It is quite impossible even to attempt a summary of iv.-xiv., partly because of the hopeless corruption of the text in very many passages, partly from the brevity and apparently disjointed nature of the individual sections. Possibly this is due, in large measure, to later redactors of the book, or to the fragmentary reports of the prophet's addresses; perhaps, however, it also expresses something of the abrupt passion of his speeches, which, as Kautzsch says, were "more sob than speech." The general theme of this division appears in its opening words, "There is no fidelity or love or knowledge of God in the land," iv. 1.
That knowledge of God is in part innate and universal: it is knowledge of God, and not specifically of Jehovah—not knowledge of a code, but fidelity to the demands of conscience. It was, however, the peculiar business of the priests to proclaim and develop that knowledge; and for the deplorable perversity of Israel, they are largely held responsible, iv. 6. The worship of Jehovah, which ought to be a moral service, vi. 6, is indistinguishable from Baal worship (ii.) and idolatry. Upon the calf, the symbol under which Jehovah was worshipped, and upon those who worship Him thus, Hosea pours indignant and sarcastic scorn, viii. 5, 6, x. 5, xiii. 2. Ignorance of the true nature of God is at the root of the moral and political confusion. It is this that leads the one party to coquet with Egypt and the other with Assyria, vii. II, viii, 9, xi. 5, xii. 1, and the price paid for Assyrian intervention was a heavy one (2 Kings xv. 19, 20, cf. Hosea v. 13). The native kings, too, are as impotent to heal Israel's wounds as the foreigners, vii. 7, x. 7; and though it might be too much to say that Hosea condemns the monarchy as an institution, viii. 4, the impotence of the kings to stem the tide of disaster is too painfully clear to him, x, 7, 15.
Whether Hosea ever alludes to Judah in his genuine prophecies is very doubtful. Some of the references are obvious interpolations (cf. i. 7), and for one reason or another, nearly all of them are suspicious: in vi. 4, e.g., the parallelism (cf. v. 10) suggests that Israel should be read instead of Judah. But there can be no doubt that the message of Hosea is addressed in the main, if not exclusively, to northern Israel. It is her land that is the land, i. 2, cf. 4, her king that is "our king," vii. 5, the worship of her sanctuaries that he exposes, and her politics that he deplores.
If Amos is the St. James of the Old Testament, Hosea is the St. John. It is indeed possible to draw the contrast too sharply between Amos and Hosea, as is done when it is asserted that Amos is the champion of morality and Hosea of religion. Amos is not, however, a mere moralist; he no less than Hosea demands a return to Jehovah, iv. 6, 8, v. 6, but he undoubtedly lays the emphasis on the moral expression of the religious impulse, while Hosea is more concerned with religion at its roots and in its essence. Thus Hosea's work, besides being supplementary to that of Amos, emphasizing the love of God where Amos had emphasised His righteousness, is also more fundamental than his. There is something of the mystic, too, in Hosea: in all experience he finds something typical. The character of the patriarch Jacob is an adumbration of that of his descendants (xii.), and his own love for his unfaithful wife is a shadow of Jehovah's love for Israel (i.-iii.).
His message to Israel was a stern one, probably even sterner than it now reads in the received text of many passages, e.g., xi. 8, 9. He represents Jehovah as saying to Israel: "Shall I set thee free from the hand of Sheol? Shall I redeem thee from death? Hither with thy plagues, O death! Hither with thy pestilence, O Sheol! Repentance is hidden from mine eyes," xiii. 14. But it is too much to say with some scholars that the sternness is unqualified and to deny to the prophet the hope so beautifully expressed in the last chapter. There were elements in Hosea's experience of his own heart which suggested that the love of Jehovah was a love which would not let His people go, and ch. xiv. (except v. 9) may well be retained, almost in its entirety, for Hosea. His passion, though not robust, like that of Amos, is tender and intense, xi. 3, 4: as Amos pleads for righteousness, he pleads for love (Hos. vi. 6), hesed, a word strangely enough never used by Amos; and it is no accident that the great utterance of Hosea—"I will have love and not sacrifice," vi. 6—had a special attraction for Jesus (Matt. ix. 13, xii. 7).
The book of Joel admirably illustrates the intimate connection which subsisted for the prophetic mind between the sorrows and disasters of the present and the coming day of Jehovah: the one is the immediate harbinger of the other. In an unusually devastating plague of locusts, which, like an army of the Lord, has stripped the land bare and brought misery alike upon city and country, man and beast—"for the beasts of the field look up sighing unto Thee," i. 20—the prophet sees the forerunner of such an impending day of Jehovah, bids the priests summon a solemn assembly, and calls upon the people to fast and mourn and turn in penitence to God. Their penitence is met by the divine pity and rewarded by the promise not only of material restoration but of an outpouring of the spirit upon all Judah, which is to be accompanied by marvellous signs in the natural world. The restoration of Judah has as its correlative the destruction of Judah's enemies, who are represented as gathered together in the valley of Jehoshaphat—i.e. the valley where "Jehovah judges"—and there the divine judgment is to be executed upon them. [Footnote 1: Some regard the locusts as an allegorical designation for an invading army. But without reason: in ii. 7 they are compared to warriors, and the effect of their devastations is described in terms inapplicable to an army.] [Footnote 2: The sequel, in which the nations are the objects of divine wrath, shows that the "all flesh," ii. 28, must be confined to Judah.]
The theological value of the book of Joel lies chiefly in its clear contribution to the conception of the day of Jehovah. As Marti says, "The book does not present one side of the picture only, but combines all the chief traits of the eschatological hope in an instructive compendium"—the effusion of the spirit, the salvation of Jerusalem, the judgment of the heathen, the fruitfulness of the land, the permanent abode of Jehovah upon Zion. These features of the Messianic hope are, in the main, characteristic of post-exilic prophecy; and now, with very great unanimity, the book is assigned, in spite of its position near the beginning of the minor prophets, to post-exilic times.
A variety of considerations appears to support this date. Judah is the exclusive object of interest. Israel has no independent existence, and, where the name is mentioned, it is synonymous with Judah, ii. 27, iii. 2, 16. Further, the people are scattered among the nations, iii. 2, and strangers are not to pass through the "holy" Jerusalem any more, iii. 17. The exile and the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadrezzar in 586 B.C. appear therefore to be presupposed. But the temple has been rebuilt; there are numerous allusions to priests and to meal and drink offerings, i. 9, 13, ii. 14,17, and an assembly is summoned to "the house of Jehovah your God," i. 14: the reference to the city wall, ii. 9, would bring the date as late as Nehemiah in the fifth century. Other arguments, though more precarious, are not without weight, e.g., the ease and smoothness of the language, the allusion to the Greeks, in. 6, the absence of any reference to the sin of Judah, the apparent citations from or allusions to other prophetic books. [Footnote 1: Though it may be implied in ii. 12f ] [Footnote 2: Obad. v. 17, Jo. ii. 32; Amos i. 2, Jo. iii. 16; Amos ix. 13, Jo. iii. 18; Ezek. xlvii. 1ff., Jo. iii. 18.]
The effect of this cumulative argument has been supposed to be overwhelming in favour of a post-exilic date. Recently, however, Baudissin, in a very careful discussion, has ably argued for at least the possibility of a pre-exilic date. Precisely in the manner of Joel, Amos iv. 6-9 links together locusts and drought as already experienced calamities. Both alike complain of the Philistine and Phoenician slave-trade. The enemies—Edom, Phoenicia, Philistia, iii. 4, l9—fit the earlier period better than the Persian or Greek. In the ninth century, Judah was invaded by the Philistines and Arabians according to the Chronicler (2 Chron. xxi. 16ff.), whose statements in such a matter there is no reason for doubting, and Jerusalem may then have suffered: in any case, we know that the treasures of temple and palace were plundered as early as Rehoboam's time (1 Kings xiv. 25ff.), and this might be enough to satisfy the allusion in Joel iii. 17. Again, if Joel is smooth, Amos is not much less so; and linguistic peculiarities that seem to be late might be due to dialect or personal idiosyncrasy. With regard to the argument from citations, it would be possible to maintain that Joel's simple and natural picture of the stream from the temple watering the acacia valley, iii. 18, was not borrowed from, but rather suggested the more elaborate imagery of Ezekiel, xlvii. For these and other reasons Baudissin suggests with hesitation that a date slightly before Amos is by no means impossible. [Footnote 1: It is interesting to note that Vernes, Rothstein and Strack have independently reached the conclusion that chs. i., ii. have a different origin from iii., iv. In the former, the state still exists, and the calamity is a plague of locusts; in the latter, no account is taken of the locusts—it is a time of national disaster. The reasons, however, are hardly adequate for denying the unity of the book.]
The question is much more than an academic one, for on the answer to it will depend our whole conception of the development of Hebrew prophecy. Sacerdotal interests, e.g., here receive a prominence in prophecy which we are accustomed to associate only with the period after the exile. Here again, the promises are for Judah, the threats for her enemies—an attitude also characteristic of post-exilic prophecy: it is customary to deny to the pre-exilic prophets any word of promise or consolation to their own people. Obviously if the priest and the element of promise have already so assured a place in the earliest of the prophets, the ordinary view of the course of prophecy will have to be seriously modified. The lack of emphasis displayed by Joel on the ethical aspect of religion, which has been made to tell in favour of a late date, might tell equally well in favour of a very early one. Indeed, the book is either very early or very late; and, if early, it represents what we might call the pre-prophetic type of Israel's religion, and especially the non-moral aspirations of those who, in Amos's time, longed for the day of Jehovah, and did not know that for them it meant thick darkness, without a streak of light across it (Amos v. 18). On the whole, however, the balance leans to a post-exilic date. The Jewish dispersion seems to be implied, iii. 2. The strange visitation of locusts suggests to the prophet the mysterious army from the north, ii. 20, which had haunted the pages of Ezekiel (xxxviii., xxxix.); and in this book, prophecy (i., ii.) merges into apocalyptic (iii., iv.).
Amos, the first of the literary prophets, is also one of the greatest. Hosea may be more tender, Isaiah more serenely majestic, Jeremiah more passionately human; but Amos has a certain Titanic strength and rugged grandeur all his own. He was a shepherd, i. 1, vii. 15, and the simplicity and sternness of nature are written deep upon his soul. He is familiar with lions and bears, iii. 8, v. 19, and the terrors of the wilderness hover over all his message. He had observed with acuteness and sympathy the great natural laws which the experiences of his shepherd life so amply illustrated, iii. 15., and his simple moral sense is provoked by the cities, with the immoral civilization for which they stand. With a lofty scorn this desert man looks upon the palaces, i. 4, etc., the winter and the summer houses, iii. 15, in which the luxurious and rapacious grandees of the time indulged, and contemplates their ruin with stern satisfaction.
Those were the days of Jeroboam II, i. 1, and, as the period is marked by an easy self-assurance, and the ancient boundaries of Israel are restored, vi. 14 (cf. 2 Kings xiv. 25, 28), Amos belongs, no doubt, to the latter half of his reign, probably as late as 750 B.C., for he knows, though he does not name, the Assyrians, vi. 14, and he finds in their irresistible progress westwards an answer to the moral demands of his heart, Israel's exhausting wars with the Arameans were now over. Aram herself had been weakened by the repeated assaults of Assyria, and Israel was enjoying the dangerous fruits of peace. Extravagance was common, and drunkenness, no less among the women than the men, iv. 1. The grossest immorality is associated even with public worship, ii. 7, and religion is being eaten away by the canker of commercialism, viii. 5. The poor are driven to the wall, and justice is set at defiance by those appointed to administer it, ii. 6, v. 7. Such was the society, brilliant without and corrupt within, into which Amos hurled his startling message that the God who had chosen them, iii. 2, guided their history, ii. 9, and sent them prophets to interpret His will, ii. 11, would punish them for their iniquities, iii. 2.
It is not certain whether the unusually skilful disposition of the book of Amos is due to himself or to a much later hand. It has three great divisions: (a) the judgment (i., ii.), (b) the grounds of the judgment (iii.-vi.), (c) visions of judgment, with an outlook on the Messianic days (vii.-ix.). In chs. i., ii., with his sense of an impartial and universal moral law, Amos sees the judgment sweep across seven countries in the west—Aram, Philistia, Phoenicia, Edom, Ammon, Moab and Israel. The sins denounced are, e.g., the barbarities of warfare and the cruelties of the slave trade; but Amos dwells with special emphasis and detail on the sins of Israel, as that is the country to which, though a Judean, he has been specially sent, vii. 10, 15. [Footnote 1: Note the refrains in i., ii., cf. i. 3, 6; iii.-vi. are held together by three "hears," iii. 1, iv. 1, v. 1, and apparently by three "woes," v. 7 (emended text), v. 18, vi. 1; so the visions in vii.-ix. are introduced by "Thus hath (the Lord Jehovah) shown me."] [Footnote 2: It is difficult to believe that the colourless oracle against Judah, ii. 4, 5, couched in perfectly general terms, is original. Doubts that are not unreasonable have also been raised regarding the oracle against Edom, i. 11, 12.]
In the next section (b) he begins by asserting that Israel's religious prerogative will only the more certainly ensure her destruction, and justifies his threat of doom by his irrepressible assurance of having heard the divine voice, iii. 1-8. The doom is deserved because of the rapacity, luxury, iii. 9-15, and drunkenness, iv. 1-3, nor will their sumptuous worship save them, iv. 4, 5. Warnings enough they have had already, but as they have all been disregarded, God will come in some more terrible way, iv. 6-13. Then follows a lament, v. 1-3, and an appeal to hate the evil and seek God and the good, v. 4-15; otherwise He will come in judgment and the "day of Jehovah," for which the people long, will be a day of storm and utter darkness, v. 16-20. To-day, as in the time of the Exodus, Jehovah's demands are not ritual but moral, and the neglect of them will end in captivity, v. 21-27. The luxury and self-assurance of the people are again scornfully denounced, and the doom of exile foretold (vi.).
(c) Then follow visions of destruction from locusts and drought, vii. 1-6, the vision of the plumbline, symbolical of the straightness to which Israel has failed to conform, vii. 7-9, the vision of the summer fruit, which, by a play upon words, portended the end, viii. 1-3, and the vision of the ruined temple, ix. 1-7. These visions are interrupted by the exceedingly interesting and instructive story of the encounter of the prophet with the supercilious courtier-priest of Bethel, and Amos's fearless reiteration of his message, vii. 10-17; and also by the section viii. 4-14, with its exposition of the evils and its threats of judgment—a section more akin to iii.-vi. than to vii.-ix. The book concludes with an outlook on the redemption and prosperity which will follow in the Messianic age, ix. 8-15. It is hardly possible that this outlook can be Amos's own. In one whose interest in morality was so overwhelming, it would be strange, though perhaps not impossible, that the golden age should be described in terms so exclusively material; but the historical implications of the passage are not those of Amos's time. It is further an express contradiction of the immediately preceding words, ix. 2-5, in which, with dreadful earnestness, the prophet has expressed the thought of an inexorable and inevitable judgment from which there is no escape. Besides, while Amos addresses Israel, this passage deals with Judah, presupposes the fall of the dynasty (cf. v. 11) and the advent of the exile (ix. 14, 15). [Footnote 1: Even if only the decay were pre-supposed, the words would be quite inapplicable to the long and prosperous reign of Uzziah, i. 1.] [Footnote: The authenticity of a few other passages, cf. viii. 11, 12, has been doubted for reasons that are not always convincing. Most doubt attaches to the great doxologies, iv. 13, v. 8, 9, ix. 5, 6. The utmost that can be said with safety is that these passages are in no case necessary to the context, while v. 8, 9 is a distinct interruption, but that the conception of God suggested by them, as omnipotent and omnipresent, is not at all beyond the theological reach of Amos.]
Amos must have had predecessors, ii. 11; but even so the range and boldness of his thought are astonishing. History, reflection and revelation have convinced him that Israel has had unique religious privileges, iii. 2; nevertheless she stands under the moral laws by which all the world is bound, and which even the heathen acknowledge, iii. 9—Amos has nothing to say of any written law specially given to Israel—and by these laws she will be condemned to destruction, if she is unfaithful, just as surely as the Philistines and Phoenicians (i.). Indeed, so sternly impartial is Amos that he at times even seems to challenge the prerogative of Israel. The Philistines and Arameans had their God-guided exodus no less than Israel, and she is no more to Jehovah than the swarthy peoples of Africa, ix. 7. The universal and inexorable claims of the moral law have never had a more relentless exponent than Amos; and, though there is in him a soul of pity, vii. 2, 5, it was his peculiar task, not to proclaim the divine love, but to plead for social justice. God is just and man must be so too. Perhaps Amos's message is all the more daring and refreshing that he was not a professional prophet, vii. 14. His culture, though not formal, is of the profoundest. He is familiar with distant peoples, ix. 7, he has thought long and deeply about the past, he knows the influences that are moulding the present. The religion for which he pleaded was not a thing of rites and ceremonies, but an ideal of social justice—a justice which would not be checked at every step by avarice and cruelty, but would flow on and on like the waves of the sea, v. 24.
The book of Obadiah—shortest of all the prophetic books—is occupied, in the main, as the superscription suggests, with the fate of Edom. Her people have been humbled, the high and rocky fastnesses in which they trusted have not been able to save them. Neighbouring Arab tribes have successfully attacked them and driven them from their home (vv, 1-7). This is the divine penalty for their cruel and unbrotherly treatment of the Jews after the siege of Jerusalem, vv. 10-14, 15b. Nay, a day of divine vengeance is coming upon all the heathen, when Judah will utterly destroy Edom, and once again possess all the land, north, south, east and west, that was formerly theirs, and the kingdom shall be Jehovah's, vv. 15a, 16-21. [Footnote 1: Verses 8, 9, which imply that the catastrophe is yet to come, and speak of Edom in the third person, appear to be later than the context. For "thy mighty men, O Teman," in v. 9a, probably we should read, "the mighty men of Teman."]
The date of the prophecy seems to be fixed by the unmistakable allusion in vv. 11-14 to the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadrezzar in 586 B.C.—an occasion on which the Edomites abetted the Babylonians (Ezek. xxxv.; Lam. iv. 21 ff.; Ps. cxxxvii. 7). But the case is gravely complicated by the similarity, which is much too close to be accidental, between Obadiah 1-9 and the oracle against Edom in Jeremiah, xlix. 7-22 (especially vv. 14-16, 9, 10, 7, 22); and, though in one or two places the text of Obadiah is superior (cf. Ob. 2, 3; Jer. xlix. 15, 16), the resemblance is such that the passage in Jeremiah must be dependent on Obadiah. Now the date assigned to Jeremiah's oracle is 605 B.C. (xlvi. 2); but obviously Jeremiah could not adopt in 605 a prophecy which was not written till 586. A way out of this difficulty has usually been sought in the assumption that both prophets have made use, in different ways, of an older oracle against Edom, vv. 1-9 or 10. But there is no adequate reason for separating vv. 11-14, which must refer to the capture of Jerusalem in 586, from vv. 1-7. The assumption just mentioned becomes quite unnecessary when we remember that Jeremiah xlix. 7-22, as we have already seen, is probably, at least in its present form, from a period very much later than Jeremiah. The priority therefore rests with Obadiah, whose prophecy has been utilized in Jeremiah xlix.
In vv. 1-7 the catastrophe is not predicted for Edom, it has already fallen: it was probably an earlier stage of the Bedawin assaults, whose desolating effect upon Edom is described in Malachi i. 1-5, and must therefore be relegated to a period about the middle of the fifth century. We are probably not far from the truth in dating Obadiah 1-14 about 500 B.C. The memory of Edom's cruelty would still rankle a generation after the return.
But in vv. 15a, 16-21 the literary and religious colouring is different; vv. 1-14 is marked by a certain graphic vigour, vv. 15-21 is diffuse. The judgment of Edom in vv. 1-14 is in vv. 15-21 made only an episode in a great world-judgment. Above all, in v. 1 the nations are to execute this judgment, in v. 15 they are to be the victims of it. Further, vv. 19, 20 seem to imply an extensive dispersion of the Jews. Probably, therefore, this passage expresses the bold eschatological hopes of a later time, when Judah was to be finally redeemed and the heathen annihilated. The section may be later than the oracle in Jeremiah xlix, as no use is made of it there.
The book of Jonah is, in some ways, the greatest in the Old Testament: there is no other which so bravely claims the whole world for the love of God, or presents its noble lessons with so winning or subtle an art. Jonah, a Hebrew prophet, is divinely commanded to preach to Nineveh, the capital of the great Assyrian empire of his day. To escape the unwelcome task of preaching to a heathen people, he takes ship for the distant west, only to be overtaken by a storm, and thrown into the sea, when, by the lot, it is discovered that he is the cause of the storm. He is immediately swallowed by a fish, in the belly of which he remains three days and nights (i.). Then follows a prayer: after which the prophet is thrown up by the fish upon the land (ii.). This time he obeys the divine command, and his preaching is followed by a general repentance, which causes God to spare the wicked city (iii.), whereat Jonah is greatly displeased; but, by a new and miraculous experience, he is taught the shame and folly of his anger, and the infinite greatness of the divine love (iv.).
On the face of it, the narrative is not meant to be strictly historical. Its place among the prophetic books shows that its importance lies, not in its facts, but in the truths for which it pleads. Much detail is wanting which we should expect to find were the narrative pure history, e.g. the name of the Assyrian king, the results of Jonah's mission, etc. Other circumstances stamp it as unhistorical: considering the poor success the Hebrew prophets had in their own land, such a wholesale conversion of a foreign city, even if such a visit as Jonah's were likely, must be regarded as extremely improbable, to say nothing of the impossibility of the animals fasting and wearing sackcloth, iii. 7, 8. The miraculous fish and the miraculous tree which grew up in a single night forbid us to look for history in the book. Nineveh's fame is a thing of the past, iii. 3; the book is written after, probably long after, its fall in 606 B.C. The lateness of the book and its remoteness from the events it records, are proved in other ways. Its language has the Aramaic flavour of the later books, and such a phrase as "the God of heaven," i. 9, only occurs in post-exilic literature. It contains several reminiscences of late books (e.g. Joel?), and its ideas are most intelligible as the product of post-exilic times, especially if it be regarded as a protest against a loveless and narrow-hearted type of Judaism. All the conditions point to a date not much, if at all, earlier than 300 B.C. [Footnote 1: There are many points of contact between the prayer in Jonah ii. and the Psalter; but the prayer must be later than the original book of Jonah. It is in reality not a prayer but a psalm of gratitude, and is quite inappropriate to Jonah's horrible situation in the belly of the fish. Even if the metaphors from the sea were interpreted literally, they would not be applicable to Jonah's case; e.g., "the weeds were wrapped about my head," v. 5. The Psalm, which is partly, but not altogether, a compilation, must have been inserted here by a later hand, hardly by the author of the book, who would have noticed the impropriety of it.]
Jonah is himself a historical character; there is no reason to doubt that the prophet, in whose time Nineveh is standing, i. 2, is contemporary with the Jonah mentioned in 2 Kings xiv. 25 as living in the reign of Jeroboam II, and prophesying the restoration of Israel to its ancient boundaries. It may have been as the representative of an intense and exclusive nationalism that he was chosen as the hero of this book. Here and there the story trenches on Babylonian and Greek legend, but the spirit, if not also the form, is altogether the author's own.
The book abounds in religious suggestion; even its incidental touches are illuminating. It suggests that man cannot escape his divinely appointed destiny, and that God's will must be done. It suggests that prophecy is conditional; a threatened destruction can be averted by repentance. It is peculiarly interesting to find so generous an attitude towards the religious susceptibilities and capacities of foreigners: in this we are reminded of Jesus' parable of the good Samaritan. The foreign sailors cry, in their perplexity, to their gods, and end by acknowledging the God of Israel; the people of Nineveh repent at the prophet's preaching. All this forms a splendid foil to the smallness and obstinacy of Jonah. With his mean views of God, he would not only exclude the heathen from the divine mercy, but rejoice in their destruction. In this the prophet is typical of later Judaism, with its longing for the annihilation of the nations as the obverse of the redemption of Zion. This attitude was greatly encouraged by the rigorous legislation of Ezra; and Jonah, like Ruth, may be a protest against it, or at least against the bigotry which it engendered. If Israel is, in any sense, an elect people, she is but elected to carry the message of repentance to the heathen; and the book of Jonah is indirectly, though not perhaps in the intention of the author, a plea for foreign missions.
The greatest lesson of the book is skilfully reserved to the end, iv, 2, 10, 11. It is that God is patient and merciful, that He loves all the world which He created, that His love stretches not only beyond the Jews and away to distant Nineveh, but even down to the animal creation. He hears the prayer of the foreign sailors, He delights in the repentance of Nineveh, He cares for the cattle, iv. 11. This book is the Old Testament counterpart to "God so loved the world."
Micah must have been a very striking personality. Like Amos, he was a native of the country—somewhere in the neighbourhood of Gath; and he denounces with fiery earnestness the sins of the capital cities, Samaria in the northern kingdom, and Jerusalem in the southern. To him these cities seem to incarnate the sins of their respective kingdoms, i. 5; and for both ruin and desolation are predicted, i. 6, iii. 12. Micah expresses with peculiar distinctness the sense of his inspiration and the object for which it is given; he is conscious of being filled with the spirit of Jehovah to declare unto Jacob his transgression and unto Israel his sin, iii. 8. In his ringing sincerity, he must have formed a strange contrast to the prophets who regulated their message by their income, iii. 5, and preached to a people whose conscience was slumbering, a welcome gospel of materialism, ii. 11.
The words of Micah must have burned themselves into the memories, if not the consciences, of his generation; for more than a hundred years after—though doubtless by this time the prophecy was written—we find his unfulfilled prediction of the destruction of Jerusalem alluded to by the elders who pled for the life of Jeremiah, xxvi. 17ff. It is certain from this reference that he prophesied during the reign of Hezekiah; whether also under Jotham and Ahaz (Mic. i. 1) is not so certain, and depends upon whether his prophecy of the destruction of Samaria, i. 6, was made before, or as seems equally possible, after the capture of that city in 721 B.C. At any rate his message was addressed to Judah, and must have fallen (at least i.-iii.) before 701 B.C.—the year in which the city was saved beyond all expectation from an attack by Sennacherib, iii. 12.
Micah begins by describing the coming of Jehovah. He is coming in judgment upon Samaria and Jerusalem, the wicked capitals of wicked kingdoms, i. 1-9; and in the difficult verses, i. 10-16, the devastating march of the enemy through Judah is allusively described. The judgment is thoroughly justified—it is due to the violent and grasping spirit of the wealthy, who do not scruple to crush the poor and defenceless, ii. 1-11. The prophet then brings his charge in detail against the leaders of the people—officials, judges, priests, prophets—accuses them of being mercenary and time-serving, and ends with the terrible threat that the holy hill will one day be made a desolation (iii.). [Footnote 1: Ch. ii. 12, 13, which interrupt the stern address of the prophet, ii. 11, iii. 1 with a promise which implies that Israel is scattered, are probably exilic; they can hardly be Micah's.]
These chapters are assigned almost unanimously to Micah. But serious critical difficulties are raised in connection with the rest of the book. Chs. iv. and v. constitute a section by themselves, and may be considered separately. Their general theme is the certainty of salvation, but it is quite clear that they do not form an original unity; iv. 1-4, e.g., with its generous attitude to the foreign nations, is inconsistent with iv. 11-13, which predicts their destruction. Again, iv. 10 describes a siege of Jerusalem, which is to issue in exile, iv. 11-13, a siege which is to end in the annihilation of the besiegers. Similar difficulties characterize ch. v; in vv. 7-9, 15 the enemies are to be destroyed.
No consecutive outline of the chapters is possible in their present disconnected form. Ch. iv. 1-5 describes the Messianic age, in which the nations will come to Jerusalem to have their cases peacefully arbitrated, iv. 6-8 promise that those scattered (in exile) will be gathered again, and the kingdom of Judah restored. Siege of Jerusalem, exile, and redemption, iv. 9, 10. Unsuccessful siege of Jerusalem and annihilation of the enemy, iv. 11-13. Another siege: Israel's suffering, v. 1. Promise of a victorious king, v. 2-4. Judah's victory over Assyria, v. 5, 6 and all her enemies, v. 7-9. All the apparatus of war and idolatry will be removed from the land, v. 10-14, and vengeance taken on the enemy, v. 15.
The summary shows how disjointed the chapters are. They may not impossibly contain reminiscences or even utterances of Micah; e.g. the prediction of the fatal siege, v. 1, or of the overthrow of idolatry, v. 10-14. But many elements could not possibly be Micah's: e.g. iv. 8 implies that the kingdom of Judah is already a thing of the past. iv. 6 postulates the exile, and the prophecy of exile to Babylon, iv. 10, would be unnatural in Micah's time, when Assyria was the dominant power. Again it is exceedingly improbable that Micah would have blunted the edge of his terrible threat in iii. 12 by following it up with so brilliant a promise as iv. 1-4, especially as not a word is said about the need of repentance. The story in Jeremiah xxvi. 17ff. raises the legitimate doubt whether Micah's prophecy, which was certainly one of threatening, iii. 12, also contained elements of promise. On the whole it seems best to assume that the fine picture of the glory and importance of Zion in the latter days, iv. 1-4, was set by some later writer as a foil to the stern threat with which the original prophecy closed, cf. Isaiah ii. 1-4. Chs. iv. and v. may be regarded as a collection of prophecies emphasizing the certainty of salvation and intended to supplement i.-iii. [Footnote 1: This might conceivably, though not very naturally, refer to the deportation of Israel in 721.] [Footnote 2: Some retain iv. 9, 10 for Micah, and assume either that the Babylon clause is a later interpolation, or that Babylon has displaced another proper name.]
Chs. vi. and vii. take us again into another atmosphere, more like Micah's own. The people, who attempt to defend themselves against Jehovah's charge of ingratitude on the plea that they are ignorant of His demands, are reminded that those demands are ancient and simple: justice, love as between man and man, and a humble walk with God, vi. 1-8. But instead, dishonesty and injustice are rampant everywhere, and the judgment of God is inevitable, vi. 9-16. The prophet laments the utter and universal degradation of the people, which has corrupted even the intimacies of family life, vii. 1-6. In the rest of the chapter the blow predicted has already fallen; in their sorrow the people await the fulfilment of Jehovah's purpose in patience and faith, pray to Him to restore the land which once was theirs on the east of the Jordan, and thus to compel from the heathen an acknowledgment of His power. He is the incomparable God who can forgive and restore, vii. 7-20.
The accusations and laments of these two chapters come very strangely after the repeated promises of chs. iv. and v.; and if the whole book had been by Micah, it is hardly possible that this order should have been original. Probably these chapters were appended to Micah's book because of several features which they have in common with i.-iii.: notice, e.g., the prominence of the word "hear," i. 2, iii. 1, 9, vi. 1, 9, Most scholars agree with Ewald in supposing that these chapters—at any rate vi. i-vii. 6—come from the reign of Manasseh. The situation is that of i.-iii., only aggravated: the reference to Ahab, vi. 16, with whom Manasseh is compared in 2 Kings xxi. 3, points in the same direction. Even if written in this reign, Micah may still have been the author; but the general manner of the chapters and the individuality they reveal appear to be different from his. But, considering their noble insistence upon the moral elements in religion (esp. vi. 6-8) they are, if not his, yet not inappropriately appended to his book. The concluding section, however, vii. 7-20, is almost certainly post-exilic. The punishment has come, therefore the exile is the earliest possible date. But there are exiles not only in Babylon, but scattered far and wide throughout the world, vii. 12, and there is the expectation that the walls of Jerusalem will be rebuilt, vii. 11. As this took place under Nehemiah, the section will fall before his time (500-450 B.C.). This passage of promise and consolation is a foil to vi. 1-vii. 6, intended to sustain the same relation to that section as iv., v. to i.-iii.
Thus many hands appear to have contributed to the little book of Micah, and the voices of two or three centuries may be heard in it: earlier words of threatening and judgment are answered by later words of hope and consolation. But wherever else the true Micah is to be found—and his spirit at any rate is certainly in vi. 6-8—he is undoubtedly present in i.-iii. It is a peculiar piece of good fortune that we should possess the words of two contemporary prophets who differed so strikingly as Micah the peasant and Isaiah the statesman. Unlike Isaiah, Micah has nothing to say about foreign politics and their bearing upon religion; he confines himself severely to its moral aspects, and like Amos, that other prophet of the country, hurls his accusations and makes his high ethical demands, with an almost fierce power, iii. 2, 3. His prophecy justifies his claim to speak in the power and inspiration of his God, iii. 8.
Poetically the little book of Nahum is one of the finest in the Old Testament. Its descriptions are vivid and impetuous: they set us before the walls of the beleaguered Nineveh, and show us the war-chariots of her enemies darting to and fro like lightning, ii. 4, the prancing steeds, the flashing swords, the glittering spears, iii. 2,3. The poetry glows with passionate joy as it contemplates the ruin of cruel and victorious Assyria.
In the opening chapter, i., ii. 2, Jehovah is represented as coming in might and anger to take vengeance upon the enemies of Judah, whom He is to destroy so completely that not a trace of them will be left; and Judah, now delivered, will be free to worship her God in peace. In ch. ii. the enemy, through whom Assyria's destruction is to be wrought, is at the gates of Nineveh, v. 8, in all the fierce pomp of war. The city is doomed, the defenders flee, everywhere is desolation and ruin, the ravenous Assyrian lion is slain by the sword. It is because of her sins that this utter ruin is coming upon her, iii. 1-7, nor need she think to escape; for the populous and all but impregnable Thebes (No-Amon) was taken, and Nineveh's fate will be the same. Already the people are quaking for fear, some of the strongholds of Assyria are taken; it is time to prepare to defend the capital. But there is no hope, her doom is already sealed, iii. 8-19.
From the historical implications of the prophecy, which belongs, as we shall see, to the seventh century, and also from definite allusions (cf. i. 15), Nahum must have been a Judean; and, of the three traditions concerning Elkosh his birthplace, which place it respectively in Mesopotamia, in Galilee, and near Eleutheropolis in southern Judah, the last must be held to be very much the most probable. Within certain limits, the date is easy to fix. Ch. iii. 8-10, which are historically the most concrete verses in the prophecy, imply the capture of Thebes, which we now know to have been taken by the Assyrians in 663 B.C. On the other hand, Nineveh has not yet fallen: the theme of the prophecy is just the certainty of its fall. It was taken by the Medians under Kyaxares, leagued with Nabopolassar of Babylon in 606 B.C. The prophecy therefore falls between 663 and 606.
The fixing of the precise date depends on two considerations: (1) whether the allusion to Thebes in iii. 8-10 implies that its capture was very recent, and (2) whether we must suppose that the prophecy was inspired by a definite historical situation. It is usually felt that the reference to Thebes implies that the memory of its capture is fresh, and that the prophecy must stand very near it—not later perhaps than 650; and just about this time there was a Babylonian rebellion against Assyria. This date must be regarded as by no means impossible. On the whole, however, a later date appears to be distinctly more probable The last few verses, iii. 12f., 18f., imply the thorough weakness, disorganization and impending dissolution of the Assyrian empire, and so early a date as 650 hardly meets the case. We must apparently come down to the time when the fate of Nineveh was obviously inevitable and her conqueror was on the way, ii. 1. Probably Marti is not far from the truth in suggesting 610 B.C. The reference to Thebes is intelligible even at this later date, when we remember that the capture of so strong a city, already famous in Homer's time, must have left an indelible impression on the mind of Western Asia. It is no doubt abstractly possible that the prophecy is not intimately connected with any historical situation, and therefore might be much earlier; but to say nothing of the concreteness of the detail, such a supposition would be altogether contrary to the analogy of Hebrew prophecy. When Jehovah reveals His secret to the prophets, it is because He is about to do something (Amos iii. 7).
The concreteness of detail just alluded to is characteristic only of the second and third chapters. Ch. i., however, is confessedly vague, and moves for the most part along the familiar lines of theophanic descriptions. It is not plain in i. (cf. ii. 8) who are the enemies to be destroyed, as i. 1 is probably a later addition. Further, as far as v. 10 the prophecy is alphabetic: this circumstance has given rise to the view that i., ii. 2 originally formed a complete alphabetic psalm whose second half has either been worked over, or displaced by i. 11-15, ii. 2, the object of the psalm being to present a general picture of the judgment into which the particular doom of Nineveh is fitted, and to give the prophecy a theological complexion which it appeared to need. The acknowledged vagueness of the chapter and the demonstrably alphabetic nature of at least part of it, certainly render its authenticity very doubtful.
The theological interest of Nahum is great. It is the first prophecy dealing exclusively with the enemies of Judah. There is a hint of the sin of Nineveh, but little more than a hint, iii. 1, 4; she is the enemy and oppressor of Judah, and that is enough to justify her doom. Whether we accept the earlier or the later date for the prophecy, the reign of Manasseh or that of Josiah, the moral condition of Judah herself was deplorable enough, and so clear-eyed a prophet as Jeremiah saw that her doom was inevitable. Nahum probably represents the sentiment of narrowly patriotic party, which regarded Jerusalem as inviolable, and Jehovah as a jealous God ready to take vengeance upon the enemies of Judah.
The precise interpretation of the book of Habakkuk presents unusual difficulties; but, brief and difficult as it is, it is clear that Habakkuk was a great prophet, of earnest, candid soul, and he has left us one of the noblest and most penetrating words in the history of religion, ii. 4b. The prophecy may be placed about the year 600 B.C. The Assyrian empire had fallen, and by the battle of Carchemish in 605 B.C., Babylonian supremacy was practically established over Western Asia. Josiah's reformation, whose effects had been transient and superficial, lay more than twenty years behind. The reckless Jehoiakim was upon the throne of Judah, a king who regarded neither the claims of justice (Jer. xxii. 13-19) nor the words of the prophet (Jer. xxxvi. 23), and his rebellion drew upon him and his land the terrible vengeance of Babylon, first in 601 B.C., then in 597.
The prophet begins by asking his God how long the lamentable disorder and wrong are to continue, i. 1-4. For answer, he is assured that the Chaldeans are to be raised up in chastisement, who, with their terrible army, will mockingly defy every attempt to check their advance, i. 5-11, But in i. 12-17 the prophet appears to be confounded by their impiety; they have been guilty of barbarous cruelty—how can Jehovah reconcile this with His own holiness and purity? The prophet finds the answer to his question when he climbs his tower of faith; there he learns that the proud shall perish and the righteous live. The solution may be long delayed, but faith sees and grasps it already: "The just shall live by his faithfulness," ii. 1-4. Then follows a series of woes, ii. 5-20, which expand the thought of ii. 4a—the sure destruction of the proud. Woes are denounced upon the cruel rapacity of the conquerors, their unjust accumulation of treasure, their futile ambitions, their unfeeling treatment of the land, beasts and people, and finally their idolatry. In contrast to the stupid and impotent gods worshipped by the oppressor is the great God of Israel, whose temple is in the heavens, and before whom the earth is summoned to silence, ii. 20. For He is on His way to take vengeance upon the enemies of His people, as He did in the ancient days of the exodus, when He came in the terrors of the storm and overthrew the Egyptians. His coming is described in terms of older theophanies (Jud. v., Deut. xxxiii.); and this "prayer," as it is called in the superscription, concludes with an expression of unbounded confidence and joy in Jehovah, even when all customary and visible signs of His love fail (iii.).
Simple and coherent as this sequence seems to be, it is, in reality, on closer inspection, very perplexing. Ch. i. 1-4 reveals a picture of confusion within Judah, but it is impossible to say whether it is foreigners who are oppressing Judah as a whole, or powerful classes within Judah itself that are oppressing the poor. Perhaps the latter is the more natural interpretation. In that case, the Chaldeans are raised up to chastise the native oppressor, i. 5-11. This section, however, has fresh difficulties of its own; vv. 5, 6 suggest that the Chaldeans are not yet known to be a formidable power, they are only about to be raised up, v. 6, and what they will do is as yet incredible, v. 5. The minute description which follows, however, looks as if their military appearance and methods were thoroughly familiar. Assuming that i. 12-17 is the continuation of i. 5-ll—and the descriptions are very similar—the Chaldeans, whose coming was the answer to the prophet's prayer, now constitute a fresh problem; they swallow up those who are more righteous than themselves, v. 13, i.e. Judah. It cannot be denied that such a characterization of Judah sounds strange after the charge levelled at her in i. 1-4, unless we assume an interval of time between the sections, or at least that in i. 12-17, Judah is regarded as relatively righteous, i.e. in comparison with the Chaldeans.
The situation is further complicated by the very close resemblance that prevails between i. 1-4 and i. 12-17. The very same words for righteous and wicked occur in i. 13 as in i. 4; do they or do they not designate the same persons? If they do, then, as in i. 12-17, the wicked oppressor is almost certainly the Chaldean and the righteous is Judah, and we shall have to interpret the confusion pictured in i. 2-4 as due to the Chaldean suzerainty, and perhaps to assign the section to a period after the first capture of Jerusalem in 597 B.C. In that case, as it is obvious that the Chaldeans could not be raised up to execute divine judgment upon themselves, the section, i. 5-11, would have to be regarded as an independent piece, whether Habakkuk's or not, announcing the rise of the Chaldeans, and not inappropriately placed here, considering that the sections on both sides of it have the Chaldeans for their theme. On the other hand, however, it may be urged that the identification of the righteous and wicked in i. 13 with i. 4, though natural, is not necessary; and by denying it the prophecy becomes distinctly more coherent. The wrong done by Judah, i. 1-4, is avenged by the coming of the Chaldeans, i. 5-11; they, however, having overstepped the limits of their divine commission, only aggravate the prophet's problem, i. 12-17, and he finally finds the solution on his watch-tower, in the assurance that somehow, despite all seeming delay, the purpose of God is hastening on to its fulfilment, and that the moral constitution of the world is such as to spell the ultimate ruin of cruelty and pride and the ultimate triumph of righteousness, ii. 1-4. His faith was historically justified by the fall of the Babylonian empire in 538 B.C. [Footnote 1: Some scholars feel so strongly that the historical background of i. 1-4 and i. 12-17 is the same, that they regard the latter section as the direct continuation of the former. Budde, followed by Cornill, ingeniously supposes that the oppressor in these two sections is the Assyrian (about 615 B.C.), and it is this power that the Chaldeans, i. 5-11, are raised up to chastise. These scholars put i. 5-11 after ii. 4 as a historical amplification of its moral and more indefinite statement. But the strength of Habakkuk rather seems to lie in this, that he abandons the immediate historical solution, i. 5, and is content with the moral one, ii. 4, though no doubt he believes that the moral solution will realize itself in history.]
The authenticity of some of the woes in ch. ii. may be contested, e.g. vv. 12-14, which appears to be a partial reproduction of Jer. li. 58, Isa. xi. 9. It is very improbable that ch. iii. is Habakkuk's: it is not even certain that the poem is a unity. The situation in vv. 17-19 (especially v. 17) seems different from that in the rest of the chapter: there an enemy was feared, here rather infertility. Again the general temper of the ode is hardly that of ii. 3, 4. There the vision was to be delayed, here the interposition seems to be impatiently awaited and expected soon. If "thine anointed" in iii. 13 refers to the people—and the parallelism makes this almost certain—then the days of the monarchy are over and the poem cannot be earlier than the exile. Probably, as the superscription, subscription, and threefold Selah suggest, we have here a post-exilic psalm. The psalm, however, is fittingly enough associated with the prophecy of Habakkuk. Its belief in the accomplishment of the divine purpose and its emphasis on a faith independent of the things of sight, are akin in spirit, though not in form to ii. 4. [Footnote 1: Marti explains the book thus: (a) i. 2-4, 12a, 13, ii. 1-4, a psalm, belonging to the fifth or perhaps the second century, giving the divine answer to the plaint that judgment is delayed; (b) i. 5-11, 12b, 14-17, a prophecy about 605 B.C. dealing with the effect of the battle of Carchemish; (c) ii. 5-19, the woes: about 540, when the Chaldean empire is nearing its end; (d) iii., a post-exilic psalm.]
Patience and faith are the watch-words of Habakkuk, ii. 3, 4. There was a time when he had expected an adequate historical solution to his doubts in his own day, i. 5; but, as he contemplates the immoral progress of the Chaldeans, he recognizes his difficulty to be only aggravated by this solution, and he is content to commit the future to God. He is comforted and strengthened by a larger vision of the divine purpose and its inevitable triumph—if not now, then hereafter. "Though it tarry, wait for it, for it is sure to come, it will not lag behind." That purpose wills the triumph of justice, and though the righteous may seem to perish, in reality he lives, and shall continue to live, by his faithfulness.
If the Hezekiah who was Zephaniah's great-great-grandfather, i. 1, was, as is probable, the king of that name, then Zephaniah was a prince as well as a prophet, and this may lend some point to his denunciation of the princes who imitated foreign customs, i. 8. He prophesied in the reign of Josiah, i. 1, and the fact that he censures not the king but the king's children, i. 8, points to the period when Josiah was still a minor (about or before 626 B.C.). With this coincides his description of the moral and religious condition of Judah, which necessitates a date prior to the reformation in 621. Idolatry, star-worship and impure Jehovah-worship are rampant, i. 4, 5, 9. The rich are easy-going and indifferent to religion, supposing that God will leave the world to itself, i. 12. The people of Jerusalem are incorrigible, iii. 2, reckless of the lessons that God has written in nature and history, iii. 5ff.; their leaders—princes, prophets, priests—are immoral or incompetent. The prophecy may be placed between 630 and 626, and the prophet must have been a young man.
To this idolatrous and indifferent people he announces the speedy coming of the day of Jehovah, whose terrors he describes with a certain solemn grandeur (i.). The judgment is practically inevitable, i. 18, but it may perhaps yet be averted by an earnest quest of Jehovah, ii, 1-3. That judgment will sweep along the coast through the Philistine country, ii. 4-7, and on to Egypt, and afterwards turn northwards and utterly destroy Assyria with her great capital Nineveh, ii. 12-15. Again the prophet turns to Jerusalem, and for the sins of her people and their leaders proclaims a general day of judgment, from which, however, the humble will be saved, iii. 1-13 (except vv. 9, 10.). The book ends with a fine vision of the latter days, when the dispersed of Judah will be restored to their own land, and rejoice in the omnipotent love of their God, iii. 14-20.
The prophecy presents a very impressive picture of the day of Jehovah, but it cannot all be from the pen of Zephaniah. Besides adopting a very different attitude towards Jerusalem from the rest of the prophecy, iii. 14-20 clearly presupposes the exile, v. 19, towards the end of which it was probably written. Ch. ii. 11, iii. 9, 10, containing ideas which are hardly earlier than Deutero-Isaiah, are also probably exilic or post-exilic. The oracle against Moab and Ammon, ii. 8-10, countries which lay off the line of the Scythian march southwards from Philistia, v. 7, to Egypt, v. 12, are for linguistic, contextual, and other reasons, also probably late.
Prophecy has practically always an historical occasion, and the thought of the black and terrible day of Jehovah was no doubt suggested to Zephaniah by the formidable bands of roving Scythians which scoured Western Asia about this time, sweeping all before them (Hdt. i. 105). They do not seem to have touched Judah; but it is not surprising that men like Jeremiah and Zephaniah should have regarded them as divinely ordained ministers of vengeance upon Jehovah's degenerate people.
The post-exilic age sharply distinguished itself from the pre-exilic (Zech. i. 4), and nowhere is the difference more obvious than in prophecy. Post-exilic prophecy has little of the literary or moral power of earlier prophecy, but it would be very easy to do less than justice to Haggai. His prophecy is very short; into two chapters is condensed a summary, probably not even in his own words, of no less than four addresses. Meagre as they may seem to us, they produced a great effect on those who heard them.
The addresses were delivered between September and December in the year 520 B.C. The people were suffering from a drought, and in the first address, i. 1-11, Haggai interprets this as a penalty for their indifference to religion—in particular, for their neglect to build the temple. The effect of the appeal was that three weeks afterwards a beginning was made upon the building, i. 12-15. The people, however, seem to be discouraged by the scantiness of their resources, and a month afterwards Haggai has to appeal to them again, reminding them that with the silver and the gold, which are His, Jehovah will soon make the new temple more glorious than the old, ii. 1-9. Two months later the prophet again reminds them that, as their former unholy indifference had infected all their life with failure, so loyal devotion to the work now would ensure success and blessing, ii. 10-19; and on the same day Haggai assures Zerubbabel a unique place in the Messianic kingdom which is soon to be ushered in, ii. 20-23.
The appeals of Haggai and Zechariah were successful (Ezra v. 1, vi. 14), and within four years the temple was rebuilt (Ezra vi. 15). It was now the centre of national life, and therefore also of prophetic interest. Haggai was probably not himself a priest, but in so short a prophecy his elaborate allusion to ritual is very significant, ii. 11ff. This prophecy, like pre-exilic prophecy, was no doubt conditioned by the historical situation. The allusion to the shaking of the world in ii. 7, 22, appears to be a reflection of the insurrections which broke out all over the Persian empire on the accession of Darius to the throne in 521 B.C.; and probably the Jews were encouraged by the general commotion to make a bold bid for the re-establishment of an independent national life. That they cherished the ambition of being once more a political as well as a religious force, seems to be suggested by the frequency with which Haggai links the name of Zerubbabel, of the royal line of Judah, with that of Joshua the high priest; and, in particular, by the extraordinary language applied to him—in ii. 23 he is the elect of Jehovah, His servant and signet. Clearly he is to be king in the Messianic kingdom which is to issue out of the convulsion of the world.
It cannot be safely inferred from ii. 3 that Haggai was among those who had seen the temple of Solomon and was therefore a very old man. Simple as are his words, his faith is strong and his hope very bold. Considering the meagre resources of the post-exilic community, it is touching to note the confidence with which he assures the people that Jehovah will bring together the treasures of the world to make His temple glorious.
Two months after Haggai had delivered his first address to the people in 520 B.C., and a little over a month after the building of the temple had begun (Hag. i. 15), Zechariah appeared with another message of encouragement. How much it was needed we see from the popular despondency reflected in Hag. ii. 3, Jerusalem is still disconsolate (Zech. i. 17), there has been fasting and mourning, vii. 5, the city is without walls, ii. 5, the population scanty, ii. 4, and most of the people are middle-aged, few old or young, viii. 4, 5. The message they need is one of consolation and encouragement, and that is precisely the message that Zechariah brings: "I have determined in these days to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah; fear not," viii. 15.
The message of Zechariah comes in the peculiar form of visions, some of them resting apparently on Babylonian art, and not always easy to interpret. After an earnest call to repentance, i. 1-6, the visions begin, i. 7-vi. 8. In the first vision, i. 7-17, the earth, which has been troubled, is at rest; the advent of the Messianic age may therefore be expected soon. The divine promise is given that Jerusalem shall be graciously dealt with and the temple rebuilt. The second is a vision, i. 18-21, of the annihilation of the heathen world represented by four horns. The third vision (ii.)—that of a young man with a measuring-rod—announces that Jerusalem will be wide and populous, the exiles will return to it, and Jehovah will make His abode there.
These first three visions have to do, in the main, with the city and the people; the next two deal more specifically with the leaders of the restored community on its civil and religious side, Zerubbabel the prince and Joshua the priest. In the fourth vision (iii.) Joshua is accused by the Adversary and the accuser is rebuked—symbolic picture of the misery of the community and its imminent redemption. Joshua is to have full charge of the temple, and he and his priests are the guarantee that the Branch, i.e. the Messianic king (Jer. xxiii. 5, xxxiii, 15), no doubt Zerubbabel (Zech, iii. 8, vi. 12; Hag. ii. 23), is coming. In the fifth vision (iv.) the prophet sees a lampstand with seven lamps and an olive tree on either side, the trees representing the two anointed leaders, Zerubbabel and Joshua, enjoying the divine protection. [Footnote 1: Except vv. 6b-10a, which appears to be a special assurance, hardly here in place, that Zerubbabel would finish the temple which he had begun.]
The next two visions elaborate the promise of iii. 9: "I will remove the iniquity of that land,"—and indicate the removal of all that taints the land of Judah, alike sin and sinners. The flying roll of the sixth vision, v. 1-4, carries the curse that will fall upon thieves and perjurers; and in the somewhat grotesque figure of the seventh vision, v. 5-11, Sin is personified as a woman and borne away in a closed cask by two women with wings like storks, to the land of Shinar, i.e. Babylon, there to work upon the enemy of Judah the ruin she has worked for Judah herself. In the last vision, vi. 1-8, which is correlate with the first—four chariots issuing from between two mountains of brass—the divine judgment is represented as being executed upon the north country, i.e. the country opposed to God, and particularly Babylonia.
The cumulative effect of the visions is very great. All that hinders the coming of the Messianic days is to be removed, whether it be the great alien world powers or the sinners within Jerusalem itself. The purified city will be blessed with prosperity of every kind, and over her civil and religious affairs will be two leaders, who enjoy a unique measure of the divine favour. In an appendix to the visions vi. 9-15, Zechariah is divinely commissioned to make a crown for Zerubbabel (or for him and Joshua) out of the gold and silver brought by emissaries of the Babylonian Jews, and the hope is expressed that peace will prevail between the leaders—a hope through which we may perhaps read a growing rivalry. [Footnote 1: It seems practically certain that the original prophecy in v. 11 has been subsequently modified, doubtless because it was not fulfilled. The last clause of v. 13—"the counsel of peace shall be between them both"—shows that two persons have just been mentioned. The preceding clause must therefore be translated, not as in A. V. and R. V., "and he shall be a priest upon his throne," as if the office of king and priest were to be combined in a single person, but "and there shall be" (or, as Wellhausen suggests, "and Joshua shall be") "a priest upon his throne," (or no doubt more correctly, with the Septuagint, "a priest at his right hand"). As two persons are involved, and the word "crowns" in v. 11 is in the plural, it has been supposed that the verse originally read, "set the crowns upon the head of Zerubbabel and upon the head of Joshua." On the other hand, in v. 14 the word "crown" must be read in the singular, and should probably also be so read in v. 11 (though even the plural could refer to one crown). In that case, if there be but one crown, who wears it? Undoubtedly Zerubbabel: he is the Branch, iii. 8, and the Branch is the Davidic king (Jer. xxiii. 5, xxxiii. 15). The building of the temple here assigned to the Branch, vi. 12, is elsewhere expressly assigned to Zerubbabel, iv. 9. It is, therefore, he who is crowned: in other words, v. 11, may have originally read, "set it upon the head of Zerubbabel." Whether we accept this solution or the other, it seems certain that the original prophecy contemplated the crowning of Zerubbabel. As the hopes that centred upon Zerubbabel were never fulfilled, the passage was subsequently modified to its present form.]
The concluding chapters of the prophecy (vii., viii.), delivered two years later than the rest of the book, vii. 1, are occupied with the ethical conditions of the impending Messianic kingdom. To the question whether the fast-days which commemorated the destruction of Jerusalem are still to be observed, Zechariah answers that the ancient demands of Jehovah had nothing to do with fasting, but with justice and mercy. As former disobedience had been followed by a divine judgment, so would obedience now be rewarded with blessing, fast-days would be turned into days of joy and gladness, and the blessing would be so great that representatives of every nation would be attracted to Jerusalem, to worship the God of the Jews.
In Zechariah even more than in Haggai it is clear that prophecy has entered upon a new stage. There is the same concentration of interest upon the temple, the same faith in the unique importance of Zerubbabel. But the apocalyptic element, though not quite a new thing, is present on a scale altogether new to prophecy. Again, the transcendence of God is acutely felt—the visions have to be interpreted by an angel. We see, too, in the book the rise of the idea of Satan (iii.) and of the conception of sin as an independent force, v. 5-11. The yearning for the annihilation of the kingdoms opposed to Judah, i. 18-21, has a fine counterpart in the closing vision, viii. 22, 23, of the nations flocking to Jerusalem because they have heard that God is there. The book is of great historical value, affording as it does contemporary evidence of the drooping hopes of the early post-exilic community, and of the new manner in which this disappointment was met by prophecy. But, though Zechariah's message was largely concerned with the building of the temple, and was delivered for the most part in terms of vision and apocalyptic, the ethical elements on which the "former prophets" had laid the supreme emphasis, were by no means forgotten, viii. 16, 17. [Footnote 1: Zechariah himself is conscious of the distinction, which is more than a temporal one, between himself and the pre-exilic prophets: notice the manner of his allusion to the "former prophets," i. 4, vii. 7, 12.]
Practically all the distinctive features of the first eight chapters disappear in ix.-xiv. The style and the historical presuppositions are altogether different. There are two new superscriptions, ix. 1, xii. 1, but there is no reference to Zerubbabel, Joshua, or the situation of their time. There the immediate problem was the building of the temple; here, more than once, Jerusalem is represented as in a state of siege. A sketch of the contents will show how unlike the one situation is to the other.
The general theme of ix. 1-xi. 3 is the destruction of the world-powers and the establishment of the kingdom of God. Judgment is declared at the outset upon Damascus, Phoenicia and Philistia, while Jerusalem is to enjoy the divine protection and to be the seat of the Messianic King, ix. 1-9. Greece, the great enemy, will be overcome by Judah and Ephraim, who are but weapons in Jehovah's hand, ix. 10-17. Then follows a passage in which "the shepherds" are threatened with a dire fate. Judah receives a promise of victory, and Ephraim is assured that her exiles will be gathered and brought home from Egypt and Assyria to Gilead and Lebanon; the cedars of Lebanon and the oaks of Bashan—types perhaps of foreign rulers—will be laid low, x. 3-xi. 3. [Footnote 1: Ch. x. 1, 2 appears to stand by itself. It is an injunction to bring the request for rain to Jehovah and to put no faith in teraphim and diviners.]
The next section is of a different kind. In it the prophet is divinely commissioned to tend the flock which has been neglected and impoverished by other shepherds. To this end he takes two staves, named Favour and Unity, to indicate respectively the favour enjoyed by Judah in her relations with her neighbours, and the unity subsisting between her and Israel (or Jerusalem, according to two codices); and thus invested with the instruments of the pastoral office he destroyed three shepherds in a short time. But the flock grew tired of him, and, in consequence he broke the staves, i.e. the relations of favour and unity were ruptured. A foolish and careless shepherd is then raised up, who abuses the flock, and over him a woe is pronounced, xi. 4-17, more minutely defined in xiii. 7-9, which appears to have been misplaced. Jehovah will slay the shepherd and scatter the sheep; a third of the flock after being purified by fire will constitute the people of Jehovah.
The next section, xii. 1-xiii. 6, introduces us to a siege of Jerusalem by the heathen, abetted by Judah. Suddenly, however, Judah changes sides; by the help of Jehovah they destroy the heathen, and Jerusalem is saved, xii. 1-8. Then the people and their leaders are moved by the outpouring of the spirit to confess and entreat forgiveness for some judicial murder which they have committed and which they publicly and bitterly lament, xii. 9-14. The prayer is answered; people and leaders are cleansed in a fountain opened, with the result that idolatry and prophecy of the ancient public type are abjured, xiii. 1-6.
The theme of the last section also (xiv.) is a heathen attack upon Jerusalem, but this time the city is destroyed and half the inhabitants exiled. Then Jehovah intervenes, and by a miracle upon the Mount of Olives the rest of the people effect their escape, and Jehovah Fights with all His angels against the heathen. Those glorious Messianic days, when Jehovah will be King over all the earth, will know no heat or cold, or change from light to darkness. Jerusalem will be secure and the land about her level and fruitful, watered east and west by a living stream. Those who have made war against her will waste away, while the rest of the world will make pilgrimages to the holy city to worship Jehovah and celebrate the feast of booths. Then the mighty war-horses, once the object of His hatred, will be consecrated to His service, and the number of pilgrims will be so great that every pot in the city and in the province of Judah will be needed for ceremonial purposes.
Few problems in the Old Testament are more perplexing than that of the origin and relation of the sections composing, ix.-xiv. to one another. The utmost that can be said with comparative certainty is that the prophecy, in its present form, is post-exilic, while certain elements in it, especially in ix.-xi., are, if not pre-exilic, at any rate imitations or reminiscences of pre-exilic prophecy. Many scholars even deny that ix.-xiv. is a unity and assign it to at least two authors. Though the superscription in xii. 1, which seems to justify this distinction, was probably added, like Malachi i. i, by a later hand, the presence of certain broad distinctions between ix.-xi. and xii.-xiv. can hardly be denied. In the former section, Ephraim is occasionally mentioned in combination with Judah, cf. ix. 13; in the latter, Judah alone is mentioned, and partly, on the strength of this, the former section is assigned to a period between Tiglath Pileser's invasion of the north of Palestine in 734 (xi. 1-3) and the fall of the northern kingdom in 721, while the latter is assigned to a period between the death of Josiah in 609, to which the mourning in Megiddo is supposed to allude, xii. 11, and the fall of the southern kingdom in 586.
Even within these sections there are differences which are held to be incompatible with the unity of each section. The most notable difference is perhaps that affecting the siege of Jerusalem. In ch. xii. the heathen are destroyed before Jerusalem, while the city itself remains secure; in ch. xiv. the houses are rifled, the women ravished, and half of the people go into captivity before Jehovah intervenes to protect the remainder. These and other differences are unmistakable, yet it may be questioned whether they are so serious as to be fatal to the unity of the whole section, ix.-xiv. It is not impossible that they may be due to the eclectic spirit of an author who gathered from many quarters material for his eschatological pictures. Besides, the sections which have been by some scholars relegated to different authors, occasionally seem to imply each other. The general assault on Jerusalem in ch. xii., e.g., is the natural result of the breaking of the staves, Favour and Unity, in ch. xi. But, even if ix.-xiv. be a unity, it is well to remember, as Cornill reminds us, that there is "much in these chapters which will ever remain obscure and unintelligible, because our knowledge of the whole post-exilic and especially of the early Hellenic period is extremely deficient."
This leads to the question of date. The last section (xii.-xiv.) at any rate is obviously post-exilic. The idea of the general assault on Jerusalem is undoubtedly suggested by Ezekiel xxxviii.; the curiously condemnatory attitude to prophecy in xiii. 2-6 would have been impossible in pre-exilic times; the phrase, "Uzziah king of Judah," xiv. 5, rather implies that the dynasty is past, and the reference to the earthquake in his reign has the flavour of a learned reminiscence. These and other circumstances practically necessitate a post-exilic date, and the objection based upon xii. 11 falls to the ground, as that verse alludes, in all probability, not to lamentations for the death of Josiah, which would no doubt have taken place in Jerusalem, but to laments which accompanied the worship of the Semitic Adonis. Nor can any objection be grounded upon the allusion to idolatry in xiii. 2, as idolatry persisted into post-exilic times. [Footnote 1: Even if the earliest possible date (about 600) for this section be accepted, the earthquake had taken place a century and a half before.] [Footnote 2: Cf. Job xxxi. 2eff. and perhaps also Ps. xvi.]
If ix.-xiv. be a unity, a definite terminus a quo is provided in ix. 13 by the mention of the Greeks, whose sons are opposed to the sons of Zion. Such a relation of Jews to Greeks is not conceivable before the time of Alexander the Great, and this fact alone would throw the prophecy, at the earliest, into the fourth century B.C. But there are other facts which seem to some to make for a pre-exilic date: e.g. the mention of Judah and Ephraim together, ix. 13 (cf. ix. 10), seems to presuppose the existence of both kingdoms, and Egypt and Assyria are placed side by side, x. 10, 11, precisely in the manner of Hosea (ix. 3, xi. 5). But these facts, significant as they may seem, are by no means decisive in favour of a pre-exilic date. Assyria was the first great world power with which Israel came into hostile contact, and the name was not unnaturally transferred by later ages to the hostile powers of their own day—to Babylon in Lam. v. 6, to Persia in Ezra vi. 22, and possibly to Syria in Isaiah xxvii. 13. Consequently, in a context which assigns the passage, at the earliest, to the Greek period, Assyria and Egypt would very naturally designate the Seleucid and Ptolemaic kingdoms respectively, and the prophecy might be safely relegated to the third century, B.C. The allusion to Ephraim is not incompatible with this date, for the prophecy presupposes a general dispersion, x. 9, which must be later than the fall of Judah in 586, considering that residence in Egypt, x. 10, is implied (cf. Jer. xlii.-xliv.). Nothing more need be implied by the allusion to Ephraim than that there will be a general restoration of all the tribes that were once driven into exile and are now scattered throughout the world. [Footnote 1: Marti puts it as late as 160. One of the most important clues would be furnished by xi. 8—"I cut off the three shepherds in one month"—if the reference were not so cryptic. Advocates of a pre-exilic date find in the words an allusion to three successors of Jeroboam II. of Israel—Zechariah, Shallum and some unknown pretender (about 740); others, to the rapid succession of high priests before the Maccabean wars (about 170). One month probably signifies generally a brief time.]
If chs. ix.-xiv. belong to the third century B.C., they give us an interesting glimpse into the aspirations and defects of later Judaism. They reveal an unbounded faith in the importance of Jerusalem, and in the certainty of its triumph over the assaults of heathenism; on the other hand, they are inspired by a fine universalism, xiv. 16ff. But this universalism has a distinctly Levitical and legalistic colouring, xiv. 21. Membership in the kingdom of God involves abstinence from food proscribed by the Levitical law, ix. 7; and even for the heathen the worship of Jehovah takes the form of the celebration of the feast of booths, xiv. 16. There is in the prophecy a noble appreciation of the world-wide destiny of the true religion, but hardly of its essentially spiritual nature.
It is not inappropriate that Malachi, though not the latest of the prophets, should close the prophetic collection. The concluding words of this book, which predict the coming of the great prophet Elijah, iv. 5f, and the apocalyptic tone of Malachi, show that prophecy feels itself unable to cope adequately with the moral situation and is conscious of its own decline. Here, as in Haggai, interest gathers round ritual rather than moral obligation, though the latter is not neglected, iii. 5, and the religion for which Malachi pleads is far from being exhausted by ritual. He takes a lofty view, approaching to Jesus' own, of the obligations of the marriage relation, ii. 16; and perfunctory ritual he abhors, chiefly because it expresses a deep-seated indifference to God and His claims, iii. 8. The clergy or the laity who offer God their lame or blemished beasts are guilty of an offence that goes deeper than ritual. Their whole ideal of religion and service is insulting; they have forgotten that Jehovah is "a great King," i. 14. [Footnote 1: Ch. i. 1 is late, modelled, like Zech. xii. 1 on Zech. ix. 1. The word Malachi has no doubt been suggested by Malachi in iii. i (= my messenger). The prophecy is really anonymous.]
The prophecy of Malachi is closely knit together. Addressing a people who doubt the love of their God, he begins by pointing-strangely enough from the Christian standpoint, but intelligibly enough from that of early post-exilic Judaism—to the desolation of Edom, Judah's enemy (cf. Obadiah) in poof of that love, i. 2-5; and asks how Judah has responded to it. The priests present inferior offerings, thus forming, in their insulting indifference, a strange contrast to the untutored heathen hearts all the world over, which offer God pure service; they have put to shame the ancient ideals, i. 6-ii. 9. The people, too, are as guilty as the priests; for they had divorced their faithful Jewish wives who had borne them children, and married foreign women who were a menace to the purity of the national religion, ii. 10-16. Those who are beginning to doubt the moral order because Jehovah does not manifestly interpose as the God of justice, are assured by the prophet that the Lord, preceded by a messenger, is on His way; and He will punish, first the unfaithful priests, and then the unfaithful people, ii. 17-iii. 5. His apparent indifference to the people is due to their real indifference to Him; if they bring in the tithes, the blessing will come, iii. 6-12. As before, ii. 17ff., the despondent are assured that Jehovah has not forgotten them; He is writing their names in a book, and when He comes in judgment, the faithful will be spared, and then the difference between the destinies of the good and the bad will be plain for all to see. The wicked shall be trampled under foot, and upon the dark world in which the upright mourn shall arise the sun, from whose gentle rays will stream healing for bruised minds and hearts, iii. 13-iv. 4. Before that day Elijah will come to heal the dissensions of the home, iv. 5, 6. (cf. ii. 14).
The atmosphere of the book of Malachi is very much like that of Ezra-Nehemiah. The same problems emerge in both—foreign marriages, neglect of payment of tithes, etc. But the allusion to the presents given the governor, i. 8, shows that the book was not written during the governorship of Nehemiah, who claims to have accepted no presents (Neh. v. 14-18). On the other hand, the state of affairs presented by the book is inconceivable after the measures adopted by Ezra and Nehemiah; therefore, Malachi must precede them. Probably however, not by much; it was Malachi and others like-minded who prepared the way for the reformation, and his date may be roughly fixed at 460-450 B.C. Consistently with this, the priests are designated Levites, ii. 4, iii. 3, as in Deuteronomy; the book must therefore precede the priestly code which sharply distinguishes priests and Levites.
There is an unusual proportion of dialogue in Malachi. Good men are perplexed by the anomalies of the moral order, and they are not afraid to debate them. Malachi's solution is largely, though not exclusively, iii. 8-12, apocalyptic; and though in this, as in his emphasis on the cult, iii. 4, and his attitude to Edom, i. 2ff., he stands upon the level of ordinary Judaism, in other respects he rises far above it. Coming from one to whom correct ritual meant so much, his utterance touching heathen worship is not only refreshingly, but astonishingly bold. In all the Old Testament, there is no more generous outlook upon the foreign world than that of i. 11. Though the priests of the temple at Jerusalem insult the name of Jehovah and are wearied with His service, yet "from sunrise to sunset My name is great among the (heathen) nations, and in every place pure offerings are offered to My name; for great is My name among the heathen, saith Jehovah of hosts."
The piety of the Old Testament Church is reflected with more clearness and variety in the Psalter than in any other book of the Old Testament. It constitutes the response of the Church to the divine demands of prophecy, and, in a less degree, of law; or, rather, it expresses those emotions and aspirations of the universal heart which lie deeper than any formal demand. It is the speech of the soul face to face with God. Its words are as simple and unaffected as human words can be, for it is the genius of Hebrew poetry to lay little stress upon artifices of rhyme and rhythm. By its simple device of parallelism, it suggests a rhythm profounder than the sound of any words—the response of thought to thought, the calling of deep to deep, the solemn harmonies that run throughout the universe. Whether the second thought of a verse is co-ordinate with the first, as—
Let us break their bands asunder, And cast away their cords from us, ii 3.
or contrasted with it, as—
Jehovah knows the way of the righteous, But the way of the ungodly shall perish, i. 6,
the resulting parallelism is essentially simple, and the Hebrew poet can express his profoundest thoughts and feelings with lucidity and freedom. It is the depth and sincerity of its emotion, coupled with this unrivalled simplicity of expression that has given the Psalter its abiding-place in the religious history of humanity.
With the partial exception of Psalm xlv., which is a marriage song, the songs of the Psalter are exclusively religious. Indeed most of the poetry of the Old Testament is religious; the Song of Deborah, e.g. (Jud. v.), or the Psalm of Hezekiah (Isa. xxxviii.). But, from scattered hints it is abundantly plain that, especially before the exile, Hebrew poetry must have ranged over a wide variety of themes. So far as we know, the Hebrews never had an epic; and though a certain epic power is occasionally suggested by the extant literature, it may be doubted whether the Hebrew genius, which was essentially lyrical, would have been capable of the long sustained effort demanded by a great epic. But the lyrical genius of the Hebrew found abundant opportunity in life's common joys, sorrows and activities. Victories in battle were celebrated in ballads, which made the blood leap, love songs were sung at weddings, and dirges were chanted over the dead. The labour of drawing water, of reaping the fields or gathering the vintage, was relieved by snatches of song. There was all this and more, but it has nearly all perished, leaving little more than an echo, because the men who compiled and edited the Old Testament were dominated by an exclusively religious interest.
But if the interest of the Psalter be exclusively religious, we have no reason to complain of its variety. From the deepest despair to the highest exaltation, every mood of the soul is uttered there. Many a classification of the Psalter has been attempted, e.g. into (a) psalms of gladness, such as thanksgiving (xlvi.), adoration (viii.); (b) psalms of sadness, such as lamentation (lxxiv.), confession (li.), supplication (cii.); (c) psalms of reflection, such as the occasional didactic poetry (cxix.), or discussions of the moral order (lxxiii.). But in the nature of the case, no classification can ever hope to be completely satisfactory, if for no other reason than that the psalms, being for the most part lyrics, are often marked by subtle and rapid changes of feeling, passing sometimes, as in Psalm xxii., from the most touching laments to the most daring expressions of hope and gladness. The following classification, though exposed, as all such classifications must be, to the charge of cross-division, will afford a working basis for the study of the Psalter:—
(1) Psalms of Adoration, including (a) adoration of God for His revelation in nature, viii., xix. 1-6, xxix., civ.; (b) adoration of Him for His love to His people, xxxiii., ciii., cxi., cxiii., cxv., cxvii., cxlvii.; (c) praise of His glorious kingdom, cxlv., cxlvi., ending with the call to universal praise, cxlviii., cl.
(2) Psalms of Reflection (a) upon the moral order of the world, ix., x., xi., xiv., xxxvi., xxxvii., xxxix., xlix., lii., lxii., lxxiii., lxxv., lxxxii., xc., xcii., xciv.; (b) upon Divine Providence, xvi., xxiii., xxxiv., xci., cxii., cxxi., cxxv., cxxvii., cxxviii., cxxxiii., cxxxix., cxliv. 12-15; (c) on the value of Scripture, i., xix. 7-14, cxix.; (d) on the nature of the ideal man, xv., xxiv. 1-6, l.
(3) Psalms of Thanksgiving, most of them for historical deliverances, e.g. from the exile, or from the Syrians in the second century B.C., xxx., xl., xlvi., xlviii., lxv., lxvi., lxvii., lxviii., lxxvi., cxvi., cxviii., cxxiv., cxxvi., cxxix., cxxxviii., cxliv. 1-11, cxlix.
(4) Psalms in Celebration of Worship, v., xxiv., 7-10, xxvi., xxvii., xlii.-xliii., lxxxiv., cxxii., cxxxiv.