Ascents" above.

(h) Gittith (Psalms 8; 81; 84) is commonly supposed to refer to an instrument invented in Gath or to a tune that was used in the Philistine city. Thirtle emends slightly to gittoth, "wine presses," and connects Psalms 7; 80 and 83 with the Feast of Tabernacles.

(i) Higgayon: This word is not strictly a title, but occurs in connection with Celah in Psalm 9:16. the Revised Version (British and American) translates the word in Psalm 92:3, "a solemn sound," and in Psalm 19:14, "meditation." It is probably a musical note equivalent to largo.

(j) Yedhuthun: In the title of Psalm 39, Jeduthun might well be identical with the Chief Musician. In Psalms 62 and 77 the Revised Version (British and American) renders "after the manner of Jeduthun." We know from 1 Chronicles 16:41; 1 Chronicles 25:3 that JEDUTHUN (which see) was a choir leader in the days of David. He perhaps introduced a method of conducting the service of song which ever afterward was associated with his name. (k) Yonath 'elem rechoqim (Psalm 56): We have already called attention to the fact that as a subscript to Psalm 55 "the dove of the distant terebinths," or "the silent dove of them that are afar off," would have a point of contact with Psalm 55:6-8.

(l) Machalath (Psalm 53), Machalath le`annoth (Psalm 88): Perhaps Thirtle's vocalization of the Hebrew consonants as mecholoth, "dancings," is correct. As a subscript to Psalm 87; mecholoth may refer to David's joy at the bringing of the ark to Zion (2 Samuel 6:14, 15).

(m) Maskil (Psalms 32; 42-45; 52-55; 74; 78; 88; 89; 142): The exact meaning of this common term is not clear. Briggs suggests "a meditation," Thirtle and others "a psalm of instruction," Kirkpatrick "a cunning psalm." Some of the 13 psalms bearing this title are plainly didactic, while others are scarcely to be classed as psalms of instruction.

(n) Mikhtam (Psalms 16; 56-60): Following the rabbinical guess, some translate "a golden poem." The exact meaning is unknown.

(o) Muth labben: The title is generally supposed to refer to a composition entitled "Death of the Son." Possibly the melody to which this composition was sung was the tune to which Psalm 9 (or 8) was to be sung. Thirtle translates "The Death of the Champion," and regards it as a subscription to Psalm 8, in celebration of the victory over Goliath.

(p) On "Neghinoth'' occurs 6 times (Psalms 4; 6; 54; 55; 67; 76), and means "with stringed instruments." Neghinath (Psalm 61) may be a slightly defective writing for Neghinoth. Perhaps stringed instruments alone were used with psalms having this title. According to Thirtle's hypothesis, the title was originally a subscript to Psalms 3; 5; 53; 54; 60; 66; 75.

(q) Nechiloth (Psalm 5), possibly a subscript to Psalm 4, is supposed by some to refer to "wind instruments," possibly flutes.

(r) Celah, though not strictly a title, may well be discussed in connection with the superscriptions. It occurs 71 times in the Psalms and 3 times in Habakkuk. It is almost certainly technical term whose meaning was well known to the precentor and the choir in the temple. The Septuagint always, Symmachus and Theodotion generally, render diapsalma, which probably denotes an instrumental interlude. The Targum Aquila and some other ancient versions render "forever." Jerome, following Aquila, translates it "always." Many moderns derive Celah from a root meaning "to raise," and suppose it to be a sign to the musicians to strike up with a louder accompaniment. Possibly the singing ceased for a moment. A few think it is a liturgical direction to the congregation to "lift up" their voices in benediction. It is unwise to dogmatize as to the meaning of this very common word.


(s) Sheminith (Psalms 6; 12), meaning "the eighth," probably denotes the male choir, as distinguished from `Alamoth, the maidens' choir. That both terms are musical notes is evident from 1 Chronicles 15:19-21.

(t) Shiggayon (Psalm 7) is probably a musical note. Some think it denotes "a dithyrambic poem in wild ecstatic wandering rhythms, with corresponding music."

(u) Shoshannim (Psalms 45; 69) means "lilies." Shoshannim `edhuth (Psalm 80) means "lilies, a testimony." Shushah `edhuth (Psalm 60) may be rendered "the lily of testimony." Thirtle represents these titles as subscripts to Psalms 44; 59; 68; 79, and associates them with the spring festival, Passover. Others regard them as indicating the melody to which the various psalms were to be sung.

(v) "So of Loves" (Psalm 45) is appropriate as a literary title to a marriage song.

(4) Testimony of the Titles as to Authorship.

(a) Psalm 90 is ascribed to Moses.

(b) To David 73 psalms are ascribed, chiefly in Books I and II.

(c) Two are assigned to Solomon (Psalms 72; 127).

(d) 12 are ascribed to Asaph (Psalms 50; 73-83).

(e) 11 are assigned to the sons of Korah (Psalms 42-49; 84; 85; 87).

(f) Psalm 88 is attributed to Heman the Ezrahite.

(g) Psalm 89 bears the name of Ethan the Ezrahire.

In most cases it is plain that the editors meant to indicate the authors or writers of the psalms. It is possible that the phrase "to David" may sometimes have been prefixed to certain psalms, merely to indicate that they were found in a collection which contained Davidic psalms. It is also possible that the titles "to Asaph" and' "to the sons of Korah" may have originally meant that the psalms thus designated belonged to a collection in the custody of these temple singers. Psalm 72 may also be a prayer for Solomon rather than a psalm BY Solomon. At the same time, we must acknowledge, in the light of the titles describing the occasion of composition, that the most natural interpretation of the various superscriptions is that they indicate the supposed authors of the various poems to which they are prefixed. Internal evidence shows conclusively that some of these titles are incorrect. Each superscription should be tested by a careful study of the psalm to which it is appended.

(5) Titles Describing the Occasion of Writing.

There are 13 of these, all bearing the name of David. (a) Psalms 7; 59; 56; 34; 52; 57; 142; 54 are assigned to the period of his persecution by Saul. (b) During the period of his reign over. all Israel, David is credited with Psalms 18; 60; 51; 3; and 63.

II. Authorship and Age of the Psalms.

Psalm 90 is ascribed to Moses. It is the fashion now to deny that Moses wrote anything. A careful study of Psalm 90 has brought to light nothing inconsistent with Mosaic authorship. The dignity, majesty and pathos of the poem are worthy of the great lawgiver and intercessor.

1. David as a Psalmist:

(1) The Age of David Offered Fruitful Soil for the Growth of Religious Poetry.

(a) The political and religious reforms of Samuel created a new sense of national unity, and kindled the fires of religious patriotism. (b) Music had a large place in the life of the prophetic guilds or schools of the prophets, and was used in public religious exercises (1 Samuel 10:5 f). (c) The victories of David and the internal expansion of the life of Israel would inevitably stimulate the poetic instinct of men of genius; compare the Elizabethan age and the Victorian era in English literature. (d) The removal of the ark to the new capital and the organization of the Levitical choirs would stimulate poets to compose hymns of praise to Yahweh (2 Samuel 6 1 Chronicles 15; 1 Chronicles 16; 25).

It is the fashion in certain critical circles to blot out the Mosaic era as unhistoric, all accounts of it being considered legendary or mythical. It is easy then to insist on the elimination of all the higher religious teaching attributed to Samuel. This leaves David "a rude king in a semi-barbaric age," or, as Cheyne puts it, "the versatile condottiere, chieftain, and king." It would seem more reasonable to accept as trustworthy the uniform tradition of Israel as to the great leaders, Moses, Samuel and David, than to rewrite Israel's history out of the tiny fragments of historical material that are accepted by skeptical critics as credible. It is often said that late writers read into their accounts of early heroes their own ideas of what would be fitting. James Robertson's remark in reply has great weight: "This habit of explaining the early as the backward projection of the late is always liable to the objection that it leaves the late itself without explanation" (Poetry and Religion of the Psalms, 332).

(2) David's Qualifications for Composing Psalms

(a) He was a skillful musician, with a sense of rhythm and an ear for pleasing sounds (1 Samuel 16:15-23). He seems to have invented new instruments of music (Amos 6:5). (b) He is recognized by critics of all schools as a poet of no mean ability. The genuineness of his elegy over Saul and Jonathan (2 Samuel 1:19-27) is commonly accepted; also his lament over Abner (2 Samuel 3:33 f). In the elegy over Saul and Jonathan, David displays a magnanimity and tenderness that accord with the representations of S as to his treatment of Saul and of Jonathan. No mere rough border chieftain could have composed a poem full of the tenderest sentiment and the most exemplary attitude toward a persecutor. The moral elevation of the elegy has to be accounted for. If the author was a deeply religious man, a man enjoying the friendship of God, it is easy to account for the moral dignity of the poem. Surely it is only a step from the patriotism and magnanimity and devoted friendship of the elegy to the religious fervor of the Psalms. Moreover, the poetic skill displayed in the elegy removes the possible objection that literary art in the days of David had not attained a development equal to the composition of poems such as the Psalms. There is nothing more beautiful and artistic in the entire Psalter.

Radical critics saw the David of the Bible asunder. They contrast the rough border chieftain with the pious Psalmist. Though willing to believe every statement that reflects upon the moral character of David, they consider the references to David as a writer of hymns and the organizer of the temple choirs as the pious imaginings of late chroniclers. Robertson well says: "This habit of refusing to admit complexity in the capacities of Biblical characters is exceedingly hazardous and unsafe, when history is so full of instances of the combination in one person of qualities the most diverse. We not only have poets who can harp upon more than one string, but we have religious leaders who have united the most fervent piety with the exercise of poorly developed virtue, or the practice of very questionable policy. A critic, if he has not a single measure of large enough capacity for a historical character, should not think himself at liberty to measure him out in two halfbushels, making one man of each" (Poetry and Religion of the Psalms, 332). Among kings, Charlemagne and Constantine the Great have been likened to David; and among poets, Robert Burns. There were contradictory elements in the moral characters of all these gifted men. Of Constantine it has been said that he "was by turns the docile believer and the cruel despot, devotee and murderer, patron saint and avenging demon." David was a many-sided man, with a character often at war with itself, a man with conflicting impulses, the flesh lusting against the spirit and the spirit against the flesh. Men of flesh and blood in the midst of life's temptations have no difficulty in understanding the David of the Bible.

(c) David was a man of deep feeling and of imperial imagination. Think of his love for Jonathan, his grateful appreciation of every exploit done in his behalf by his mighty men, his fondness for Absalom. His successful generalship would argue for imagination, as well as the vivid imagery of the elegy. (d) David was an enthusiastic worshipper of Yahweh. All the records of his life agree in representing him as devoted to Israel's God. In the midst of life's dangers and disappointments, "David strengthened himself in Yahweh his God" (1 Samuel 30:6). We should have been surprised had no trace of religious poetry come from his pen. It would be difficult to imagine Milton or Cowper or Tennyson as confining himself to secular poetry. "Comus," "John Gilpin," and the "Charge of the Light Brigade" did not exhaust their genius; nor did the elegy over Saul and Jonathan and the lament over Abner relieve David's soul of the poetry that clamored for expression. The known facts of his life and times prepare us for an outburst of psalmody under his leadership. (e) The varied experiences through which David passed were of a character to quicken any latent gifts for poetic expression.

James Robertson states this argument clearly, and yet with becoming caution: "The vicissitudes and situations in David's life presented in these narratives are of such a nature that, though we may not be able to say precisely that such and such a psalm was composed at such and such a time and place, yet we may confidently say, Here is a man who has passed through certain experiences and borne himself in such wise that we are not surprised to hear that, being a poet, he composed this and the other psalms. It is very doubtful whether we should tie down any lyric to a precise set of circumstances, the poet being like a painter who having found a fit landscape, sits down to transfer it to canvas. I do not think it likely that David, finding himself in some great perplexity or sorrow, called for writing materials in order to describe the situation or record his feelings. But I do think it probable that the vicissitudes through which he passed made such an impression on his sensitive heart, and became so inculcated withn an emotional nature, that when he soothed himself in his retirement with his lyre, they came forth spontaneously in the form of a psalm or song or prayer, according as the recollection was sad or joyful, and as his singing mood moved him" (Poetry and Religion of the Psalms, 343).

The Biblical writers, both early and late, agree in affirming that the Spirit of Yahweh rested upon David, empowering him for service of the highest order (1 Samuel 16:13 2 Samuel 23:1-3 Matthew 22:43 Acts 2:29-31). The gift of prophetic inspiration was bestowed upon Israel's chief musician and poet.

(3) External Evidence for Davidic Psalms

(a) In the New Testament David is named as the author of certain psalms. Thus Psalm 110 is ascribed to David by Jesus in His debate with the Pharisees in the Temple (Matthew 22:41-45 Mark 12:35-37 Luke 20:41-44). Peter teaches that David prophesied concerning Judas (Acts 1:16), and he also refers Psalms 16 and 110 to David (Acts 2:25-34). The whole company of the disciples in prayer attribute Psalm 2 to David (Acts 4:25 f). Paul quotes Psalms 32 and 69 as Davidic (Romans 4:6-8; Romans 11:9 f). The author of He even refers Psalm 95 to David, following the Septuagint (Hebrews 4:7). From the last-named passage many scholars infer that any quotation from the Psalms might be referred to David as the chief author of the Psalms. Possibly this free and easy method of citation, without any attempt at rigorous critical accuracy, was in vogue in the 1st century A.D. At the same time, it is evident that the view that David was the chief author of the Psalms was accepted by the New Testament writers.

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1. Order in the Canon:

The place which the Book of Ruth occupies in the order of the books of the English Bible is not that of the Hebrew Canon. There it is one of the five meghilloth or Rolls, which were ordered to be read in the synagogue on 5 special occasions or festivals during the year.

In printed editions of the Old Testament the megilloth are usually arranged in the order: Cant, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiates, Esther. Ruth occupied the second position because the book was appointed to be read at the Feast of Weeks which was the second of the 5 special days. In Hebrew manuscripts, however, the order varies considerably. In Spanish manuscripts generally, and in one at least of the German school cited by Dr. Ginsburg (Introduction to the Hebrew Bible, London, 1897, 4), Ruth precedes Cant; and in the former Ecclesiastes is placed before Lamentations. The meghilloth constitute the second portion of the kethubhim or Haigographa, the third great division of the books of the Hebrew Scriptures. The Talmud, however, dissociates Ruth altogether from the remaining meghilloth, and places it first among the Hagiographa, before the Book of Psalms. By the Greek translators the book was removed from the position which it held in the Hebrew Canon, and because it described events contemporaneous with the Judges, was attached as a kind of appendix to the latter work. This sequence was adopted in the Vulgate, and so has passed into all modern Bibles.

2. Authorship and Purpose:

The book is written without name of author, and there is no direct indication of its date. Its aim is to record an event of interest and importance in the family history of David, and incidentally to illustrate ancient custom and marriage law. There is no ground for supposing, as has been suggested, that the writer had a polemical purpose in view, and desired to show that the strict and stern action taken by Ezra and Nehemiah after the return in forbidding mixed marriages was not justifled by precedent. The narrative is simple and direct, and the preservation of the tradition which it records of the descent of Israel's royal house from a Moabite ancestress was probably due in the first instance to oral communication for some considerable time before it was committed to writing. The Book of 1 Samuel also indicates a close relation between David and Moab, when during the period of his outlawry the future king confided his father and mother to the care of the king of Moab (1 Samuel 22:3 f), and so far supports the truth of the tradition which is embodied in the Book of Ruth.

3. Date of Composition:

With regard to the date at which the narrative was committed to writing, it is evident from the position of the Book of Ruth in the Hebrew Canon that the date of its composition is subsequent to the close of the great period of the "earlier prophets." Otherwise it would have found a natural place, as was assigned to it in the Greek Bible, together with the Book of Judges and other historical writings, in the second division of the Hebrew Scriptures. In the opening words of the book also, "It came to pass in the days when the judges judged" (Ruth 1:1), the writer appears to look back to the period of the Judges as to a comparatively distant epoch. The character of the diction is pure and chaste; but has been supposed in certain details, as in the presence of so-called Aramaisms, to betray a late origin. The reference to the observance of marriage customs and their sanctions "in former time in Israel" (Ruth 4:7) does not necessarily imply that the composition of Ruth was later than that of Deuteronomy, in which the laws arid rights of the succession are enjoined, or that the writer of the former work was acquainted with the latter in its existing form. Slight differences of detail in the procedure would seem to suggest the contrary. On the other hand, the motive of the book in the exhibition of the ancestry of David's house would have lost its significance and raison d'etre with the death or disappearance of the last ruler of David's line in the early period of the return from Babylon (compare Zechariah 4:9). The most probable date therefore for the composition of the book would be in the later days of the exile, or immediately after the return. There is no clue to the authorship. The last four verses, giving the genealogy from Perez to David (compare 1 Chronicles 2:4-15 Matthew 1:3-6 Luke 3:31-33), are generally recognized as a later addition.

4. Ethical Teaching:

The ethical value of the Book of Ruth is considerable, as setting forth an example of stedfast filial piety. The action of Ruth in refusing to desert her mother-in-law and persevering in accompanying her to her own land meets with its due reward in the prosperity and happiness which become hers, and in the honor which she receives as ancestress of the royal house of David. The writer desires to show in the person and example of Ruth that a sincere and generous regard for the claims of duty and affection leads to prosperity and honor; and at the same time that the principles and recompense of righteous dealing are not dependent upon race, but are as valid for a Moabitess as for a Jew. There is no distinctive doctrine taught in the book. It is primarily historical, recording a decisive incident in the origin of David's house; and in the second place ethical, indicating and enforcing in a well-known example the advantage and importance of right dealing and the observance of the dictates of filial duty. For detailed contents see preceding article.

LITERATURE. English commentaries upon the Book of Ruth are naturally not numerous. Compare G. W. Thatcher, "Judges and Ruth," in (New) Century Bible; R.A. Watson, in Expositor's Bible; the most recent critical commentary. is by L. B. Wolfenson in AJSL, XXVII (July, 1911), 285;, who defends the early date of the book. See also the relevant articles in Jew Encyclopedia, HDB, EB, and Driver, LOT, 6,454;.

A. S. Geden


si'-rak, or The Wisdom of Jesus the Son of Sirach:





1. Religion

2. Morals

3. Manners

4. Counsels of Prudence



1. Jesus, Son of Sirach

2. Other Views



1. Most Probable Views

2. Brief Statement of Other Views


1. Composed in Hebrew

2. Margoliouth's View


1. Greek

2. Syriac

3. Latin

4. English


Sirach is the largest and most comprehensive example of Wisdom Literature (see WISDOM LITERATURE), and it has also the distinction of being the oldest book in the Apocrypha, being indeed older than at least two books (Daniel, Esther) which have found a place in the Canon alike of the Eastern and Western churches.

I. Name.

The Hebrew copy of the book which Jerome knew bore, according to his explicit testimony (see his preface to his version of Libri Sol.), the same title as the canonical Proverbs, i.e. meshalim, "Proverbs" (Parabolae is Jerome's word). It is quoted in rabbinical literally, by the sing. of this name, mashal = Aramaic mathla', but in the Talmud it is cited by the author's name, "Ben Sira" (ben cira'). The Hebrew fragments found in recent years have no title attached to them. In the Greek manuscripts the heading is Sophia Iesou huiou Sirach (or Seirach), "The Wisdom of Jesus, son of Sirach" (so "A"); or simply Sophia Seirach (B), "The Wisdom of Sirach." The Fathers called it either (as Euseb., etc.) he panaretos sophia, "the all virtuous wisdom," or simply he panaretos, "the all virtuous (one)," or (Clement of Alexandria) paidagogos, "teacher." The first Hebrew and the several Greek titles describe the subject-matter, one Hebrew title (ben cira') the author. But the Latin name Ecclesiasticus was given the book because it was one of the books allowed to be read in the Ecclesia, or church, for edification (libri ecclesiastici), though not one of the books of the Canon (libra canonici) which could be quoted in proof or disproof of doctrine. The present book is called Ecclesiasticus by way of preeminence since the time of Cyprian (Testimon. 2, etc.). The Syriac (Peshitta) title as given in the London Polyglot is "The Book of Jesus the son of Simon 'Acira', called also the Book of the Wisdom of Baruch (= Hebrew ben, "son of") 'Acira'." There can be no doubt that Asira (sometimes translated "bound") is but a corrupted form of Sira. For other explanations see Ryssel in Kautzsch, AT Apocrypha, 234.

Lagarde in his corrected text prefixes the title, "The Wisdom of Baruch = Hebrew ben, "son of") Sira." How is that the Hebrew cira', has in the Greek become Sirach (or Seirach)? How are we to explain the final chapter in the Greek? The present writer thinks it is due to an attempt to represent in writing the guttural sound of the final letter 'aleph (') in the Hebrew name as in the Greek Akeldamach, for the Aramaic chaqal dema' (Acts 1:19). Dalman, however (Aramaic Grammar, 161, note 6), followed by Ryssel, holds that the final chapter is simply a sign that the word is indeclinable; compare Iosech (Luke 3:26), for Hebrew yoce.

II. Canonicity.

Though older than both Daniel and Esther, this book was never admitted into the Jewish Canon. There are numerous quotations from it, however, in Talmudic and rabbinic literature, (see a list in Zunz, Die Gottesdiensilichen Vortrage(2), 101 f; Delitzsch, Zur Geschichte der jud. Poesie, 204 f; Schechter, JQR, III, 682-706; Cowley and Neubauer, The Original Hebrew of a Portion of Ecclesiasticus, xix-xxx). It is not referred to explicitly in Scripture, yet it is always cited by Jewish and Christian writers with respect and perhaps sometimes as Scripture. It forms a part of the Vulgate (Jerome's Latin Bible, 390-405 A.D.) of the Tridentine Council and therefore of the Romanist Canon, but the Protestant churches have never recognized it as canonical, though the bulk of modern Protestant scholars set a much higher value upon it than they do upon many books in the Protestant Canon (Chronicles, Esther, etc.). It was accepted as of canonical rank by Augustine and by the Councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397, 419), yet it is omitted from the lists of accepted books given by Melito (circa 180 A.D.), Origen, in the Apostolic Canons and in the list of the Councils of Laodicea (341 and 381). Jerome writes in Libri Sol.: "Let the church read these two books (Wisdom and Sirach) for the instruction of the people, not for establishing the authority of the dogmas of the church." It suffered in the respect of many because it was not usually connected with a great name; compare the so-called "Proverbs of Solomon." Sirach is cited or referred to frequently in the Epistle of James (James 1:2-4 -compare Sirach 2:1-5; Jas 1:5-compare Sirach 1:26; 41:22:00; 51:13; Jas 1:8 ("double minded")-compare Sirach 1:28, etc.). The book is often cited in the works of the Fathers (Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Augustine, etc.) and also in the Apostolical Cons Genesis 1, and it may fairly be inferred that creation out of nothing is meant. Wisdom, on the other hand, teaches the Alexandrian doctrine that matter (hule) is eternal and that the Creator's work consisted of fashioning, adapting and beautifying. The world is a creature of God, not (as in Philo, etc.) an emanation from Him. Yet is He compassionate and forgiving (Sirach 17:24;). His works are past finding out (Sirach 18:2;); but His compassion is upon all flesh (Sirach 18:13), i.e. upon all that accept His chastening and seek to do His will (Sirach 18:14). In Sirach 43:27 God is said to be "the all" (to pan), which simply means that He pervades and is the ground of everything. It is not Alexandrian pantheism that is taught. Gfrorer and others take a contrary view.

(2) Revelation.

In harmony with other products of the "Wise Men," Sirach sets chief value upon natural religion, that revealed in the instincts, reason and conscience of man as well as by the sun, moon, stars, etc. Yet Sirach gives far more prominence than Proverbs to the idea that the Divine Will is specially made known in the Law of Moses (Sirach 24:23; 45:1-4). We do not meet once with the word "law" in Ecclesiastes, nor law in the technical sense (Law of Moses) in either Job, Wisdom or Proverbs. In the last-named it is simply one of many synonyms denoting "Wisdom." In Sirach the word occurs over 20 times, not, however, always, even when the expression "Law of Moses" is used, in the sense of the "five books" (Pentateuch). It generally includes in its connotation also "the prophecies and the rest of the books" (Prologue); see Sirach 32 (Septuagint 35):24; 33 (Septuagint 36):1-3.

(3) Sin.

Sin is due to the wrong exercise of man's free will. Men can, if they like, keep the commandments, and when they break from them they are themselves alone to be blamed (Sirach 15:14-17). Yet it was through a woman (Eve) that sin entered the world and death by sin (Sirach 25:24; compare 1 Timothy 2:14). See Romans 5:12 where "one man," strictly "human being" (5:14, "Adam"), is made the first cause of sin. But nowhere in Sirach is the doctrine of original sin taught.

(4) Predestination.

Notwithstanding the prominence given to "free will" (see (3), above), Sirach teaches the doctrine of predestination, for God has determined that some men should be high and some low, some blessed and others cursed (33:10 ft).

(5) Satan.

The word "Satan" (Satanas) in Sirach 21:27 (it occurs nowhere else in the Apocrypha) denotes one's own wicked heart, as the parallelism shows.

(6) Salvation.

There is no salvation except by way of good works on man's part (Sirach 14:16) and forgiveness on God's (Sirach 17:24-32). The only atonement is through one's own good works (Sirach 5:5), honoring parents (Sirach 32:14), almsgiving, etc. (Sirach 3:30; 17:19;). There is no objective atonement ("expiation," literally, "propitiation"; the Greek verb exilaskomai, is the great Septuagint word for the Hebrew kipper, "to atone").

(7) Sacrifice.

The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination to God (Sirach 34:18;), though He Himself appointed sacrifices and first-fruits (Sirach 45:20), and when the righteous offer sacrifices to God they are accepted and remembered in the time to come (Sirach 35:1-12).

(8) Feasts.

Festivals as well as seasons are ordained by God to be observed by man (Sirach 33 (Septuagint 36):8 f; compare Genesis 1:14).

(9) Prayer.

The duty of prayer is often pointed out (Sirach 37:15, etc.), the necessary preparation defined (Sirach 17:25; 18:20, 23), and its successful issue promised (Sirach 35:17). There must be no vain repetitions (Sirach 7:14; compare Matthew 6:7), nor should there be any faint-heartedness in the matter (Sirach 5:10; compare James 1:6). Men are to pray in sickness (Sirach 38:9), but all the same the physician should be consulted and his advice followed (Sirach 38:1, 12;).

(10) Angelology.

Sirach nowhere clearly expresses his belief in angels or uses language which implies such a belief. For "an angel (ho aggelos) destroyed them" the Hebrew of the original passage (2 Kings 19:35) has maggephah, "plague," and so the Syriac, though the Septuagint (followed by the Vulgate) has "angel."

(11) Eschatology.

Nowhere in this book is the doctrine of a future life taught, and the whole teaching of the book leaves no place for such a doctrine. Men will be indeed rewarded or punished according to their conduct, but in this world (see Sirach 2:10; 9:12; 11:26). The retribution is, however, not confined to the individuals in their lifetime; it extends to their children and involves their own glorious or inglorious name after death (see Sirach 11:28; 40:15:00; 41:06:00; 44:11-13). The passage concerning Gehenna (Sirach 7:17) is undoubtedly spurious and is lacking in the Syriac, Ethiopic, etc. Since the book is silent as to a future life, it is of necessity silent on the question of a resurrection. Nothing is hinted as to a life beyond the grave, even in Sirach 41:1-4, where the author deprecates the fear of death. In these matters Sirach agrees with the Pentateuch and the prophetic and poetical books of the Old Testament (Psalms, Job, etc.), none of which give any intimation of a life beyond the grave. Little or nothing is said of the Messianic hope which must have been entertained largely by Palestinian Jews living in the author's time, though in Sirach 36 (Septuagint 33):1-17 the writer prays for the restoration of Israel and Jerusalem, i.e. R.H. Charles thinks (Eschatology, etc., 65), for the bringing in of the Messianic kingdom.

(12) Sirach's Doctrine of Wisdom.

For a general discussion of the rise and development of the conception of Wisdom in the Old Testament and in the Apocrypha see WISDOM LITERATURE. A brief statement as to what the word implies in Sirach is all that can here be attempted. It is in chapters 1 and 24 that Ben Sira's doctrine is chiefly contained.

Wisdom is from God: He created it and it must therefore have a separate existence. Yet it is dependent on Him. It is omnipresent, though it dwells in a peculiar sense with all flesh. The root and beginning of Wisdom, its fullness and crown, are the fear of God (Sirach 1:14, 16, 18, 21); so that only the obedient and pious possess it (Sirach 1:10, 26); indeed Wisdom is identified with the fear of the Lord and the observance of the Law (Sirach 19:20); it is even made one with the Law of Moses (Sirach 24:23), i.e. it consists of practical principles, of precepts regulating the life. In this doctrine we have a combination of universalism, principles of reason and Jewish particularism as the teaching of the revealed Law. We have the first in Sirach 24:3-21; the second in 24:23-34. Have we in this chapter, as in Proverbs, nothing outside the teaching of Palestinian Judaism? Gfrorer (op. cit., II, 18;) denies this, maintaining that the whole of Sirach 24 was written by an Alexandrian Jew and adopted unchanged by Ben Sira. But what is there in this chapter which an orthodox, well-informed Palestinian Jew of Ben Sira's time might not well have written? It is quite another question whether this whole conception of Wisdom in the so-called Wisdom books is not due, in some measure, to Greek, though not Alexandrian, influence, unless indeed the Greek influence came by way of Alexandria. In the philosophy of Socrates, and in a less exclusive sense in that of Plato and Aristotle, the good man is the wise one. Cheyne (Job and Solomon, 190) goes probably too far when he says, "By Greek philosophy Sirach, as far as we can see, was wholly uninfluenced."

2. Morals:

The ethical principle of Sirach is Hedonism or individual utilitarianism, as is that of Proverbs and the Old Testament generally, though in the Psalms and in the prophetical writings gratitude to God for the love He has shown and the kind acts He has performed is the basis of endless appeals and vows. Moreover, the individual point of view is reached only in the late parts of the Old Testament. In the older Old Testament books, as in Plato, etc., it is the state that constitutes the unit, not the individual human being. The rewards and penalties of conduct, good and bad, belong to this present world. See what is said in (11) "Eschatology," above; see also Sirach 2:7; 11:17; 16:6; 40:13, etc.

The hedonistic principle is carried so far that we are urged to help the good because they are most likely to prove serviceable to us (Sirach 12:2); to aid our fellow-man in distress, so that in his days of prosperity he may be our friend (Sirach 22:23); contrast the teaching of Jesus Christ (Luke 6:30-36). Friends are to be bemoaned for appearance' sake (Sirach 38:17). Yet many of the precepts are lofty. We are exhorted to show kindness and forbearance to the poor and to give help to our fellow-man (Sirach 29:8, 20); to give alms (Sirach 12:3); speak kindly (Sirach 18:15-18); masters should treat servants as brethren, nay as they would themselves be treated (Sirach 7:20-22; 33:30); parents should give heed to the proper training of their children (Sirach 3:2; 7:23; 30:1-13); and children ought to respect and obey their parents (Sirach 3:1-16). It is men's duty to defend the truth and to fight for it. So shall the Lord fight for them (Sirach 4:25, 28). Pride is denounced (Sirach 10:2;), and humility (Sirach 3:18), as well as forgiveness (Sirach 28:2), commended.

3. Manners:

Sirach is as much a code of etiquette as one of ethics, the motive being almost invariably the individual's own good. Far more attention is given to "manners" in Sirach than in Proverbs, owing to the fact that a more complex and artificial state of society had arisen in Palestine. When one is invited to a banquet he is not to show greed or to be too forward in helping himself to the good things provided. He is to be the first to leave and not to be insatiable (Sirach 31:12-18). Moderation in eating is necessary for health as well as for appearance' sake (Sirach 31:19-22). Mourning for the dead is a social propriety, and it should on that account be carefully carried out, since failure to do this brings bad repute (Sirach 38:16). It is quite wrong to stand in front of people's doors, peeping and listening: only fools do this (Sirach 21:23). Music and wine are praised: nay even a "concert of music" and a "banquet of wine" are good in their season and in moderation (Sirach 32 (Septuagint 35):5). The author has not a high opinion of woman (Sirach 25:13). A man is to be on his strict guard against singing and dancing girls and harlots, and adultery is an evil to be feared and avoided (Sirach 36:18-26). From a woman sin began, and it is through her that we all die (Sirach 25:4). Yet no one has used more eulogistic terms in praising the good wife than Ben Sira (Sirach 26:1;), or in extolling the happiness of the home when the husband and wife "walk together in agreement" (Sirach 25:1).

4. Counsels of Prudence:

Never lend money to a man more powerful than thyself or thou wilt probably lose it (Sirach 8:12). It is unwise to become surety for another (Sirach 29:18; 8:13), yet for a good man one would become surety (Sirach 29:14) and he would even lend to him (Sirach 29:1;). It should be remembered that in those times lending and becoming financially liable were acts of kindness, pure and simple: the Jewish Law forbade the taking of interest in any form (see Century Bible, "Ezra," etc., 198). "A slip on, a pavement is better than a slip with the tongue," so guard thy mouth (Sirach 20:18); "He that is wise in words shall advance himself; and one that is prudent will please great men" (Sirach 20:27). The writer has the pride of his class, for he thinks the common untrained mind, that of the plowman, carpenter and the like, has little capacity for dealing with problems of the intellect (Sirach 38:24-34).

V. Literary Form.

The bulk of the book is poetical in form, abounding in that parallelism which characterizes Hebrew poetry, though it is less antithetic and regular than in Prov. No definite meter has been discovered, though Bickell, Margoliouth and others maintain the contrary (see POETRY, HEBREW). Even in the prose parts parallelism is found. The only strophic arrangement is that suggested by similarity of subject-matter.

Bickell (Zeitschr. far katholische Theol., 1882) translated Sirach 51:1-20 back into Hebrew and tried to prove that it is an alphabetic acrostic psalm, and Taylor supports this view by an examination of the lately discovered fragments of the Hebrew text (see The Wisdom of Ben Sira, etc., by S. Schechter and C. Taylor, lxxixff;). After Sirach 51:12 of the Greek and other versions the Hebrew has a psalm of 15 verses closely resembling Psalm 136; but the Hebrew version of Sirach 51:1-20 does not favor Bickell's view, nor does the ps, found only in the Hebrew, lend much support to what either Bickell or Taylor says. Space precludes detailed proofs.

VI. Author.

1. Jesus, Son of Sirach:

The proper name of the author was Jesus (Jeshua, Greek Iesous(?)), the family name being "Ben Sira." The full name would be therefore "Jesus Ben Sirs." In the Talmud and other Jewish writings he is known as "Ben Sira," literally, "son (or descendant?) of Sira." Who Sira was is unknown. No other book in the Apocrypha gives the name of its author as the Prologue to Sirach does. In the best Greek manuscripts (Vaticanus, Sinaiticus, Alexandrinus) of Sirach 50:27, the author's name appears as 'Iesous huios Seirach Eleazar ho Hierosolumeites, "Jesus the son of Sirach (son of) Eleazar the Jerusalemite." For the last two words Codex Sinaiticus has by a copyist's error, ho hiereus ho Solumeites, "the Solomon-like priest." The Hebrew text of Sirach 50:27 and 51:30 gives the following genealogy: Simeon son of Jesus, son of Eleazar, son of Sira, making the author the grandson and not the son of Sira, and so he is called by Saadia; see HDB (Nestle) and EB, II, 1165 (Toy). We know nothing of Ben Sira beyond what can be gathered from the book itself. He was a resident in Palestine (24:10), an orthodox Jew, well read in at least Jewish literature, a shrewd observer of life, with a philosophical bent, though true to the national faith. He had traveled far and seen much (34:11). His interests were too general and his outlook too wide to allow of his being either a priest or a scribe.

2. Other Views:

Many suppositions have been put forward as to the author's identity.

(1) That the Author Was a Priest:

So in Codex Sinaiticus (Sirach 50:27). In Sirach 7:29-31 he speaks much of the priesthood, and there are numerous references to sacrifices in the book. In 45:6-26 he has a long poem in praise of Aaron and his high-priesthood. Yet on the whole Ben Sira does not write as a priest.

(2) That He Was a High Priest:

So Syncellus (Chronicles, edition Dindf., 1 525) through a misunderstanding of a passage in Eusebius. But the teaching and temper of the book make this supposition more improbable than the last.

(3) That He Was a Physician:

An inference drawn from Sirach 38:1, 12; and other references to the professional healer of the body (10:10). But this is a very small foundation on which to build so great an edifice.

(4) That He Was One of the 72 Translators (Septuagint):

So Lapide (Comm.), Calmer, Goldhager, a wholly unsupported hypothesis.

(5) No One of Course Believes that Solomon Wrote the Book:

Though many of the early Fathers held that he was the author of the five Wisdom Books-Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Canticles, Sirach and Wisdom.

VII. Unity and Intergrity.

There is, on the whole, such a uniformity in the style and teaching of the book that most scholars agree in ascribing the whole book (except, the Prologue, which is the work of the translator) to Ben Sira. This does not mean that he composed every line; he must have adopted current sayings, written and oral, and this will account for the apparent contradictions, as about becoming surety (Sirach 29:14), and refusing to become surety (Sirach 8:13; 29:18); words in praise (Sirach 25:1; 26:1;) and condemnation of women (Sirach 25:4, 13; 36:18-26); the varying estimates of life (Sirach 36:16-35; 40:1-11), etc. But in these seeming opposites we have probably no more than complementary principles, the whole making up the complete truth. Nothing is more manifest in the book than the all-pervading thought of one dominant mind. Some have denied the genuineness of Sirach 51, but the evidence is at least indecisive. There is nothing in this chapter inconsistent with the rest of the book.

In the recently discovered fragments of Hebrew text there is a psalm between Sirach 51:12 and 13 of the Greek and English Versions of the Bible which seems a copy of Psalm 136. It is absent from the versions and its genuineness is doubtful. But in both the Hebrew and Greek texts there are undoubted additions and omissions. There are, in the Greek, frequent glosses by Christian editors or copyists and other changes (by the translators?) in the direction of Alexandrian Judaism; see Speaker's Apocrypha and other commentaries for details.

VIII. Date.

In the book itself there is one mark of definite date (Sirach 50:1), and in the Prologue there is another. Unfortunately both are ambiguous. In the Prologue the translator, whose grandfather or ancestor (Greek pappos) wrote the book (the younger Siracides, as he is called), says that he reached Egypt, where he found and translated this book in the reign of Euergetes, king of Egypt. But there were two Egyptian kings called Euergetes, namely, Ptolemy Euergetes, or Euergetes I (247-222 B.C.), and Ptolemy VII Physcon, or Euergetes II (218-198 B.C.). Sirach 50:1 mentions, among the great men whom he praises, Simon the high priest, son of Onias, who is named last in the list and lived probably near the time of the elder Siracidess. But there were two high priests called Simon and each of them was a son of Onias, namely, Simon I, son of Onias I (circa 310-290 B.C.), and Simon II, son of Onias II (circa 218-198 B.C.). Scholars differ as to which Euergetes is meant in the Prologue and which Simon in 50:1.

1. Most Probable Views:

The conclusions to which the evidence has brought the present writer are these: (1) that Simon I (died 290 B.C.) is the high priest meant; (2) that Ptolemy VII Physcon (218-198 B.C.) is the Euergetes meant.

(1) In Favor of the First Proposition Are the Following:

(a) The book must have been written some time after the death of Simon, for in the meantime an artificial fame had gathered around the name, and the very allusion to him as a hero of the past makes it clear that he had been long dead. Assuming that Simon had died in 290 B.C., as seems likely, it is a reasonable conclusion that the original Hebrew work was composed somewhat later than 250 B.C. If Simon II is the man intended, the book could hardly have been composed before 150 B.C., an impossible date; see below.

(b) In the list of great men in Sirach 44-50 the praises of Simon (50:1;) are sung after those of Nehemiah (Sirach 49:13), suggesting that the space of time between them was not very great.

(c) The "Simon the Just" of Josephus was certainly Simon I, he being so called, this Jewish historian says (Ant., XII, ii, 5), on account of his piety and kindness.

(d) It is probable that the "Simon the Just" of the Mishna ('Abhoth i.2) is also Simon I, though this is not certain. It is said of him that he was one of the last members of the great synagogue and in the Talmud he is the hero of many glorifying legends. The so-called great synagogue never really existed, but the date assigned to it in Jewish tradition shows that it is Simon I that is thought of.

(e) In the Syriac version (Pesh) Sirach 50:23 reads thus: "Let it (peace) be established with Simon the Just," etc. Some manuscripts have "Simon the Kind." This text may of course be wrong, but Graetz and Edersheim support it. This is the exact title given to Simon I by Josephus (op. cit.), the Mishna and by Jewish tradition generally.

(f) The only references to Simon II in Jewish history and tradition depict him in an unfavorable light. In 2 Maccabees 3 he is the betrayer of the temple to the Syrians. Even if the incident of the above chapter were unhistorical, there must have been some basis for the legend. Josephus (Ant., XII, iv, 10) makes him side with the sons of Tobias against Hyrcanus, son of Joseph, the wrong side from the orthodox Jewish point of view.

(g) The high priest Simon is said (Sirach 50:1-13) to have repaired the temple and fortified the city. Edersheim says that the temple and city stood in need of what is here described in the time of Simon I, but not in the time of Simon II, for Ptolemy I (247-222 B.C.) in his wars with Demetrius destroyed many fortifications in Palestine to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy, among which Acco, Joppa, Gaza are named, and it is natural to think that the capital and its sanctuary were included. This is, however, but a priori reasoning, and Derenbourg argues that Simon II must be meant, since acco

Strong's Hebrew
6046. Anem -- a city of Issachar
... 6045, 6046. Anem. 6047 . a city of Issachar. Transliteration: Anem Phonetic
Spelling: (aw-name') Short Definition: Anem. Word Origin ...
/hebrew/6046.htm - 6k

The Flight into Egypt and St. John the Baptist in the Desert
... Sea. Its name sounded like Anem or Anim. They stopped at a solitary house
which was an inn for those traveling through the desert. ...
/.../emmerich/the life of the blessed virgin mary/xvi the flight into egypt.htm

Hitchcock's Bible Names Dictionary

or Anen, an answer; their affliction

Smith's Bible Dictionary

(two springs), a city of Issachar, with "suburbs," belonging to the (Gershonites). (1 Chronicles 6:70)

Easton's Bible Dictionary
Two fountains, a Levitical city in the tribe of Issachar (1 Chronicles 6:73). It is also called En-gannim (q.v.) in Joshua 19:21; the modern Jenin.
Anem (1 Occurrence)
... Int. Standard Bible Encyclopedia. ANEM. ... As the name denotes (Anem = "two springs";
En-gannim = "the spring of gardens"), it was well watered. ...
/a/anem.htm - 101k

Ramoth (30 Occurrences)
... moth: (1) ra'moth; he Rhamoth: A city in the territory of Issachar assigned to the
Gershonite Levitea (1 Chronicles 6:73), mentioned between Daberath and Anem. ...
/r/ramoth.htm - 18k

Aner (3 Occurrences)

/a/aner.htm - 8k

En-gannim (3 Occurrences)
... assigned to the Gershonite Levites (21:29). In 1 Chronicles 6:73 it is
replaced by Anem. It probably corresponds to the Ginnea of ...
/e/en-gannim.htm - 9k

Engannim (3 Occurrences)
... assigned to the Gershonite Levites (21:29). In 1 Chronicles 6:73 it is
replaced by Anem. It probably corresponds to the Ginnea of ...
/e/engannim.htm - 8k

And'whoever (1 Occurrence)
And'whoever. And'what, And'whoever. Anem . Multi-Version Concordance And'whoever
(1 Occurrence). ... And'what, And'whoever. Anem . Reference Bible.
/a/and'whoever.htm - 6k

Anim (1 Occurrence)
... is probably represented by the double ruin of el Ghuwein situated South of es
Semu`a. The surface remains are Byzantine-a Christian town called Anem was here ...
/a/anim.htm - 7k

Pasturelands (42 Occurrences)
... its suburbs; (See NIV). 1 Chronicles 6:73 and Ramoth with its suburbs, and
Anem with its suburbs; (See NIV). 1 Chronicles 6:75 and ...
/p/pasturelands.htm - 16k

Outskirts (38 Occurrences)
... with its outskirts, (BBE). 1 Chronicles 6:73 And Ramoth with its outskirts,
and Anem with its outskirts; (BBE). 1 Chronicles 6:74 ...
/o/outskirts.htm - 17k

Suburbs (75 Occurrences)
... DBY WBS YLT). 1 Chronicles 6:73 and Ramoth with its suburbs, and Anem with
its suburbs; (WEB KJV ASV DBY WBS YLT). 1 Chronicles 6:74 ...
/s/suburbs.htm - 29k

Bible Concordance
Anem (1 Occurrence)

1 Chronicles 6:73 and Ramoth with its suburbs, and Anem with its suburbs;



Anem: A Levitical City

Related Terms

Ramoth (30 Occurrences)

Aner (3 Occurrences)

En-gannim (3 Occurrences)

Engannim (3 Occurrences)

And'whoever (1 Occurrence)

Anim (1 Occurrence)

Pasturelands (42 Occurrences)

Outskirts (38 Occurrences)

Suburbs (75 Occurrences)

Pasture (120 Occurrences)

Lands (226 Occurrences)

Exodus (2 Occurrences)

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