Introduction to the Old Testament
by John Edgar McFadyen
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The book falls naturally into three divisions: (a) the conquest of Canaan (i.-xii.), (b) the settlement of the land (xiii.-xxii.), (c) the last words and death of Joshua (xxiii., xxiv.). This period seems to be better known than that of the wilderness wanderings, and, especially throughout the first twelve chapters, the story moves forward with a firm tread. On the death of Moses, Joshua assumes the leadership, and makes preparations for the advance (i.). After sending men to Jericho to spy and report upon the land (ii.), the people solemnly cross the Jordan, preceded by the ark (iii.); and, to commemorate the miracle by which their passage had been facilitated, memorial stones are set up (iv.). After circumcision had been imposed, v. 1-9, the passover celebrated, v. 10-12, and Joshua strengthened by a vision, v. 13-15, the people assault and capture Jericho (vi.). This initial success was followed by a sharp and unexpected disaster at Ai, for which Achan, by his violation of the law of the ban, was held guilty and punished with death (vii.). A renewed assault upon Ai was this time successful.[1] (viii.). Fear of Israel induced the powerful Gibeonite clan to make a league with the conquerors (ix.). Success continued to remain with Israel, so that south (x.) and north, xi. 1-15, the arms of Israel were victorious, xi. 16-xii. [Footnote 1: The book of Joshua describes only the southern and northern campaigns; it gives no details concerning the conquest of Central Palestine. This omission is apparently due to the Deuterouomic redactor, who, in place of the account itself, gives a brief idealization of its results in viii. 30-35.]

Much of the land remained still unconquered, but arrangements were made for its ideal distribution. The two and a half tribes had already received their inheritance east of the Jordan, and the rest of the land was allotted on the west to the remaining tribes. Judah's boundaries and cities are first and most exhaustively given; then come Manasseh and Ephraim, with meagre records, followed by Benjamin, which again is exhaustive, then by Simeon, Zebulon, Issachar, Asher, Naphtali and Dan (xiii.-xix.). Three cities on either side of Jordan were then set apart as cities of refuge for innocent homicides, and for the Levites forty-eight cities with their pasture land, xx. 1-xxi. 42. As Israel was now in possession of the land in accordance with the divine promise, xxi. 43-45, Joshua dismissed the two and a half tribes to their eastern home with commendation and exhortation, xxii. 1-8. Incurring the severe displeasure of the other tribes by building what was supposed to be a schismatic altar, they explained that it was intended only as a memorial and as a witness of their kinship with Israel, xxii. 9-34.

The book concludes with two farewell speeches, the first (xxiii.) couched in general, the second xxiv. 1-23, in somewhat more particular terms, in which Joshua reminds the people of the goodness of their God, warns them against idolatry and intermarriage with the natives of the land, and urges upon them the peril of compromise and the duty of rendering Jehovah a whole-hearted service. The people solemnly pledge themselves to obedience, xxiv. 23-28. Then Joshua's death and burial are recorded, and past was linked to present in the burial of Joseph's bones (Gen. 1. 25) at last in the promised land, xxiv. 29-33.

The documentary sources which lie at the basis of the Pentateuch are present, though in different proportions, in the book of Joshua, and in their main features are easily recognizable. The story of the conquest (i.-xii.) is told by the prophetic document JE, while the geographical section on the distribution of the land (xiii.-xxii.) belongs in the main to the priestly document P. Joshua, in common with Judges, Samuel (in part) and Kings, has also been very plainly subjected to a redaction known to criticism as the Deuteronomic, because its phraseology and point of view are those of Deuteronomy. This redactional element, which, to any one fresh from the study of Deuteronomy, is very easy to detect, is more or less conspicuous in all of the first twelve chapters, but it is especially so in chs. i. and xxiii., and it would be well worth the student's while to read these two chapters very carefully, in order to familiarize himself with the nature of the influence of the Deuteronomic redaction upon the older prophetico-historical material. Very significant, e.g., are such phrases as "the land which Jehovah your God giveth you to possess," i. 11, Deuteronomy xii. 1: equally so is the emphasis upon the law, i. 7, xxiii. 6, and the injunction to "love Jehovah your God," xxiii. 11.

The most serious effect of the Deuteronomic influence has been to present the history rather from an ideal than from a strictly historical point of view. According to the redaction, e.g., the conquest of Canaan was entirely effected within one generation and under Joshua, whereas it was not completely effected till long after Joshua's death: indeed the oldest source frankly admits that in many districts it was never thoroughly effected at all (Jud. i. 27-36). A typical illustration of the Deuteronomic attitude to the history is to be found in the statement that Joshua obliterated the people of Gezer, x. 33, which directly contradicts the older statement that Israel failed to drive them out, xvi. 10. The Deuteronomist is, in reality, not a historian but a moralist, interpreting the history and the forces, divine as well as human, that were moulding it. To him the conquest was really complete in the generation of Joshua, as by that time the factors were all at work which would ultimately compel success. The persistency of the Deuteronomic influence, even long after the priestly code was written, is proved by xx. 4-6, which, though embodied in a priestly passage, is in the spirit of Deuteronomy (cf. Deut. xix.). As this passage is not found in the Septuagint, it is probably as late as the third century B.C.

P is very largely represented. Its presence is recognized, as usual, by its language, its point of view, and its dependence upon other parts of the Pentateuch, demonstrably priestly. While in the older sources, e.g., it is Joshua who divides the land, xviii. 10, in P not only is Eleazar the priest associated with him as Aaron with Moses (Exod. viii. 5, 16), but he is even named before him (xiv. 1, cf. Num. xxxiv. 17). It is naturally also this document which records the first passover in the promised land, v. 10-12. The cities of refuge and the Levitical cities are set apart (xx., xxi.) in accordance with the terms prescribed in a priestly chapter of Numbers (xxxv.). The prominence of Judah and Benjamin in the allocation of the land is also significant. The section on the memorial altar, xxii. 9-34, apparently belonging to a later stratum of P, is clearly stamped as priestly by its whole temper—its formality, v, 14, its representation of the "congregation" as acting unanimously, v. 16, its repetitions and stereotyped phraseology, and by the prominence it gives to "Phinehas the son of Eleazar the priest," vv. 30-32. That this document in Joshua was partly narrative so well as statistical is also suggested by its very brief account of Achan's sin in ch. vii., and of the treachery and punishment of the Gibeonites, ix. l7-2l—an account which may well have been fuller in the original form of the document.

The most valuable part of Joshua for historical purposes is naturally that which comes from the prophetic document, which is the oldest. It is here that the interesting and concrete detail lies, notably in chs. i.-xii., but also scattered throughout the rest of the book in some extremely important fragments, which indicate how severe and occasionally unsuccessful was the struggle of Israel to gain a secure footing upon certain parts of the country.[1] Many of the difficulties revealed by a minute study of i.-xii. make it absolutely certain that the prophetic document is really composite (JE), but owing to the thorough blending of the sources the analysis is peculiarly difficult and uncertain. That there are various sources, however, admits of no doubt. The story of the crossing of the Jordan in chs. iii., iv., if we follow it carefully step by step, is seen to be unintelligible on the assumption that it is a unity. In iii. 17 all the people are already over the Jordan, but in iv. 4, 5, the implication is that they are only about to cross. Ch. iv. 2 repeats iii. 12 almost word for word. In iv. 9 the memorial stones are to be placed in the Jordan, in iv. 20 at Gilgal. In vii. 25b, 26a, Achan alone appears to be stoned, in v. 25c the family is stoned too. A similar confusion prevails in the story of the fall of Jericho (vi.). In one version, Israel marches six days silently round the city, and on the seventh they shout at the word of Joshua; on the other, they march round seven times in one day, and the seventh time they shout at the blast of the trumpet. [Footnote 1: Cf. xv. 14-19, 63; xvi. 10; xvii. 11-18; xix. 47.]

Enough has been said to show that the prophetic document, as we have it, is composite, though there can seldom be any manner of certainty about the ultimate analysis into its J and E constituents. There is reason to believe that most of the isolated notices of the struggle with the Canaanites scattered throughout xiii.-xxii. and repeated in Judges i. are from J, while ch. xxiv., with its interest in Shechem and Joseph, and its simple but significant statement, "They presented themselves before God (Elohim)," xxiv. 1, is almost entirely from E.

It used to be maintained, on the strength of a phrase in v. 1—"until we were passed over"—that the book of Joshua must have been written by a contemporary. But the true reading there is undoubtedly that given by the Septuagint—until they passed over-which involves only a very slight change in the Hebrew. On what, then, do the narratives of the book really rest? The answer is suggested by x. 12, 13, where the historian appeals to the book of Jashar in confirmation of an incident in Joshua's southern campaign. Doubtless the whole battle was described in one of the war-ballads in this famous collection (cf. Jud. v.), and it is not unreasonable to suppose that other narratives in the book of Joshua similarly rest upon other ballads now for ever lost. The capture of Jericho, e.g., may well have been commemorated in a stirring song which was an inspiration alike to faith and patriotism.

If, however, it be true that the book of Joshua has thus a poetic basis, it is only fair to remember that its prose narratives must not be treated as bald historical annals; they must be interpreted in a poetic spirit. There is the more reason to insist upon this, as a later editor, by a too inflexible literalism, has misinterpreted the very passage from the book of Jashar to which we have alluded. What the precise meaning of Joshua's fine apostrophe to sun and moon may be, is doubtful—whether a prayer for the prolongation of the day or rather perhaps a prayer for the sudden oncoming of darkness. The words mean, "Sun, be thou still," and if this be the prayer, it would perhaps be answered by the furious storm which followed. But, in either case, the appeal to the sun and moon to lend their help to Israel in her battles is obviously poetic—a fine conception, but grotesque if literally pressed. This, however, is just what has been done by the editor who added x. 14, and thus created a miracle out of the bold but appropriate imagery of the poet. Similarly it is not necessary to suppose that the walls of Jericho fell down without the striking of a blow on the part of Israel, for this too may be poetry. It may be just the imaginative way of saying that no walls can stand before Jehovah when He fights for His people. That this is the real meaning of the story, and that there was more of a struggle than the poetical narrative of ch. vi. would lead us to believe, is made highly probable by, the altogether incidental but very explicit statement in xxiv. 11, "The men of Jericho fought against you."

With its large geographical element the book of Joshua is not particularly rich in scenes of direct religious value; yet the whole narrative is inspired by a sublime faith in the divine purpose and its sure triumph over every obstacle. In particular, the story of the Gibeonites suggests the permanent obligation of reckoning with God in affairs of national policy, ix. 14, while Gilgal is a reminder of the duty of formally commemorating the beneficent providences of life (iii., iv.). The story of Achan reveals the national bearings of individual conduct and the large and disastrous consequences of individual sin. The valedictory addresses of Joshua are touched by a fine sense of the importance of a grateful and uncompromising fidelity to God. But perhaps the greatest thing in the book is the vision of the heavenly leader encouraging Joshua on the eve of his perilous campaign, v. 13-15, a noble imagination, fitted to remind those who are fighting the battles of the Lord that they are sustained and aided by forces unseen.


Of the three principal documents, J, E and P, to whose fusion is due the account of Israel's origin and early history contained in the Hexateuch, nothing can be known except by inference; but within certain limits their date and origin may be fixed. In Genesis, J and E alike love to trace the sacred places of the Hebrews to some revelation or incident in the life of the patriarchs. Now from the prominence assigned to Hebron in J, together with the role assigned to Judah in the story of Joseph, xxxvii. 26, and the special interest in Judah displayed by Genesis xxxviii., it may be inferred that J originated in Judah; while the special attention paid in E to the sanctuaries of the northern kingdom, such as Shechem and Bethel, is not unreasonably held to imply that E originated in Israel.

It is impossible to assign more than an approximate date to the origin of these documents, but they can hardly be earlier than the monarchy, which is clearly alluded to in Genesis xxxvi. 31. Such incidental statements as that the Canaanite was then in the land, xii. 6, xiii, 7, imply that by the author's time the situation had changed; and, as their subjection was not attained till the time of Solomon (1 Kings ix. 21) the documents can hardly be earlier than that. The sanctuaries glorified in the Pentateuch are the very sanctuaries at which a sumptuous but misguided worship was practised as late as the eighth century, in the days of Amos and Hosea (cf. Amos iv. 4; Hosea xii. II); but, generally speaking, the conception of God found in the prophetic history, though as robust and intense as that of the early prophets, is more primitive. It is not afraid of anthropomorphisms (Gen. iii. 8; Exod. iv. 24), and theophanies, and it has not very clearly grasped the idea that God is spirit. On these grounds alone it would not be unfair to place the prophetic documents somewhere between Solomon and Amos. J probably belongs to the ninth century, and E, which, as we saw reason to believe, was later, to the eighth.

P takes us into a totally different world. The witchery of the prophetic documents has disappeared; poetry has given place to legislation, theophany to ritual, religion to theology. From the late historical books, such as Ezra-Nehemiah, we learn that legalism dominated post-exilic religion to an extent out of all proportion to what can be proved, or what is probable, for pre-exilic times; and it would be natural to suppose that another writing, such as P, dominated by precisely the same spirit, is a product of the same time. This supposition becomes a practical certainty in the light of two or three facts. Firstly, in not a few respects P is at variance with the legislative programme drawn up by the exilic prophet Ezekiel (xl.-xlviii.). Now if P had been in existence, such a programme would have been unnecessary, and, in any case, Ezekiel would hardly have ventured to contradict a code which enjoyed so venerable a sanction and bore the honoured name of Moses. It is easier to suppose that Ezekiel's programme is a tentative sketch, which was modified and improved upon by the authors of P. Again there was every inducement during and immediately after the exile to formulate definitely the ritual practice of pre-exilic times, and to modify it in the direction of existing or future needs. So long as the temple stood, custom could be trusted to take care of the ritual tradition, but the violent breach with their country and their past would impose upon the exiles the necessity of securing those traditions in permanent and accessible form. P is therefore referred almost unanimously by scholars to the exilic and early post-exilic age, and may be roughly put about 500 B.C.

The documents J, E and P, which, for convenience, we have treated as if each were the product of a single pen, represent in reality movements which extended over decades and even centuries. The Jehovist, e.g., who traces the descent of shepherds, musicians, and workers in metal to antediluvian times (Gen. iv. 19-22), cannot be the Jehovist who told the story of the Flood, which interrupted the continuity of human life. These distinctions are known to criticism as Jl, J2, etc.; but, though they stand for undoubted literary facts, it is altogether futile to attempt, on this basis, an analysis of the entire document into its component parts. The presence of several hands may also be detected, though not so readily, in E. Most scholars suppose J to precede E, but one or two reverse the order. The truth is that there are passages in J inspired by splendid prophetic conceptions, which must be later than the earliest edition of E; and the moment it is recognized that a long period elapsed before either document reached its present form, the question of priority becomes relatively unimportant.

P is even more obviously the result of a long process marked by repeated additions and refinements. Numbers xviii. 7, e.g., implies that ordinary priests might pass within the vail, whereas in Leviticus xvi. this is possible only to the high priest, and even to him only once a year. Exodus xxix. 7 represents only the high priest as anointed, Exodus xxviii. 41 the other priests as well. The section in Exodus xxx. 1-10 on the altar of incense must be later than the list in xxvi. 31-37, where it is not mentioned. The age, too, at which the Levites might enter upon their service appears to have been repeatedly changed; in Numbers iv. 3 it is put at thirty years, in viii. 24 at twenty-five (and i Chron. xxiii. 24 at twenty). All this only shows the unceasing attention that was paid by the priests to the problem of worship; and the length of the period over which this attention was spread may be inferred from the fact that, even in the third century B.C., as we know from the Septuagint, the Hebrew text of Exodus xxxv.-xl. was not absolutely fixed.

We may conceive the composition of the Pentateuch to have passed through approximately the following stages. Earliest of all and fundamental to all come the ancient traditions and the ancient poetry, such as the book of the wars of Jehovah, and the book of Jashar. Upon this basis, during the monarchy men of prophetic spirit in both kingdoms—not improbably at the sanctuaries—wrote the history of the Hebrew people. These documents, J and E, were subsequently combined into a single history (JE), possibly in the seventh century, though how long, if at all, J and E continued to enjoy an independent existence we have no means of knowing. During the exile, the book of Deuteronomy was added (JED). Its influence, as we have seen, is very prominent in Joshua, and occasionally traceable even in the earlier books (cf. Gen. xviii. 19, xxvi. 5). After the exile P was incorporated, and the Hexateuch had assumed practically its present form about the middle of the fifth century B.C.


For the understanding of the early history and religion of Israel, the book of Judges, which covers the period from the death of Joshua to the beginning of the struggle with the Philistines, is of inestimable importance; and it is very fortunate that the elements contributed by the later editors are so easily separated from the ancient stories whose moral they seek to point. That moral is most elaborately stated in ii. 6-iii. 6, which is a sort of programme or preface to iii. 7-xvi. 31, which constitutes the real kernel of the book of Judges—chs. xvii.-xxi., as we shall see, being a supplement and i. 1-ii. 5 an introduction. Briefly stated, the moral is this: in the ancient history, unfaithfulness to Jehovah was regularly followed by chastisement in the shape of foreign invasion, but when the people repented and cried to Jehovah He raised up a leader to deliver them. Unfaithfulness, chastisement; penitence, forgiveness. This philosophy of history, if such it can be called, had of course the practical object of inspiring the people with a sense of the importance of fidelity to Jehovah. Both the ideas and the phraseology of this passage, ii. 6-iii. 6, are unmistakably those of Deuteronomy: therefore here, as in Joshua, we speak of the Deuteronomic redaction.

The moral expressed in the preface and repeated in a less elaborate form elsewhere, vi. 7-10, x. 6-16, is amply illustrated by the stories that follow—the stories of Othniel, Ehud, Deborah and Barak, Gideon, Jephthah and Samson. This does not exhaust the list of judges, but it exhausts the list of those whose stories are used to illustrate the Deuteronomic scheme. The story of Abimelech, e.g. (ix.), has no such preface or conclusion as these six have; neither has the notice of Shamgar in iii. 31; the preface is also lacking in the very bald notices of the five minor judges, x. 1-5, xii. 8-15. It is clear, therefore, that they fell without the original Deuteronomic scheme; but it is equally clear that the later editors of the book intended to represent the period by twelve judges, Abimelech being apparently reckoned a judge, though he is not called one. Another computation, which ignored Abimelech, reached the number twelve by adding Shamgar, iii. 31, whom a comparison of iii. 31 with iv. 1 shows not to have belonged to the original book; the name was probably suggested by v. 6a.

Chs. xvii.-xxi., which consist of two appendices (xvii., xviii, the origin of the sanctuary at Dan, and xix.-xxi., the vengeance of Israel on Benjamin for the outrage at Gibeah), also clearly fell without the Deuteronomic redaction: the section is untouched either by the language or ideas of Deuteronomy. Further, these chapters are clearly out of place where they stand; for, generally speaking, the order of the book is chronological, beginning with the death of Joshua and ending with the Philistine invasion which lasted on into the days of Samuel, whereas both stories in the appendix refer to quite an early period, two of the characters named being the grandsons of Moses and Aaron respectively (xviii. 30, xx. 28).[1] [Footnote 1: In ch. xviii. 30 the word now read as Manasseh was originally Moses.]

The introduction, i. I-ii. 5, also plainly falls without the scheme, for the book proper, ii. 6ff., is a direct continuation[1] of Joshua xxiv. 27, and i. i-ii. 5 really duplicates, in the main, accounts and isolated notices scattered through Joshua xv., xvi., xvii., xix. The incidents related in these chapters are assigned to Joshua's lifetime; the phrase with which the book of Judges begins—"It came to pass after the death of Joshua"—is clearly a later attempt to connect the two books, and inconsistent with ii. 6ff., which carries the story back to a period before Joshua's death. [Footnote 1: 2 Ch. ii. 6, 7=Josh. xxiv. 28, 31; Jud. ii. 8, 9=Josh. xxiv. 29, 30.]

The original book of Judges, then, as edited by the Deuteronomist, is represented[1] by ii. 6-xv., minus the notices of Shamgar, Abimelech and the minor judges. The moral pointed by the redaction, valuable as it may be, is not always suggested by the history. The redaction assigns the national misfortunes to idolatry, though only once is idolatry mentioned with reprobation in the ancient stories themselves, vi. 25-32. The redaction shows a further indifference to history in giving a national[2] turn to the tale of apostasy and deliverance, whereas the original stories show that the interests are really not as yet national, but only tribal. The chronology of the book—which is also part of the redaction—with its round numbers, 20, 40, 80, etc., appears to contain an artificial element, and to form part of the scheme indicated in i Kings vi. 1, which assigns 480 years, i.e. twelve generations, to the period between the exodus and the building of the temple. Many considerations make it practically certain that the periods of the judges, which are represented as successive, were often really synchronous, and that therefore the period covered by the entire book is only about two centuries. [Footnote 1: Note that ch. xv. 20 was apparently designed to conclude the story of Samson, raising the suspicion that ch. xvi. (with a similar conclusion) was added later.] [Footnote 2: Cf. iii. 12. The children of Israel did evil again in the sight of Jehovah, and Jehovah strengthened Eglon the King of Moab against Israel; so vv. 14, 15, etc.]

There is reason to believe that the original Deuteronomic book of Judges included the stories of Eli and Samuel, and ended with I Samuel xii. It is expressly said in Judges xiii. 5 that Samson is to begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines, and it is reasonable to suppose that the completion of the deliverance was also related; besides, Samuel's farewell address contains many reminiscences of the familiar formulae of the book of Judges (I Sam. xii. 9ff.) and an appropriate summary of the teaching and some of the facts of that book (cf. v. 11). It is easy to imagine, however, why the stories of Eli and Samuel were ultimately separated from the book of Judges: partly because they were felt to be hardly judges in the old sense of defenders, deliverers—Eli was a priest, and Samuel a prophet—and still more because the story of Samuel, at any rate, was bound up with the history of the monarchy.

The book received its present form from post-exilic redactors. This is rendered certain by the unmistakable marks of the influence of the priestly code in chs. xx., xxi. The unanimity with which Israel acts, the extraordinarily high numbers,[1] the prominence of such words as "congregation," constitute indubitable evidence of a priestly hand. Some post-Deuteronomic hand, if not this same one,[2] added the other appendix, xvii., xviii., the introduction, i.-ii. 5, and the sections in the body of the book already shown to be late.[3]. The motives which prompted these additions were varied. With regard to the minor judges, e.g., some suppose that the object was simply to make up the number twelve; but generally speaking, the motive for the additions would be the natural desire to conserve extant relics of the past. The introduction, and appendix, though added late, contain very ancient material. Many of the historical notices in ch. i. are reproductions of early and important notices in the book of Joshua, though with significant editorial additions, usually in honour of Judah; [Footnote: Cf. ch. i. 8, which contradicts i. 21; and i, 18, which contradicts i. 19.] and the story of the origin of the sanctuary at Dan, with its very candid account of the furniture of the sanctuary and the capture of the priest, is obviously very old. Doubtless also there is a historical element in xix.-xxi., though it has been seriously overlaid by the priestly redaction—possibly also in the notices of the minor judges. [Footnote 1: Ch. xx. 2 (of. Num. xxxi.). Contrast Jud. v. 8.] [Footnote 2: Note the phrase in both stories. "In those days there was no king in Israel," xviii. i, xix. I.] [Footnote 3: Shamgar iii. 31; Abimelech (ix); minor judges, x. 1-5, xii. 8-15; Samson (xvi.)]

This raises the question of the sources and historical value of the stories in the body of the book, which, as we have seen, are very easily separated from the redactional elements. Indeed, as those elements are confined to the beginning and the end of the stories, we may assume that the stories themselves were not composed by the redactors, but already reached them in a fixed and finished form. Further, it is important to note that, just as in the prophetic portions of the Hexateuch, duplicates are often present—very probably in the stories of Ehud, iii. 12ff., Deborah and Barak (iv.), Abimelech (ix.), and Micah (xvii., xviii.), but certainly in the story of Gideon[1] (vi.-viii.). According to the later version, Gideon is the deliverer of Israel from the incursions of the Midianites, and the princes slain are Oreb and Zeeb, vii. 24-viii. 3; according to the earlier version, viii. 4-21, which is on a smaller scale, Gideon, accompanied by part of his clan, takes the lives of Zebah and Zalmunna to avenge his brothers, whom they had slain. In the case of duplicated stories, the Deuteronomic redactors apparently found the stories already in combination, so that the original constituent documents must be further back still. As the narratives, with their primitive religious ideas and practices and their obvious delight in war, are clearly the echo of an early time, we shall be safe in relegating the original documents, at the latest, to the eighth or ninth century B.C. It is a point on which unanimity has not yet been reached, whether these documents are the Jehovist and Elohist of the Hexateuch; but considering the fact that the older notices in i.-ii. 5, on account of the prominence of Judah and for other reasons, are usually assigned to J, and that some of the characteristics of these two documents recur in the course of the book, the hypothesis that J and E are continued at least into Judges must be regarded as not improbable. [Footnote 1: In the story of Jephthah, ch. xi. 12-28, which interrupt the connexion and deals with Moab, not with Ammon, is a later interpolation.]

Fortunately we are able in one case to trace the source of a story. The story of Deborah and Barak is told in chs. iv. and v. Ch. 5, which is so graphic that it must have come from a contemporary-one had almost said an eye-witness—is undoubtedly the older form of the story, as it is in verse. Partly on the basis of this poem ch. iv. has been built up, and the account of Sisera's death in this chapter, iv. 21, which differs from that in v. 26, 27, rests on a misunderstanding of the situation in v. 26. Here we see the risks which the ballads ran when turned into prose, but more important is it to note the poetical origin of the story. Probably ch. v. originally belonged to such a collection as the book of the wars of Jehovah or the book of Jashar, and it is natural to suppose that other stories in the book of Judges—e.g. the exploits of Gideon—may have similarly originated in war-ballads.

The religion of the book of Judges is powerful but primitive. The ideal man is the ideal warrior. Grim tales of war are told with unaffected delight, and the spirit of God manifests itself chiefly in the inspiration of the warrior. Gideon and Micah have their idols. Chemosh and Dagon are as real, though not so powerful, as Jehovah. Unlike the redaction, the earlier tales are not given to moralizing, and yet once at least the moral is explicitly pointed, ix. 56ff. But elsewhere the power of religion in life is suggested, not by explicit comment, but rather by the naturalness with which every interest and activity of life are viewed in a religious light. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the priceless song of Deborah[1] (v.). Israel's battles are the battles of Jehovah; her triumph is His triumph. The song is inspired by an intense belief in the national God, but there was little that was ethical in the religion of the period. Jephthah offers his child in sacrifice. Jael is praised for a murder which was a breach of the common Semitic law of hospitality. By revealing, however, so candidly the meagre beginnings of Israel's religion, the book of Judges only increases our sense of the miracle which brought that religion to its incomparable consummation in the fulness of the times. [Footnote 1: The song is not necessarily and not probably composed by Deborah. In v. 12 she is addressed in the 2nd person, and v. 7 may be similarly read, "Till thou, Deborah, didst arise."]


Alike from the literary and the historical point of view, the book[1] of Samuel stands midway between the book of Judges and the book of Kings. As we have already seen, the Deuteronomic book of Judges in all probability ran into Samuel and ended in ch. xii.; while the story of David, begun in Samuel, embraces the first two chapters of the first book of Kings. The book of Samuel is not very happily named, as much of it is devoted to Saul and the greater part to David; yet it is not altogether inappropriate, as Samuel had much to do with the founding of the monarchy. The Jewish tradition that Samuel was the author of the book is, of course, a palpable fiction, as the story is carried beyond his death. [Footnote 1: Two books in the Greek translation, as in modern Bibles; originally one in the Hebrew, but two from the year 1517 A.D.]

The book deals with the establishment of the monarchy. Its ultimate analysis is very difficult; but, if we regard the summary notices in 1 Samuel xiv. 47-51 and 2 Samuel viii. as the conclusion of sections—and this seems to have been their original intention—the broad outlines are clear enough, and the book may be divided into three parts: the first (1 Sam. i.-xiv.) dealing with Samuel and Saul, the second (i Sam. xv.-2 Sam. viii.) with Saul and David, and the third (2 Sam. ix.-xx., concluding with I Kings i., ii.) with David, xxi.-xxiv. being, like Judges xvii.-xxi., in the nature of an appendix.

The book opens in the period of the Philistine wars. Samuel's birth, call and influence are described (I Sam. i.-iii.), and the disastrous defeat which Israel suffered at the hand of the Philistines. Jehovah, however, asserted His dignity, and the ark, which had been captured, was restored to Israel (iv.-vii.). But the peril had taught Israel her need of a king, and, by a providential course of events, Saul becomes the chosen man. He gains initial successes (viii.-xiv.).

But, for a certain disobedience and impetuosity, his rejection by God is pronounced by Samuel, and David steps upon the arena of history as the coming king. His successes in war stung the melancholy Saul, who at first had loved him, into jealousy; and the tragedy of Saul's life deepens. Recognizing in the versatile David his almost certain successor, he seeks in various ways to compass his destruction, but more than once David repays his malice with generosity. Saul's persecution, however, is so persistent that David is compelled to flee, and he takes refuge with his country's enemy, the Philistine king of Gath. At the decisive battle between Israel and the Philistines on Gilboa, Saul perishes. Soon afterwards, David is made king of Judah; and emerging successfully from the subsequent struggle with Saul's surviving son, he becomes king over all Israel, seizes Jerusalem, and makes it his civil and religious capital (1 Sam. xv.-2 Sam. viii.).

The story of his reign is told with great power and candour, and is full of the most diverse interest—his guilty passion for Bathsheba, which left its trail of sorrow over all his subsequent career, the dissensions in the royal family, the unsuccessful rebellion of his son Absalom, the strife between Israel and Judah (2 Sam. ix.-xx.). The story is concluded in 1 Kings i., ii., by an account of the intrigue which secured the succession of Solomon, and finally by the death and testament of David. The appendix, which interrupts the story and closes the book of Samuel (xxi.-xxiv.) consists of (a) two narratives, with a dominant religious interest, which chronologically appear to belong to the beginning of David's reign—the atonement by which Jehovah's anger, expressed in famine, was turned away from the land, xxi. 1-14, and the plague which, as a divine penalty, followed David's census of the people (xxiv.); (b) two psalms—a song of gratitude for God's gracious deliverances (xxii.=Ps. xviii.), and a brief psalm expressing confidence in the triumph of justice, xxiii. 1-7; (c) two lists of David's heroes and their deeds, xxi. 15-22, xxiii. 8-39.

In the book of Samuel, even more distinctly than in the Hexateuch, composite authorship is apparent. Little or no attempt has been made by the redactor[1] to reduce, by omissions, adaptations, or corrections, the divergent sources to a unity, so that we are in the singularly fortunate position of possessing information which is exceedingly early, and in some cases all but contemporary, of persons, events and movements, which exercised the profoundest influence on the subsequent history of Israel. The book has been touched in a very few places by the Deuteronomic redactor—not to anything like the same extent as Judges or Kings. The few points at which he intervenes, however, are very significant; his hand is apparent in the threat of doom pronounced upon Eli's house (1 Sam. ii. 27-36),[2] in the account of the decisive battle against the Philistines represented as won for Israel by Samuel's intercession (1 Sam. vii. 3-16), in Samuel's farewell address to the people (1 Sam. xii.) and—most important of all—in Nathan's announcement to David of the perpetuity of his dynasty (2 Sam. vii.). A study of these passages reveals the didactic interest so characteristic of the redactors. [Footnote 1: "Come and let us renew the kingdom," 1 Sam. xi. 14, is a redactional attempt to reconcile the two stories of the origin of the monarchy.] [Footnote 2: Cf. 2 Kings xxiii. 9; Deut, xviii. 6-8.]

Such a book as Samuel offered little opportunity for a priestly redaction, but it has been touched here and there by a priestly hand, as we see from 1 Samuel vi. 15, with its belated introduction of the Levites to do what had been done already, v. 14, and from the very significant substitution of "all the Levites" for "Abiathar" in 2 Samuel xv. 24, cf. 29.

The composite quality of the book of Samuel could hardly fail to strike even a careless observer. Many of the events, both important and unimportant, are related twice under circumstances which render it practically impossible that two different incidents are recorded. Two explanations are given, e.g., of the origin of the saying, "Is Saul also among the prophets?" I Sam. x. 11, xix. 24. Similarly, the story of David's magnanimity in sparing Saul's life is twice told (1 Sam. xxiv., xxvi.), and there is no allusion in the second narrative to the first, such as would be natural, if not necessary, on the assumption that the occasions were really different. There are also two accounts of David's sojourn among the Philistines and of his speedy departure from a situation fraught with so much peril (1 Sam. xxi. 10-15, xxvii., xxix.). Of course there are not unimportant differences between these two narratives: the voluntary departure of the one story becomes a courteous, though firm, dismissal in the other; but in the light of so many other unmistakable duplicates, it is hard to believe that these are not simply different versions of the same story. There are two accounts of the death of Saul: according to the one, he committed suicide (1 Sam. xxxi. 4), according to the other he was slain by an Amalekite (2 Sam. i. 10). The Amalekite's story may, of course, be fiction, but it is not necessary to suppose this.

The differences between the duplicate accounts are sometimes so serious as to amount to incompatibility. In one document, e.g., teraphim are found in the house of a devout worshipper of Jehovah, 1 Sam. xix. 13, in another they are the symbol of an idolatry which is comparable to the worst of sins, 1 Sam. xv. 23. Again, there is no reason to doubt the statement in the apparently ancient record of the deeds of David's heroes, that Elhanan slew Goliath of Gath, 2 Sam. xxi. 19. But if this be so, what becomes of the elaborate and romantic story of i Samuel xvii., which claims this honour for David? The difficulty created by this discrepancy was felt as early as the times of the chronicler, who surmounts it by asserting that it was the brother of Goliath whom Elhanan slew (1 Chron. xx. 5). Connected with this story are other difficulties affecting the relation of David to Saul. In this chapter, Saul is unacquainted with David, 1 Samuel xvii. 56, whereas in the preceding chapter David is not only present at his court, but has already won the monarch's love, xvi. 21. The David of the one chapter is quite unlike the David of the other; in xvi. 18 he is a mature man, a skilled and versatile minstrel-warrior, and the armour-bearer of the king; in xvii. 38, 39, he is a young shepherd boy who cannot wield a sword, and who cuts a sorry figure in a coat of mail. Many of these undoubted difficulties are removed by the Septuagint[1] which omits xvii. 12-31 ,41, 50, 55-xviii. 5, and the question is raised whether the Septuagint omitted these verses to secure a more consistent narrative, or whether they were wanting, as seems more probable, in the Hebrew text from which the Greek was translated. In that case these verses, which give an idyllic turn (cf. ch. xvi.) to the story of David, may have been added after the Greek version was written, i.e, hardly earlier than 250 B.C., and a curious light would thus be shed upon the history of the text and on the freedom with which it was treated by later Jewish scholars. Equally striking and important are the conflicting conceptions of the monarchy entertained in the earlier part of the book. One source regards it as a blessing and a gift of Jehovah; the first king is anointed by divine commission "to be prince over my people Israel, and he shall save my people out of the hand of the Philistines," 1 Sam. ix. 16; the other regards the request for an earthly king as a rejection of the divine king, and the monarchy as destined to prove a vexation, if not a curse (viii.). Centuries seem to separate these conceptions—the one expressing the exuberant enthusiasm with which the monarchy was initiated, the other—perhaps about Hosea's time (cf. Hosea viii. 4)—reflecting the melancholy experience of its essential impotence.[2] [Footnote 1: The Greek text of Samuel is often of great value. In 1 Sam. xiv. 18 it preserves the undoubtedly original reading, "bring hither the ephod, for he carried the ephod that day before Israel," instead of "Being hither the ark of God." and in v. 41 the Greek version makes it clear that the Urim and Thummim were the means employed to determine the lot.] [Footnote 2: If other proof were wanted that the book is not an original literary unit, it might be found in the occasional interruption of the natural order. 2 Sam. xxi.-xxiv. is the most extensive and obvious interruption. But 2 Sam. iii. 2-5 is also out of place, it goes with v. 6-16. So I Sam. xviii. 10, 11, which is really a duplication of xix, 9, 10 is psychologically inappropriate at so early a stage.]

These considerations suggest that at any rate as far as 2 Samuel viii.—for it is universally admitted that 2 Samuel ix.-xx. is homogeneous—there are at least two sources, which some would identify, though upon grounds that are not altogether convincing, with the Jehovist and Elohist documents in the Hexateuch. One of these sources is distinctly early and the other distinctly late, and the early source contains much ancient and valuable material. Its recognition of Samuel as a local seer willing to tell for a small piece of money where stray asses have gone, its enthusiastic attitude to the monarchy, its obvious delight in the splendid presence and powers of Saul, its intimate knowledge of the ecstatic prophets, its conception of the ark as a sort of fetish whose presence insures victory—all these things bespeak for the document that relates them a high antiquity. The other document represents Samuel as a great judge and virtual regent over all Israel, it has a wide experience of the evils of monarchy, it idealizes David, and it regards Saul as a "rejected" man. It is possible that these documents, in their original form, were biographical—Saul being the chief hero in the one and David in the other. A biography of Samuel, which may or may not have included the story of the war with the Philistines (I Sam. iv.-vii. 2), possibly existed separately, though in its present form it is interwoven with the story of Saul.

It would be difficult to overpraise the literary and historical genius of the writer who in 2 Samuel ix.-xx. traces the checkered course of David's reign. He has an unusually intimate knowledge of the period, a clear sense of the forces that mould history, a delicate insight into the springs of character, and an estimable candour in portraying the weakness as well as the strength of his hero. The writer's knowledge is so intimate that one is tempted to suppose that he must have been a contemporary; and yet such a phrase as "to this day," 2 Sam. xviii. 18, unless it be redactional, almost compels us to come lower down. Probably, however, it is not later than the time of Solomon, whose reign appears to have been marked by literary as well as commercial activity.[1] [Footnote l: The Book of Jashar, whose latest known reference comes from the reign of Solomon (cf. p.102), is supposed by some to have been edited in that reign.]

The last four chapters, which interrupt the main narrative, contain some ancient and some late material. The two tales, xxi. 1-14, xxiv., which have much in common, were preserved because of their religious interest; and although part of ch. xxiv. (cf. vv. 10-14) is in the later style, both stories throw much welcome light on the early religious ideas of Israel. Of the poems 2 Samuel xxii. in its present form can hardly be David's,[1] and the same doubt may be fairly entertained with regard to xxiii. 1-7. Even if v. 1 be not an imitation of Numbers xxiv. 3, 15, it is hardly likely that David would have described himself in terms of the last clause of this verse. The eschatological complexion of vv. 6, 7 also suggests, though perhaps it does not compel, a later date; further, it is not exactly in favour of the Davidic authorship of either of these psalms that they are found in a section which was obviously interpolated later.[2] On the other hand, there can be no reasonable doubt that the incomparable elegy over Saul and Jonathan in 2 Samuel i. 19-27 is David's. Poetically it is a gem of purest ray; but, though its position in the book of Jashar[3] shows that it was regarded as a religious poem, it strikes no distinctively religious note. The little fragment on the death of Abner, 2 Sam. iii. 33ff., is also no doubt his. [Footnote 1: See pp. 247, 248.] [Footnote 2: The song of Hannah, 1 Sam. ii. 1-10, is proof that later editors inserted poems at points which they deemed appropriate. If the "anointed king," for whom prayer is offered in v. 10, be one of the historical kings, then the Ps. is pre-exilic; if the Messianic king of the latter days, post-exilic. But in neither case could the prayer be Hannah's, as there was no king yet. The clause in v. 5—"the barren hath borne seven"—suggested the interpolation of the poem at this point.] [Footnote 3: This may either mean the book of the upright or brave, i.e. the heroes of Israel, or it may mean the book of Israel herself.]

The book of Samuel offers a large contribution to our knowledge of the early religion of Israel. It presents us with a practical illustration of the rigorous obligations of the ban (1 Sam. xv.), of the effects of technical holiness (1 Sam. xxi. 4, 5), of the appearance of the images known as teraphim (1 Sam. xix. 13), of the usages of necromancy (1 Sam. xxviii.), of the peril of unavenged bloodshed (2 Sam. xxi.), of the almost idolatrous regard for the ark (1 Sam. iv.), of the nature of the lot (1 Sam. xiv. 41, lxx.), of the place of fasting and the inviolability of oaths (1 Sam. xiv.). To the student of human nature, the book is peculiarly rich in material. The career of David and still more that of Saul—David with his weakness and his magnanimity, and Saul, a noble character, ruined by jealousy and failure combined working upon a predisposition to melancholy—present a most fascinating psychological study. The ethical interest, too, though seldom obtruded, is always present. In the parable of Nathan, it receives direct and dramatic expression; but the whole story of David's reign is haunted by a sense of the Nemesis of sin.


The book[1] of Kings is strikingly unlike any modern historical narrative. Its comparative brevity, its curious perspective, and-with some brilliant exceptions—its relative monotony, are obvious to the most cursory perusal, and to understand these things is, in large measure, to understand the book. It covers a period of no less than four centuries. Beginning with the death of David and the accession of Solomon (1 Kings i., ii.) it traverses his reign with considerable fulness (1 Kings iii.-xi.), then carries on the history of the monarchy in both countries from the disruption to the fall of the northern kingdom (1 Kings xii.-2 Kings xvii.), and traces the story of Judah from that point to the exile (2 Kings xviii.-xxv.). [Footnote 1: Originally and till 1517 A.D. Kings was reckoned in the Hebrew Bible as one book. The Greek translation reckons it as two books, which it entitles the third and fourth books of the kingdoms, the first two being represented by the two books of Samuel.]

During this period events of epoch-making importance in politics and religion were taking place. In it literary prophecy was born, trade and commerce arose with their inevitable cleavage of society into the rich and the poor, the northern kingdom disappeared as a political force, and many of her people were carried into exile. Judah was dominated in turn by Assyria and Babylonia, with the result that her religious usages were profoundly affected by theirs. But of all this we learn very little from the book of Kings. Most of what we do know of the inner history of the period comes from the prophets. To understand the state of society, e.g. in the time of Jeroboam II, we go not to the book of Kings but to Amos and Hosea.

Again the perspective is strange. It is not only that brief reigns like those of Shallum and Pekahiah (2 Kings xv.) are dismissed in a verse or two, but even long and very important reigns, such as that of Jeroboam II. (2 Kings xiv. 23-29). Omri, the father of Ahab, was, we know, a much more important person than the few verses devoted to him in I Kings xvi. 21-28 would lead us to suppose. The reign of Ahab himself, on the other hand, is dealt with at considerable length (I Kings xvi. 29-xxii. 40), and Solomon receives no less than nine chapters (I Kings iii.-xi.). The stories of Jeroboam I (I Kings xii.), Hezekiah (2 Kings xviii.-xx.), Josiah (2 Kings xxii. ff.) are told with comparative fulness. Whenever the narrative begins to expand it is plain that the interest of the author is predominantly and almost exclusively religious; in other words, his aim is to write not a political, but an ecclesiastical history. This at once explains his insertions and omissions. Omri's reign was not marked by anything of conspicuous importance to religion, while it was under Ahab that the great struggle of Jehovah worship against Baalism took place. Solomon is of unique importance, as he was the founder of the temple. Hezekiah's career touches that of the prophet Isaiah, while his reign and Josiah's are marked by attempts at religious reform. The author is writing for men who have access to records of the political history, and to these "chronicles of the kings of Israel and Judah," as they are called, he repeatedly refers readers who are interested in the political facts.

Finally, though some of the narratives—notably the Elijah group-are dramatic and powerful to the last degree, the book has not, generally speaking, that flexibility and movement which we are accustomed to look for in a modern historian. It has been artificially conformed to a scheme. The various kings are introduced and dismissed and their reigns are criticized, in set formulae, and these formulae are Deuteronomic. With the exception of Hezekiah, all the kings before Josiah are implicitly condemned for worshipping upon the high places; and the centralization of the worship at Jerusalem was, as we have already seen, the chief feature of the Deuteronomic legislation. The book of Kings, like Joshua, Judges and Samuel (in part), has been subjected to a Deuteronomic redaction, of which the most obvious feature is the summary notice and criticism of the various kings. This redaction cannot have taken place earlier than 621 B.C. (the date of the publication of Deuteronomy) nor later than 597 B.C., as the reference to the chronicles of the kings of Judah ceases with the reign of Jehoiakim, 2 Kings xxiv. 5. Parts of the book presuppose that the temple is still standing, I Kings viii. 29, and the exile not yet an accomplished fact. There was, however, a later redaction some years after the pardon of Jehoiachin in 561 B.C. (2 Kings xxv. 27), and sporadic traces of this are seen throughout the book, parts of which clearly imply the exile, 1 Kings viii. 46, 47, and the destruction of the temple, 1 Kings ix. 7, 8. These redactions are known to criticism as D and D2 respectively.

On none of the historical books has the influence of Deuteronomy been so pervasive as on Kings. The importance of the Deuteronomic law receives emphatic reiteration, 1 Kings ii. 3, 4, ix. 1-9, and once that law is cited practically word for word, 2 Kings xiv. 6; cf. Deut. xxiv. 16. Naturally the affairs of the temple as the exclusive seat of the true worship receive considerable attention. This explains the elaborate treatment accorded to the reign of Solomon, who founded the temple, and to the description of the temple itself (1 Kings vi.); and on his prayer of dedication the Deuteronomic influence is very conspicuous (1 Kings viii.). It is also unmistakable in the chapter which concludes the story of the northern kingdom and attempts to account for the disaster (2 Kings xvii.). The chapter presents what may be called a Deuteronomic philosophy of history, corresponding to the scheme which is thrown into the forefront of the book of Judges (ii. 6-iii. 6). Traces of a hand that is still later than the second Deuteronomic redaction are to be found here and there in the book; e.g., in 1 Kings viii. 4, the Levites are a later insertion to satisfy the requirements of the post-exilic priestly law—the words are not supported by the Septuagint. Here we see the influence of the priestly point of view, but the traces are far too few to justify us in speaking of a priestly redaction; the course which such a redaction would have taken we see from the book of Chronicles. But that the book was touched by post-exilic hands is certain; 1 Kings xiii. 32 actually speaks of "the cities of Samaria," a phrase which implies that Samaria was a province, as it was not till after the exile.

It is fortunate that one of the longest, most important, and impressive sections of the book—the Elijah and Elisha narratives (1 Kings xvii.-2 Kings viii., xiii. l4-2l)—has not been touched by the Deuteronomic redaction. The Elijah narratives not only recognize the existence of altars all over the land, 1 Kings xix. 10, but the great contest between Jehovah and Baal is actually decided at the sanctuary on Carmel, xviii. 20, a sanctuary which, by the Deuteronomic law, was illegal. Again, the advice given by Elisha to cut down the fruit trees in time of war, 2 Kings iii. 19, is in direct contravention of the Deuteronomic law (Deut. xx. 19). These narratives must precede the redaction of the book by a century and a half or more, and we have them pretty much as they left the hand of the original writers. A post-exilic hand, however, is evident in 1 Kings xviii. 31, 32a. To a later age, which believed in the exclusive rights of Jerusalem, the altar on Carmel, which was said to be repaired by Elijah, v. 30, was naturally an offence; so the repairing of this old altar is represented as the erection of a new and special one, typical of the unity of Israel. The lateness of the insertion is further proved by its containing a quotation from P (Gen. xxxv. 10).

As the book was redacted by Judean writers, it is not unnatural that the summary notices of the kings of Judah are more elaborate than those of Israel. In the former case, but not in the latter, the age of the king at his accession and the name of his mother are mentioned. One curious feature of these notices is that the statement of a king's accession, whether in Israel or Judah, is always accompanied by a statement of the corresponding year in the contemporary reign of the sister kingdom. The notices conform to this type: "In the twenty and seventh year of Jeroboam, king of Israel, began Azariah, son of Amaziah, king of Judah, to reign," 2 Kings xv. 1. It is practically certain that these synchronisms, as they are called, are not contemporary but the work of the redactors. There is no reason to suppose that the kings of either country would have dated their own reigns with reference to the other; besides, the synchronisms do not strictly agree with the other chronological notices of the reigns. The period between the division of the kingdoms and the fall of Samaria is estimated as 260 years in the story of the kings of Judah, but only as 242 in the case of Israel. Probably the original documents contained the number of years in the reign, and the dates of the more important events; but the synchronisms represent an artificial scheme created by the redactor. Traces of such a system are present in 1 Kings vi. 1, according to which 480 years, i.e. twelve generations of forty years each, elapsed between the exodus and the building of the temple.

So much for the redaction; what, then, were the sources of the redaction? Three are expressly mentioned—the book of the acts of Solomon, 1 Kings xi. 41, the book of the chronicles of the kings of Israel, and the book of the chronicles of the kings of Judah. The nature of these books may be inferred, partly from the facts recorded in our book of Kings, and especially from the facts in support of which they are cited. They seem to have contained, e.g., accounts of wars, conquests, conspiracies, buildings, 1 Kings xiv. 19, xv. 23, xvi. 20, but it is not probable that they were official annals. There was indeed a court official whose name is sometimes translated "the recorder," 2 Sam. viii. 16, 1 Kings iv. 3. But besides the probable inaccuracy of this translation,[1] it is very unlikely that, in the northern kingdom at any rate, with its frequent revolutions, court annals were continuously kept; the annalist could hardly have recorded the questionable steps by which his monarch often succeeded to the throne, though doubtless official documents were extant, capable of forming material for the subsequent historian. But in any case, the chronicles to which the book of Kings refers cannot have been official annals; it is assumed that they are accessible to everybody, as they would not have been had they been official chronicles. They were in all probability finished political histories, something like the elaborate section devoted to Solomon in our present book of Kings. The chronicles of the kings of Israel and Judah probably formed, not one book, as has been supposed, but two; the same event, e.g., the campaign of Hazael, is sometimes mentioned in two distinct and independent connections, 2 Kings x. 32, xiii. 3, cf. xii. 18f.—a fact which further suggests that the redactor treated his sources with at least comparative fidelity. [Footnote 1: The word strictly means "one who calls to mind," and would appropriately designate an official who brought the affairs of the kingdom before the king.]

The book of Kings, as we have seen, concentrates attention almost exclusively on the religious elements in the history, and these were determined largely by the prophets. It is not surprising, therefore, that many of the longer sections deal with the utterances or activities of prophets at critical junctures of the history. The part played by Ahijah at the time of the disruption of the kingdom, by Elijah in the great struggle between Baal and Jehovah worship, by Elisha during the Aramean assaults upon Israel, by Isaiah at the invasion of Sennacherib—these and similar episodes are dealt with so fully as to suggest that biographies of the prophets, written possibly by literary members of the prophetic order, were at the disposal of the redactors of the book of Kings. Temple affairs are also discussed, from the days of Solomon to Josiah (I Kings vi. vii., 2 Kings xi., xii., xvi., xxii., xxiii.), with a sympathy and a minuteness which almost suggest the inference that a regular temple history was kept; but occasional statements which are anything but flattering to the priests (2 Kings xii. 7, 15) render the inference somewhat precarious.

Besides the chronicles and biographies, there are hints that the redactors had access to other sources. The words in which Solomon dedicated the temple, only partially preserved in the Hebrew, are, by a very probable emendation of the Greek text, taken from the book of Jashar:—

The sun hath Jehovah set in the heavens, He himself hath determined to dwell in the darkness. And so I have built Thee an house to dwell in, Even a place to abide in for ever and ever. (1 Kings viii. 12, 13; Septuagint, v. 53).

Again, 1 Kings xx., xxii. appears to come from a different source from the Elijah narratives in 1 Kings xvii.-xix., xxi. The former section takes a distinctly more favourable view of Ahab than the Elijah stories do, and, unlike them, it alludes to Ahab seldom by name, but usually as "the king of Israel"; further, in it the great prophet of the period is Micah rather than Elijah. Both these groups of narrative belong no doubt to the northern kingdom.[1] [Footnote 1: Chs. xx., xxii. obviously so; but no less xvii.-xix., xxi., for in 1 Kings xix. 3 Beersheba is described as belonging to Judah. A Judean writer would not have appended such a note.]

It is important to consider the value of the sources of the book of Kings. We have already seen that the redactor occasionally deals with them in a spirit of praiseworthy scrupulousness, repeating the same fact from different sources, and making no attempt to dovetail the one narrative into the other. Sometimes the sources have been demonstrably followed word for word, phrases like to this day being used of situations which had passed away by the time the book was redacted.[1] The facts, though lamentably meagre, have usually the appearance of being thoroughly trustworthy; the quotation from the book of Jashar is no doubt as genuine as it is interesting, and the brief account of the submission of Hezekiah to the tribute imposed by Sennacherib, 2 Kings xviii. 14-16, is supported by the Assyrian records. But it is evident that the history does not always rest upon contemporary sources, and that early events and personalities are touched with the colours of legend or romance. Much of the story of Solomon, e.g., is unmistakably historical—his luxury, his effeminacy, his commerce, his unscrupulousness. But there are stories of another sort which, on the face of them, must be decades, if not centuries, later than Solomon's reign. "There came no more," we are informed, "such abundance of spices as those which the queen of Sheba gave to king Solomon" (1 Kings x. 10). The age of Solomon is clearly long past, and his glory has been enhanced by the lapse of time; for "silver was nothing accounted of in the days of Solomon," x. 21. Tales are told of his almost fabulous revenue, x. 14, which can hardly be reconciled with the story of his loan from Hiram, ix. 14. The story of Solomon is really a compilation, and its various elements are by no means all of the same historical value. [Footnote 1: E.g., 1 Kings xii. 19 implies the existence of Israel, and 2 Kings viii. 22 (Edom revolted from under the hand of Judah unto this day) ignores the later conquest of Edom by Amaziah, xiv. 7.]

The career of Elisha is also seen through the colours of a rich and reverent imagination. It is, in the main, intended to be a replica of Elijah's, and many of his miracles are obviously suggested by his. The story of Elisha's resuscitation of the dead child is an expansion of the similar story told of Elijah (2 Kings iv., 1 Kings xvii.), and his miracle wrought in behalf of the widow, 2 Kings iv. 1-7, is modelled on a similar miracle wrought by Elijah, 1 Kings xvii. 8-16. There is further an element of magic in his miracles which differentiates them from Elijah's, and throws them more upon the level of mediaeval hagiography; such, e.g., as the floating of the iron upon the water, or the raising of a dead man by contact with the prophet's bones. The Elijah narratives, on the other hand, represent a higher type of religious thought. The figure of that great prophet may also have been glorified by tradition, but in any case his was a personality of the most commanding power. He was indeed fortunate in his biographer; his story is told with great dramatic and literary art. In its account of the struggle with the greed of Ahab and the licentiousness of Baalism, it sheds a brilliant light upon one of the most crucial epochs of Hebrew history. Even this story, however, is not all of a piece. There is linguistic and other evidence that the chapter (2 Kings i.), in which two companies of fifty men are consumed by fire from heaven at the word of Elijah, is very late. In the story, which is rather mechanical and lacks the splendid dramatic power of the other Elijah stories, the prophet is only a wonder-worker, and his action is not determined by any moral consideration. It was not so much the spirit of Elijah himself, but rather that of the late redactor, that Jesus rebuked, when He said to His disciples, who quoted the prophet's conduct for a precedent, "Ye know not what spirit ye are of."

Perhaps the chapter of least historical value in the book of Kings is that in which Jeroboam I is condemned and denounced for his idolatry at Bethel (1 Kings xiii.). It contains an unparelleled instance of predictive prophecy: Josiah is foretold by name three centuries before he appears, v. 2. The difficulty of this prediction is so keenly felt that one orthodox commentator feels constrained to dispose of it by assuming that the name is to be taken, not as a proper name, but in its etymological sense as one whom "Jehovah supports," The sudden withering of the hand and its equally sudden restoration to health are hardly more surprising than the definite prediction of the fate of the idolatrous priests, v. 2,—a prediction which appears to be fulfilled to the letter, 2 Kings xxiii. 16-18. But when we examine the account of the fulfilment, we find that the passage is later than its context[1] and inconsistent with it. The conduct of the "old prophet," whose lying counsel is attributed to an angel, is, morally considered, disreputable, and it is surely no accident that the man of God, whose message and fate are thus strangely told, is anonymous, though, as the opponent of the famous Jeroboam I, the leader of the disruption, he ought to have been well known. The vagueness and improbabilities of the story can only be accounted for by its very late date. Fortunately we are able to show that the story is, at the earliest, post-exilic. As we have already seen, there is an allusion in v. 32 to the cities of Samaria, which implies that Samaria was a province, and stamps the passage at once as post-exilic. Even within the post-exilic period, it probably falls quite late—a precursor of the book of Chronicles. The historical spirit is in abeyance, and edification is the only consideration. The story is a late attempt to illustrate the great truth that God's word is immutable and must be uncompromisingly obeyed. [Footnote 1: Verse 16, in which the bones are burned on the altar, contradicts v. 15, in which the altar is already destroyed.]

The religious value of the book of Kings is general rather than particular. There are individual sections of great religious power and value—most of all the great group of Elijah narratives; but the book has been shorn, by the thoroughness of the redaction, of much that would have been of the deepest interest to the modern student of Israel's religious no less than political development. Taken as a whole, it has a certain melancholy grandeur. Beginning in the splendid glitter of Solomon's reign, the monarchy passed with unsteady gait across the centuries, menaced by foes without and within, and ended at last in the irretrievable disaster of exile. But through the sombre march of history, a divine purpose was being accomplished. The disaster which swallowed up the nation renewed and spiritualized the religion, and thus the seeming loss proved great gain.



Isaiah is the most regal of the prophets. His words and thoughts are those of a man whose eyes had seen the King, vi. 5. The times in which he lived were big with political problems, which he met as a statesman who saw the large meaning of events, and as a prophet who read a divine purpose in history. Unlike his younger contemporary Micah, he was, in all probability, an aristocrat; and during his long ministry (740-701 B.C., possibly, but not probably later) he bore testimony, as unremitting as it was brilliant, to the indefeasible supremacy of the unseen forces that shape history, and to the quiet strength that comes from confidence in God.

During this period three events stand out as of unique importance: the coalition—due to fear of Assyria—formed by Aram and Israel against Judah in 735 B.C. (vii. 1-ix. 6), the capture of Samaria by the Assyrians in 721 B.C., and the deliverance of Jerusalem in 701 B.C. from the menace of Sennacherib. In these and in all crises, Isaiah's message was a religious one, but instinct, as the sequel showed, with political wisdom. It rested ultimately upon the vision with which his ministry had been inaugurated—the vision of the King, the Lord of hosts, upon a throne high and lifted up, whose glory filled the whole earth.

The King was "holy," partly, no doubt, in the ethical sense—for the man of unclean lips is afraid in His presence—but also partly in the older sense of being separated, elevated, lifted above the chances and changes of humanity. Holiness here is almost equivalent to majesty, it is the other side of the divine glory; and it is this thought that inspires the message of Isaiah with such serene confidence. His God is on the throne of the universe: He is the Lord of hosts. His purposes concern not only Judah, but the whole world, xiv. 26, and His kingdom must eventually come. Therefore it is that when, at the news of the confederacy of Aram and Israel against Judah, "the heart of Ahaz and his people shook as shake the forest trees before the wind," vii. 2, Isaiah remains firm as a rock; for, to paraphrase his own great alliterative words, "Faith brings fixity," vii. 9b. This word of his early ministry is also one of his latest (701): "he who believeth shall not give way," xxviii. 16. That is the precious foundation stone that abides unshaken amid the shock of circumstance, and can bear any weight that may be thrown upon it. This, then, is Isaiah's great contribution to religion: he is before all things, the prophet of faith. "In quietness and confidence your strength shall be," xxx. 15.

It is easy from this point of view to understand the scorn which Isaiah heaps upon the common objects of men's trust, whether ships, walls or towers (ii.), lip-worship, xxix. 13f., or the gorgeous services of the sanctuary, cunning diplomacy or the projected alliance with Egypt or Assyria (xxx.). Isaiah is the sworn foe of materialism: the contrast between human and divine resource is to him nothing less than infinite. "The Egyptians are men, and not God; and their horses flesh, and not spirit," (xxxi. 3). It is in harmony with this insistence upon the supremacy of the spiritual that Isaiah regarded religion as separable not only from political form, but even from ecclesiastical organization; for (if the text of viii. 16b can be trusted) he committed his message not to the contemporary church, but to a few disciples, transforming thereby the existing conception of the church, and taking a step of immeasurable significance for the development of true religion.

The majesty and originality of Isaiah's thought have their counterpart in his language. Very powerful, e.g., is his description of the Assyrian army—

See! hastily, swiftly he comes, None weary, none stumbling among them, The band of his loins never loosed, The thong of his shoes never torn. His arrows are sharpened, His bows are all bent. The hoofs of his horses are counted as flint, And his wheels as the whirlwind. His roar is like that of the lioness. And like the young lions he roars, Thundering, seizing the prey, And bearing it off to a place of security. v. 26-29.

The book is full of poetry as fine as this. Whether describing the mighty roar of the sea, xvii. 12-14, or Jehovah's power to defend Israel, xxxi. 4, or singing a tender vineyard song (v.); Isaiah is equally at home. He effects his transitions with consummate skill: note, e.g., the swift application he makes of the parable of the vineyard, v. 5-7, or the scathing retort he makes to those who complain of the monotony and repetition of his message (xxviii. 11).[1] [Footnote 1: The real irony of this passage, xxviii. 10-13, can only be appreciated in the Hebrew.]

The prophecies that fall within the first thirty-nine chapters are practically all on a very high religious and literary level; yet it is all but universally conceded that they are not entirely from the hand of Isaiah. Some prophecies, e.g. xiii., xiv., may be nearly two centuries later than his time, others, e.g. xxiv.-xxvii, four or six; indeed large sections or fragments of the book are relegated by the more radical critics to the second century B.C. and connected with the Maccabean times. But even the more conservative scholars admit that several oracles of Isaiah have been worked over by later hands, possibly by pupils, and that isolated sections, e.g. xxiv.-xxvii., have to be relegated to the post-exilic age, and even to a comparatively late period within that age. These questions can only be settled, if at all, by exegetical, theological and historical considerations, for which this is not the place; but in sketching the contents of the various prophecies, the more probable alternatives will be indicated, where a solution is important.

It is plain that the present order of the book is not strictly chronological; otherwise it would have begun with the inaugural vision which now appears in ch. vi. Generally speaking, there are six more or less sharply articulated divisions in the first thirty-nine chapters, i.-xii., xiii.-xxiii., xxiv.-xxvii., xxviii.-xxxiii., xxxiv.-xxxv., xxxvi.-xxxix.

Chs, i.-xii. Prophecies concerning Judah, Jerusalem (and Israel)

The first division, like the fourth, deals in the main with Judah and Jerusalem. As the next division, xiii.-xxiii., deals with foreign peoples, i.1 can serve as a preface only to the first division and not to the whole book. The prophecy opens with an arraignment of Judah, intensely ethical in spirit. It was placed here, not because it was first in point of time, but as a sort of frontispiece; for, though the different sections of the ch., e.g. vv. 2-9, 10-20, may come from different times, the first at any rate implies the ravaging of Judah, i. 7, and appears to point to the invasion of Sennacherib in 701 B.C.: it would thus be one of the latest in the book. The land is wasted, the body politic diseased, i. 1-9; the people seek the favour of their God by assiduous and costly ceremony, which the prophet answers by an appeal for a moral instead of a ritual service, vv. 10-20. But, as injustice and idolatry are rampant, they will be surely punished, vv. 21-31.

As a foil to this picture of the depravity of Zion, a foil also to the immediately succeeding description of her pride and idolatry, is the beautiful vision of Zion in the issue of the days, ii. 2-5, as the city to which all nations shall resort for religious instruction, and their obedience to the expressed will of the God of Zion will usher in a reign of universal peace. The passage appears, with an additional verse, in Micah iv. 1-5, where it seems to be preserved in a more original form; yet Isaiah can hardly have borrowed it from Micah, who was younger than he. It used to be supposed that both adopted it from an older poet. But the contents of the oracle, assigning as it does a world-wide significance to Zion, its temple, and its torah, while not absolutely incompatible with Isaianic authorship, rather point to a post-exilic date. We are the more at liberty to assume that the passage was later inserted as a foil to the preceding description of Zion as Sodom, as neither in Isaiah nor in Micah does it fit the context.

The general theme of ii.-iv. is the divine judgment which will fall on all the foolish pride of Judah. How it will come, Isaiah does not say—the prophecy is one of the earliest (735?)—but the storm that will sweep across the land will reveal the impotence of superstition and idolatry and material resources of every kind, ii. 6-22. All the supports of Judah's political life will be taken away: indeed, the leaders are either so weak or rapacious that the country is already as good as ruined, iii. 1-15; and the women, who are as guilty as the men, will also be involved in their doom, iii. 16-iv. 1. Strangely enough, this eloquent threat of judgment ends in a vision of comfort and peace, iv. 2-6. The land is one day to be wondrously fruitful, her people to be cleansed and holy, and the glory of Jehovah will be over Zion as a shelter and shade. The theological implications of this last passage seem late, and it was probably appended by another hand than Isaiah's as a contrast and consolation.

Then follows a lament, in the form of a vineyard song, which skilfully ends in a denunciation of Judah, the vineyard of Jehovah, v. 1-7, merging thereafter into a sixfold woe, pronounced upon her rapacious land-holders, drunkards, sceptics, enemies of the moral order, worldly wise men, besotted and unjust judges, v. 8-24. This is fittingly followed by the announcement that Jehovah will summon against Judah the swift, unwearied and invincible hosts of Assyria, v. 25-30.

In the noble vision (740 B.C.) which inaugurated his prophetic ministry (vi.), Isaiah saw the glorious Jehovah attended by seraphim and received from Him the call to go forth and deliver his message to an unbelieving people. This vision appropriately introduces the prophecies proper in vii.-xii.; but it is practically certain that though the vision itself was early, the account of it is later. The hopelessness of his prospective ministry looks rather like the retrospect of a disappointing experience. Though Isaiah elsewhere expresses his faith in the salvation of a remnant, this chapter asserts the utter annihilation of the people, vv. 11-13ab. An attempt has been made to relieve the gloom in the last clause of the chapter, v. 13 c, by a comparison of the stump of the tree that remained, after felling, to the holy seed; but this clause, which is wanting in the Septuagint, and utterly blunts the keen edge of the prophecy, is no part of the original chapter.

The next section, vii. i-ix. 6, plunges us into the war which the allied arms of Aram and Israel waged against Judah in 735, doubtless in the desire to force her to join a coalition against Assyria. Isaiah, vii. 1-17, seeks to reassure the faith of the trembling king Ahaz; and when Ahaz refuses to put the prophetic word to the test, Isaiah boldly declares that the land will be delivered from the menace before two or three years are over; and many a child—or it may be some particular child—soon to be born, will be given the name Immanuel, and will thereby bear witness to the faith that, despite the stress of invasion, God will not forget His people, but that He "is with us."[1] To the same period, but probably not the same occasion, belongs the prophecy of the devastation of Judah by Assyria, vii. 18-25. But the blow is to fall first, and within two or three years, on Aram and Israel, with their respective capitals. It did not fall so quickly as Isaiah had expected: Damascus was indeed taken in 732, but Samaria not till 721: in spirit, however, if not in the letter, the prophecy was fulfilled, viii. 1-4. The unbelief of Judah will also be punished by the hosts of Assyria, but the ultimate purpose of Jehovah will not be frustrated, viii. 5-10. He alone is to be feared, and no combination of confederate kings need alarm, viii. 11-15. The prophet commits his message to his disciples, and with patience and confidence looks for vindication to the future, viii. 16-18. Desperate days would come, viii. 19-91, but they would be followed by a brilliant day of redemption when Jehovah would remove the yoke from the shoulder of His burdened people by sending them a glorious prince with the fourfold name. [Footnote 1: vii. 8b]

This latter prophecy, ix. 2-7, has been denied to Isaiah, but apparently with insufficient reason. The passage falls very naturally into its context. The northern districts of Israel (ix. 1) had been ravaged by Assyria in 734 B.C. (2 Kings xv. 29), and upon this darkness it is fitting that the great light should shine; and the yoke to be broken might well be the heavy tribute Judah was now obliged to pay. There are undoubted difficulties, e.g. the mention of a Davidic king, ix. 7, after a specific reference to the fortunes of Israel over which the Davidic king had no jurisdiction; and it is probable that we do not possess the oracle in its original form or completeness. But, in any case, the vision of the righteous and prosperous king ruling over a delivered people fittingly closes this series of somewhat loosely connected oracles.

The next section, ix. 8-x. 4, forms a very artistic whole, consisting of four strophes, each of four verses,[1] concluding with the refrain—

For all this His wrath is not turned, And His hand is stretched out still.

The poem, which falls about 734, lashes the pride and ambition of Israel (not Judah) and threatens her people with loss of territory and population, anarchy and civil war. The passage was probably originally followed by v. 26-29, which has a similar refrain, and which, with its vivid description of the terrible Assyrian army, would form an admirable climax to this poem. [Footnote 1: Ch. ix. 8 is an introduction and v. 13 an interpolation.]

Chs. x. 5-xii. 6. Assyria, then, is the instrument with which Jehovah chastises Israel. But because she executes her task in a spirit of presumption and pride, she in her turn is doomed to destruction; but the remnant of Jehovah's people will be saved, x. 5-27. The gradual approach of the Assyrians to Jerusalem is then described in language full of word-play, vv, 28-32, which forcibly reminds us of a very similar passage in Isaiah's contemporary Micah, i. 10-15. This chapter is probably about twenty years later than those that immediately precede it. There is an obvious advance in the prophet's attitude to Assyria, and the boast in vv. 9-11 carries the chapter later than the fall of Samaria (721) and Carchemish (717). It is even possible that the description of the Assyrian advance in vv. 28-32 implies Sennacherib's campaign in Judah in 701.

After the destruction of the enemy before Jerusalem in x. 33, 34 follows an enthusiastic description of the Messianic king—of his wisdom and justice, and of the universal peace which will extend even to the animal world, xi. 1-9. It is the counterpart of ix. 2-7, though here again, and perhaps with more reason, the Isaianic authorship has been doubted. The peculiar emphasis upon the equipment with the spirit is hardly, in these ethical relationships, demonstrably pre-exilic, and the "stem" out of which the shoot is to grow suggests that the monarchy had fallen, but the word may possibly be used to indicate its decadent condition. In any case, there seems very little doubt that the rest of the section, xi. 10-xii. 6, strikingly appropriate as it is in this place, is post-exilic. It describes how in the Messianic days just pictured, theexiles of Israel and Judah will be gathered from the ends of the earth to their own land, where their near neighbours will all be vanquished, xi. 10-16. Then follows a simple song of gratitude for the redemption Jehovah has wrought, xii. The presuppositions of the dispersion here described are not such as fit into Isaiah's time; they would not even apply to the conditions after the fall of Jerusalem and the exile of Judah in 586, still less to the fall of Samaria and the exile of Israel in 72l—the passage must be post-exilic. But though much later than Isaiah's time it forms a very skilful conclusion to the first division of his book, and is an admirable counterpart to the gloomy scenes of ch. i.

Chs. xiii.-xxiii. Prophecies concerning foreign nations

Chs. xiii. 1-xiv. 23. The Downfall of Babylon. The oracle concerning Babylon, the first of the series of oracles concerning foreign nations, is one of the most magnificent odes in literature. A day of destruction to be executed by the Medes is coming upon Babylon the proud (xiii.) and the exiles will return to their own land, xiv. 1-3. The triumph song that follows discloses a weird scene in the underworld, where the fallen king of Babylon receives an ironical welcome from the shadow-kings of the other nations. There can be no doubt that this prophecy is not by Isaiah. It glows with a passionate hatred of Babylon; but the Babylon which figured in the days of Isaiah (xxxix.) was only a province of Assyria, not an independent and oppressive world-power; nor would its destruction have meant the return of the exiles of northern Israel. The situation is plainly that of the period during the later exile of Judah before the capture of Babylon by Cyrus in 538, as the horrors which the poet anticipated (xiii. 15f.) did not take place.

In the spirit of ch. x., xiv. 24-27 proclaims the invincible triumph of Jehovah's purpose and the destruction of the Assyrians in the land of Judah. The assassination of Sargon in 705 B.C. was the cause of wild rejoicing throughout the western vassal states: the joy of Philistia is rebuked by the prophet in vv. 28-32 with the warning that worse is yet in store—an allusion, no doubt, to an expected Assyrian invasion. If this be the theme of the passage, v. 28 can hardly be correct, as Ahaz had died ten or twenty years before.

Chs. xv., xvi. Oracle concerning Moab. The subscription to this prophecy, xvi. 13, indicates that we have here an older prophetic oracle, given "heretofore." Strictly speaking, it is not so much a prophecy as an elegy over the fate of Moab whose land had been devastated by an invader from the north. The fugitives, arriving in Edom, send in vain for help to the people of Judah. Who the invader was it is hard to say—possibly Jeroboam II of Israel, whose conquests were extensive (2 Kings xiv. 25; Amos vi. 14). The oracle, besides being diffuse, is altogether destitute of higher prophetic thought, and is certainly not Isaiah's, though he adapted it to the existing situation and foretold a similar and speedy devastation of Moab, no doubt at the hands of the Assyrians, xvi. 14.

Ch. xvii. I-II. This prophecy concerning Aram and Israel falls, no doubt, within the period when these two countries were leagued against Judah, about 735. The doom of Aram is to be utter destruction; that of Israel, all but utter destruction.

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