IV. Nehemiah's Plan of Work. Fortunately Nehemiah possessed resources as well as tact. He quickly disarmed the opposition and won at least the nominal support of the leaders by entertaining one hundred and fifty of them as his guests. Thus he was able to place them under personal obligation to him, to keep them under close surveillance, and to command their co-operation. In the second place he appealed to them and to the people by means of eloquent addresses which reveal his enthusiasm and devotion. Furthermore, he did not depend upon the reports of others, but personally studied the situation. His secret mid-night ride down through the Valley Gate to the southwest of Jerusalem and thence eastward along the Hinnom Valley to the point where it joins the Kidron, and from there up the valley, gave him most accurate information regarding conditions. In most cases the ancient foundations of the city walls still remained. The first need was to remove the rubbish and where stones had fallen to replace them. The towers required certain timbers, which were cut probably from the royal domains to the south of the city. Nehemiah enlisted all members of the community both within and without Jerusalem. He organized them under their local leaders and set them to the task in which each was most interested. Thus the heads of the different villages, the elders of the leading families, the guilds of workmen, and even the priests, were all put to work and inspired by the spirit of natural rivalry as well as common loyalty. Nehemiah himself with his immediate followers directed the work, and instituted a strict military rule which secured both efficiency and protection.
V. The Restored Walls. In the light of recent excavations at Jerusalem it is possible to follow Nehemiah's work in detail. In the destruction of the walls by the Chaldeans the city had suffered most on the north where it was nearly level and protected by no descending valleys. Just north of the temple area a little valley ran up from the Kidron, leaving but a narrow neck of land connected directly with the plateau on the north. Here two great towers were restored that probably occupied the site of the later Roman tower of Antonia. Thence the wall ran westward across the upper Tyropoean Valley, which was here comparatively level. Numerous bands of workmen were assigned to this part of the work. The gate of the old wall was probably identical with the corner gate at the northwestern end of the city. The Ephraim Gate a little further to the southwest apparently corresponded to the modern Joppa Gate. From this point a broad wall ran to the western side of the city where the hill descended rapidly into the Valley of Hinnom, making its defence easy. At the southwestern end of the city stood the Tower of the Furnaces and the Valley Gate of which the foundations have recently been laid bare. The gate itself was narrow, being only eight feet wide, but the wall was here nine feet in thickness. The eighteen hundred or two thousand feet of wall along the Valley of Hinnom was evidently practically intact, for its repair was Intrusted to but one group of workmen. Across the southern end of the Tyropoean Valley the ground was almost level, so that a strong wall was required. Excavations have shown that it was twenty feet thick at its base and supported by six strong buttresses. The Fountain Gate, through which ran the main street down the Tyropoean Valley out into the valley of the Kidron, was the chief southern gate of the city. It was nine feet wide and defended by a tower about forty-five feet square. Portions of this ancient thoroughfare, with its stones, worn smooth by the feet of the inhabitants of the ancient city, have here been uncovered. Just above the Pool of Siloam, which was within the city walls, was the King's Garden.
Thence the Hill of Ophel ascended rapidly making necessary the stairs mentioned in Nehemiah 3. The wall on the southeast was readily repaired, for it ran along the sloping western side of the Kidron Valley. The Water Gate probably led down to the Virgin's Fount, and the Horse Gate further to the north opened directly from the Kidron Valley to the public buildings that occupied the site of Solomon's palace immediately to the south of the temple. It is the space to-day occupied by the southern end of the temple area, which was thus extended in the days of Herod. Opposite the northeastern end of the temple area the wall curved westward until it reached the great towers that guarded the northern end of the city.
VI. Completion and Dedication of the Walls. Under the inspiration of Nehemiah's leadership, and as a result of the constant fear of attack, the building of the walls proceeded rapidly and without interruption. To the threats of hostile foes Nehemiah paid little heed. Trained in the Persian court, he saw at once their murderous purpose when they requested a conference in southwestern Samaria on the border of the Plain of Ono. Through the treacherous prophets in the Judean community they sought to play upon his fears and to lead him to compromise himself by taking refuge in the sacred precincts of the temple, but his courage, as well as his high respect for the sanctuary, delivered him from the plot. The cry that he was himself aspiring to the kingship and that his acts were treason against Persia did not daunt him, and when, in response to their malicious reports, the order finally came from the Persian king to cease working, the walls were already rebuilt.
Apparently Nehemiah's original leave of absence was for but a short period. His kinsman Hanani, who had headed the original deputation to Susa, and a certain Hananiah were by him placed in charge of the city. To protect it against sudden attack its gates were closed at night and not opened until the middle of the following forenoon. Effective measures were also instituted to increase its population. When the work of rebuilding the walls was complete, Nehemiah arranged for their public dedication. Starting from the Valley Gate on the southwestern side of the city, one half of the nobles and the people marched along the southern and eastern wall, while Nehemiah with the other half of the people proceeded along the western and northern wall. Finally meeting on the northern side of the temple area, the two companies blended their voices in thanksgiving to Jehovah who at last had made it possible for them to worship him in his sanctuary secure from attack.
Nehemiah had reorganized the Judean community, rebuilt their walls, and inspired them with a new sense of self-respect; thus he made possible that genuine revival of the Judean state that took place during the succeeding centuries. He, like Ezekiel, Haggai, Zechariah, and the II Isaiah, was indeed one of the makers of Judaism. Ben Sira with true insight declared (49:13):
The memorial of Nehemiah is great, Who raised up for us the walls that were fallen, And set up the gates and bars, And raised up our homes again.
Section CI. NEHEMIAH'S SOCIAL AND RELIGIOUS REFORMS
[Sidenote: Isa. 56:1, 2] Thus saith Jehovah, Guard justice and practice righteousness. For my deliverance is near at hand, and my righteousness is soon to be revealed. Happy the man who practices, the mortal who holds fast to it, Keeping the sabbath so as not to profane it, and keeping his hand from evil.
[Sidenote: Isa. 56:3-5] Let not the foreigner who hath joined himself to Jehovah say, 'Jehovah will surely separate me from his people.' And let not the eunuch say, 'Behold I am a dry tree.' For thus saith Jehovah to the eunuchs, 'Those who keep my sabbaths, And choose that in which I delight, and hold fast to my covenant, I will give them in my house and walls a monument, And a name better than sons and daughters, An everlasting name will I give them which cannot be cut off.
[Sidenote: Isa. 56:6-8] And the foreigners who join themselves to Jehovah to minister to him, And to love the name of Jehovah, to be his servants, Every one who keeps the sabbath so as not to pollute it and faithfully abides by my covenant— Them will I bring to my holy mountain and make joyful in my house of prayer; Their burnt-offerings and sacrifices will be accepted upon my altar; For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. It is the oracle of Jehovah, who gathereth the outcasts of Israel, 'I will gather still others to him in addition to those already gathered.'
[Sidenote: Isa. 56:9-12] O all ye wild beasts of the field come to devour, all ye wild beasts of the forest! My watchmen are all blind, they know not how to give heed, They are all dumb dogs which cannot bark, Dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber. And the dogs are greedy, they know not how to be satisfied, They all turn to their own way, each for his own profit [saying], Come, I will get wine, and we will drink our fill of strong drink, And to-morrow shall be as to-day, an exceedingly great day!
[Sidenote: Isa. 58:2-4] Cry with full throat, be not silent! Like a trumpet lift up thy voice, Make known to my people their transgression, And to the house of Jacob their sin. Me indeed they consult daily, And to know my ways is their delight. As a nation that hath done righteousness, And hath not forsaken the law of its God! They ask me regarding righteous judgments, To draw near to God is their delight! 'Why have we fasted and thou seest not, Mortified ourselves and thou dost not notice?' Behold, on your fast day ye follow your own pleasure, And ye exact all money lent on pledge. Behold ye fast for strife and contention, And to smite the poor with the fist. Your fasting to-day is not such As to make your voice heard on high.
[Sidenote: Cor. Isa. 58:5-7] Can such be the fast which I choose, A day when a man mortifies himself? To droop one's head like a bulrush, And to lie down in sackcloth and ashes? Wilt thou call this a fast, And a day acceptable to Jehovah? Is not this the fast that I choose: To loose the fetters of injustice, To untie the bands of violence, To set free those who are crushed, To tear apart every yoke?
[Sidenote: Cor. Isa. 58:8-12] Is it not to share thy bread with the hungry, And to bring the wanderers to thy home? When thou seest the naked, to cover him, And not hide thyself from thine own flesh? Then shall thy light break forth as the dawn, Thy restoration quickly spring forth, And thy righteousness shall go before thee, The glory of Jehovah shall be thy reward; Then when thou callest Jehovah will answer, When thou criest out he will say, Here am I. If from thy midst thou remove the yoke, The finger of scorn, and mischievous speech, And bestow thy bread upon the hungry, And satisfy the soul that is afflicted; Then shall thy light shine forth in darkness, And thy gloom shall be as noonday, Jehovah will lead thee continually, And will satisfy thy soul in parched lands, And thy strength will he renew, Thou shalt be like a watered garden, As a fountain whose waters fail not. Thy sons shall rebuild the ancient ruins, Thou shalt rear again the foundations of olden days; And men shall call thee, Repairer of Ruins, Restorer of Ruined Places for Inhabiting.
[Sidenote: Neh. 5:1-5] Then there was a loud complaint from the common people and their wives against their fellow-countrymen the Jews. For there were those who were saying, 'We must give our sons and our daughters in pledge to secure grain that we may eat and live.' Some also there were who were saying, 'We must mortgage our fields and our vineyards and our houses, that we may get grain because of the dearth.' There were also those who were saying, 'We have borrowed money for the king's tribute. Yet now our flesh is as the flesh of our brothers, our children as their children; but now, we must ring our sons and our daughters into slavery, and some of our daughters have already thus been brought into bondage, neither is it in our power to help it, for our fields and our vineyards belong to the nobles.'
[Sidenote: Neh. 5:6-11] Then I was very angry when I heard their complaint and these statements. And I took counsel with myself, and contended with the nobles and rulers, and said to them, 'You exact usury each of his brother.' And I held a great assembly against them. And I said to them, 'We ourselves have, according to our ability, redeemed our fellow-countrymen the Jews, who have been sold to the heathen; and would you yourselves sell your fellow-countrymen, and should they sell themselves to us?' Then they were silent and could not find a word to say. Therefore I said, 'The thing that you are doing is not good. Ought you not to walk in the fear of our God, because of the reproach of the heathen our enemies? For I also, my kinsmen and my servants, lend them money and grain. Let us, therefore, leave off this usury. Restore to them this day their fields, their vineyards, their oliveyards, and their houses, also the usury of the money and of the grain, of the new wine, and of the oil, that you exact from them.'
[Sidenote: Neh. 5:12, 13] Then they said, 'We will restore them and will demand nothing from them; we will do just as you say.' Then I called the priests and took an oath of them, that they would do according to this promise. Also I shook out the fold of my garment, and said, 'So may God shake out every man from his house and from the fruit of his labor, who does not fulfil this promise; even thus may he be shaken out and emptied.' And all the assembly said, 'So may it be.' And they praised Jehovah. And the people did according to this promise.
[Sidenote: Neh. 5:14-19] Moreover from the time that I was appointed to be their governor in The land of Judah, from the twentieth year (445 B.C.) even to the thirty-second year (432) of Artaxerxes the king, that is for twelve years, I and my kinsmen had not eaten the bread which was due me as governor. But the former governors who were before me were a source of expense to the people, and took of them bread and wine, and also forty shekels of silver each day; and furthermore their servants oppressed the people. But I did not so, because of the fear of God. I also devoted myself to this work on the wall, and we did not buy any land; and all my servants were gathered there for the work. Also the Jews and the rulers, a hundred and fifty men, besides those who came to us from among the surrounding nations, were at my table. Now that which was prepared for each day was one ox and six choice sheep and fowls. These were prepared at my expense, and once in ten days wine in abundance for all the people. Yet with all this I did not demand the bread which was due me as governor, because the public service rested heavily upon this people. Remember to my credit, O my God, all that I have done for this people.
[Sidenote: Neh. 13:1-9] Now before my return from the king, Eliashib the priest, who was appointed over the chambers of the house of our God, being related to Tobiah, had prepared for him a great chamber, where formerly they had stored the cereal-offerings, the incense, the vessels, and the tithes of grain, the new wine, and the oil. But during this time I had not been at Jerusalem; for in the thirty-second year of Artaxerxes king of Babylon I went to the king. Then after some time I asked leave of the king, and I came to Jerusalem and discovered the crime that Eliashib had committed for the Sake of Tobiah, in preparing him a chamber in the court of the house of God. And it displeased me greatly; therefore I cast all the household possessions of Tobiah out of the chamber. Then I gave command that they should cleanse the chambers, and I brought there again the vessels of the house of God, with the cereal-offerings and the incense.
[Sidenote: Neh. 13:10-14] And I perceived that the portions of the Levites had not been given them; so that the Levites and the singers, who performed the service had each fled to his field. Then I contended with the rulers and said, 'Why is the house of God forsaken?' And I gathered them together and placed them at their posts. And all Judah brought the tithe of the grain and the new wine and the oil into the store-rooms. And I appointed in charge of the store-rooms: Shelemiah the priest and Zadok the scribe, and Pedaiah the Levite; for they were considered faithful, and their business was to distribute to their kinsmen. Remember me, O my God, concerning this and forget not all my good deeds that I have done for the house of my God, and for its services.
[Sidenote: Neh. 13:15-22] At that time I saw in Judah some men treading wine-presses on the sabbath and bringing in heaps of grain and loading asses, as also wine, grapes, figs, and all kinds of burdens, and that they were bringing them into Jerusalem on the sabbath; and I warned them when they sold provisions. Tyrians also dwelt therein, who brought in fish and all kinds of wares, and sold on the sabbath to the inhabitants of Judah and in Jerusalem. Then I contended with the nobles of Judah and said to them, 'What evil thing is this that you are doing, and thereby profaning the sabbath? Did not your fathers do thus and did not our God bring all this calamity upon them and upon us and upon this city? Yet you bring more wrath upon Israel by profaning the sabbath.' Accordingly, when it began to be dark, the gates of Jerusalem were shut before the sabbath; and I gave command that they should not be opened until after the sabbath. And I placed some of my servants in charge of the gates, and commanded that no burden should be brought in on the sabbath. So the merchants and sellers of all kinds of wares spent the night without Jerusalem once or twice. Then I warned them and said to them, 'Why do you spend the night before the wall? If ye do so again, I will lay hands on you.' From that time forth they came no more on the sabbath. Remember, O my God, this also to my credit and show me mercy according to the greatness of thy loving-kindness.
[Sidenote: Neh. 13:23-27] At that time also I saw the Jews who had married women of Ashdod, of Ammon, and of Moab. And their children spoke half in the language of Ashdod, but none of them could speak in the Jews' language, but according to the language of each people. And I contended with them and cursed them and struck some of them and pulled out their hair and made them swear by God, saying, 'You shall not give your daughters to their sons nor take their daughters as wives for your sons or for yourselves. Did not Solomon king of Israel sin by these acts? Yet among many nations there was no king like him, and he was beloved by his God, and God made him king over all Israel; nevertheless foreign women led him into sin. Shall it also be reported of you that you do all this great evil, to trespass against our God in marrying foreign women?'
[Sidenote: Neh. 13:28, 29] And one of the sons of Joiada, the son of Eliashib the high priest, was the son-in-law of Sanballat the Horonite; therefore I chased him from me. Remember them, O my God, because they have defiled the covenant of the Priesthood and of the Levites.
[Sidenote: Neh. 13:30, 31] Thus I cleansed them from all foreigners and fixed the duties for the priests and the Levites, each for his appointed task, and the bringing of wood for the service at appointed times, and the first-fruits. Remember it, O my God, to my credit.
I. Cruelty and Hypocrisy of the Jewish Leaders. The fifty-sixth chapter of Isaiah presents a sharp contrast: on the one hand a high ideal of justice toward the oppressed and tolerance toward all foreigners who sincerely desired to unite in Jehovah's worship; on the other the sordid selfishness of the Jewish leaders, who disregarded their responsibilities and thought of religion only as a round of ceremonial observances. The situation is very similar to that in Northern Israel in the days of Amos. The II Isaiah stands on the same platform as did his predecessors of the Assyrian period. He strips fearlessly from the rulers of the community the mantle of hypocrisy with which they sought to cover their shame. In clearest terms he declares that their first duty to God is to loose the fetters of injustice and to share their bread with the hungry. This stirring prophetic message is the natural introduction to the reformatory work of Nehemiah.
II. Nehemiah's Method of Correcting the Social Evils in the Community. Nehemiah's address recorded in the fifth chapter of his memoirs completes the picture suggested in Isaiah 56 and 58. The poor had been compelled by their poverty to sell their children into slavery to the rich and ruling class. In order to pay their personal taxes they had also mortgaged their inherited fields, vineyards, and houses. Doubtless much of the tax thus raised went into the pockets of their rulers, who preyed mercilessly upon the helpless and needy. These crimes directly violated the laws of Deuteronomy (cf. Deut. 23:9, 20), as well as those in the older Book of the Covenant (Ex. 21-23). Nehemiah's position, therefore, when he demanded that these evils be righted, was unassailable. In the spirit and with the methods of the earlier prophets he gathered together the people, probably within the precincts of the temple court, and plainly and unsparingly denounced their acts. There is much in common between this later Jewish layman and the shepherd Amos. Each spoke on the basis of close personal observation and experience; but Nehemiah possessed many advantages over the prophets who had preceded him. His own personal example lent force to his words. Although it was his right as governor, he had exacted no tribute from the Judean community. Even though the opportunity had probably offered itself, he steadily refused to take their hereditary land from the poor who applied to him for loans of money or grain. Instead of enslaving his countrymen, he had lost no opportunity to free those who had been forced by misfortune or poverty into slavery. He had also entertained lavishly rich and poor alike, and thus given to all an example of practical charity. His authority as Persian governor doubtless carried great weight with the cringing, greedy leaders at Jerusalem. Above all, the force of his personality was irresistible. It is easy to imagine the powerful impression which his words made upon them. The restoration of their lands and the freeing of their children were undoubtedly mighty factors in arousing the men of Jerusalem to those herculean efforts which alone made possible the rebuilding of the walls in the brief period of fifty-two days.
III. The Historical Value of Nehemiah 13. In his Composition of Ezra-Nehemiah (pp. 44-49) Professor Torrey, of Yale, maintains that this chapter is a pure creation of the Chronicler. Certainly its phraseology and the subjects with which it deals are characteristic of the Chronicler, but on the whole it is probable that he has here simply recast what was originally an extract from the memoirs of Nehemiah. Some of the phrases peculiar to the Chronicler are loosely connected with the context. The nucleus which remains has the vigorous style of Nehemiah and many of his peculiar idioms. Its courageous, assertive spirit is very different from that of the other writings of the Chronicler. It is also doubtful whether this later writer, with his strong, priestly interests, would have made Nehemiah, the layman, a religious reformer and therefore in a sense the rival of Ezra. Above all, the work attributed to Nehemiah in this chapter is in harmony with his spirit and attitude, as revealed in the unquestioned extracts from his memoirs. Already, as stated in 1:20, he had told Sanballat and Tobiah that they should have no portion or memorial in Jerusalem. He had already shown himself keen in righting wrongs within the community. Zeal in preserving the sanctity of the sabbath and in opposing heathen marriages was characteristic rather of the Jews of the dispersion than of those of Palestine. It is probable, therefore, that this chapter records Nehemiah's work when he revisited Jerusalem some time after 432 B.C., although it must be frankly confessed that the historical evidence is far from conclusive and that the entire account of this second visit, including the chronological data in 5:14 and the reference to the expulsion of Sanballat in 1:20, may possibly be due to the Chronicler's desire to discredit the Samaritans and to enlist the authority of Nehemiah in support of the later priestly laws and customs.
IV. Regulations Regarding the Temple Service. The expulsion of Tobiah the Ammonite from the room which had been assigned him in the temple by Eliashib, the high priest, was apparently due to two reasons, first because Tobiah was persona non grata to Nehemiah and had already shown himself a dangerous foe to the Jews. The second and chief reason was because the room was needed for storing the offerings that were brought in for the support of the temple officials. These offerings were presented in accordance with the demands of the Deuteronomic regulation, which at this time was the code acknowledged by the Judean community (Deut. 18:4. 14:23, 27, 28). The narrative adds that, with his practical knowledge of affairs, Nehemiah appointed a representative committee consisting of a priest, a scribe, and a Levite, and to them he intrusted the task of receiving and distributing the temple tithes to their kinsmen.
V. Provisions Regarding Sabbath Observation and Foreign Marriages. Far away from the temple, and therefore unable to participate in the distinctive feasts and ceremonials that distinguished the religious life of their race, and confronted by the constant danger of being absorbed by the heathen among whom they found themselves, the Jews of the dispersion placed strong emphasis on two institutions. The one was the observation of the sabbath and the other was the preservation of the purity of their blood by abstaining from all marriage alliances with their Gentile neighbors. In Palestine, where they were able to revive the ancient feasts in connection with the temple, and where the danger of absorption was not so imminent, their practices in these regards appear to have been much more lax. Not only had the priests set the example by contracting foreign marriages, but apparently about this time the author of the beautiful story of Ruth, by citing the tradition regarding the Moabite ancestry of their illustrious King David, voiced the belief of many in the community that such marriages were permissible. Nehemiah, however, rigorously opposed this tendency. He also appreciated the menace to the dignity and character of the temple service, if the commercial pursuits of ordinary days were carried into the sabbath. His measure, therefore, in closing the gates and thus excluding all traders, was both sane and effective. In setting his face strongly against foreign marriages he was simply enforcing the laws found in Deuteronomy 7:1, 3 and 33:3, which forbade the Hebrews to intermarry with the people of the land.
VI. Significance of Nehemiah's Work. In rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem Nehemiah prepared the way for that revival of the Jewish state which characterized the closing years of the Persian period. More important still was his work in re-establishing a close relation between the Jews of the dispersion and those of Palestine. He himself was the connecting link between them, and his activity prepared the minds of the Palestinian Jews for the acceptance of those new principles that were strongly held by leaders like himself. He also enforced the ethical and social ideals of the earlier prophets, and ably advocated the principles that are fundamental in the late priestly laws. Above all, in his own personality as a prophetic layman, he held up before his race an example of patriotism, self-sacrifice, efficiency, and devotion to the service of Jehovah which made a profound and lasting impression upon his own and later generations.
Section CII. THE TRADITIONAL ACCOUNT OF THE ADOPTION OF THE PRIESTLY LAW
[Sidenote: Ezra 7:1, 6-10] In the reign of Artaxerxes king of Persia, Ezra, a descendant of Aaron, went up from Babylon; and he was a scribe skilled in the law of Moses, which Jehovah, the God of Israel, had given. And the king granted him all his request, inasmuch as the hand of Jehovah his God was upon him. And some of the Israelites, and of the priests, the Levites, the singers, the porters, and the temple servants went up to Jerusalem [with him]. And he came to Jerusalem in the fifth month, which was in the seventh year of the king. For on the first day of the first month he began the journey from Babylon, and on the first day of the fifth month he came to Jerusalem, since the good hand of God was with him. For Ezra had set his heart to seek the law of Jehovah, and to observe it and to teach in Israel statutes and ordinances.
[Sidenote: Neh. 7:73b, 8:4-6] And when the seventh month drew near, all the people gathered themselves together as one man to the broad place that was before the Water Gate. And they spoke to Ezra the priest and scribe to bring the book of the law of Moses, which Jehovah had commanded Israel. And Ezra the priest brought the law before the assembly of men and women, and all who could hear with understanding, upon the first day of the seventh month. And he read from it before the open place that was before the Water Gate, from early morning until mid-day, in the presence of the men and women and of those who could understand; and all the people were attentive to the book of the law. And Ezra the priest and scribe stood upon a wooden pulpit, which they made for the purpose and opened the book in the sight of all the people—for he was above all the people—and when he opened it all the people stood up. And Ezra blessed Jehovah, the great God. And all the people answered, Amen, Amen, while they lifted up their hands and bowed their heads and worshipped Jehovah with their faces to the ground.
[Sidenote: Neh. 8:9-12] Then Ezra the priest, the scribe, and the Levites who taught the people said to all the people, This day is holy to Jehovah your God; mourn not, nor weep; for all the people when they heard the words of the law. Then he said to them, Go away, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions to him for whom nothing is prepared, for this day is holy to our Lord; and do not be troubled, for the joy of Jehovah is your bulwark. So the Levites quieted all the people, saying, Be still, for the day is holy, and do not be troubled. And all the people went away to eat and drink and to send portions and to make a great rejoicing, for they had understood the words which had been made known to them.
[Sidenote: Neh. 8:13-19] And on the second day the heads of fathers' houses of all the people, the priests and the Levites were gathered together to Ezra the scribe, in order to gain an insight into the words of the law. And they found written in the law, how Jehovah had commanded by Moses that the Israelites should dwell in booths at the feast in the seventh month; and that they should proclaim aloud in all their cities and in Jerusalem: Go forth to the mount and bring olive branches and branches of wild olive and myrtle and palm branches and branches of thick trees to make booths, as it is prescribed. So the people went out and brought them, and made themselves booths, each man upon the roof of his house and in their courts and in the courts of the house of God and in the open space at the Water Gate and in the open space at the Ephraim Gate. And all the assembly of those who had come back from the captivity made booths and lived in the booths; for since the days of Joshua the son of Nun to that day the Israelites had not done so. And there was very great gladness. And day by day, from the first to the last day, he read in the book of the law of God. And they celebrated the feast seven days, and on the eighth day, as was the custom, there was a concluding solemn assembly.
[Sidenote: Neh. 9:1-3] Now in the twenty-fourth day of this month the Israelites were assembled with fasting, and with sackcloth and earth upon their heads. And the children of Israel had separated themselves from all foreigners, and stood and confessed their sins and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place and read in the book of the law of Jehovah their God a fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed and worshipped Jehovah their God.
[Sidenote: Neh. 9:6-8] And Ezra said, Thou art Jehovah, even thou alone; thou hast made heaven and the heaven of heavens with all their host, the earth and all things that are on it, the seas and all that is in them, and thou preservest them all and the host of heaven worshippeth thee. Thou art Jehovah the God, who didst choose Abraham and bring him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and didst give him the name Abraham, and find his heart faithful before thee and make a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites to his descendants, and hast performed thy words, for thou art righteous.
[Sidenote: Neh. 9:32-37] Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who keepest covenant and kindness, let not all the affliction seem little before thee, that hath come on us, on our kings, our nobles, our priests, our prophets, our fathers, and on all thy people, since the days of the kings of Assyria to this day. However thou art just in all that has come upon us; for thou hast done right, but we have done wickedly, neither have our kings, our nobles, our priests, nor our fathers, kept thy law nor heeded thy commands and thy testimonies with which thou didst testify against them. For they have not served thee in the time of their kingly rule, and in spite of thy great goodness that thou gavest them, they have not turned from their wicked deeds. Behold, we this day are slaves, and as for the land that thou gavest to our fathers to eat its fruit and enjoy its good gifts, see we are only slaves in it. And it yieldeth a great income to the kings whom thou hast set over us because of our sin; also they have power over our bodies and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress.
[Sidenote: Neh. 9:38] Moreover in addition to all this we made a fixed covenant and wrote it out, and our nobles, our Levites, and our priests were enrolled upon the sealed document.
[Sidenote: Neh. 10:28-31] And all those who had separated themselves from the peoples of the lands to the law of God, their wives, their sons, and their daughters, every one who had knowledge and insight, strongly supported their kinsmen, their nobles, and entered into a solemn obligation and took oath to walk in God's law, which was given by Moses the servant of God, and to observe and do all the commands of Jehovah our Lord, and his ordinances and his statutes; and that we would neither give our daughters to the peoples of the land nor take their daughters as wives for our sons; and that, if the peoples of the land should bring wares or any grain on the sabbath day to sell, we would not buy of them on the sabbath or on a holy day; and that on the seventh year we would leave the land uncultivated and would refrain from the exaction of any debt.
[Sidenote: Neh. 10:32-39] We also imposed upon ourselves the obligation to give yearly the third part of a shekel for the service of the house of our God, for the bread that was set forth, and for the continual burnt-offering, for the sabbaths, the new moons, the fixed feasts, and the holy things, and for the sin-offerings to make atonement for Israel, and for all the work of the house of our God. And we cast lots, the priests, the Levites, and the people, for the wood-offering, to bring it into the house of our God, according to our father's houses, at appointed times year by year, to burn upon the altar of Jehovah our God, as it is prescribed in the law; and to bring the earliest products of our ground, and the first of all fruit of every kind of tree year by year, to the temple of Jehovah; also the first-born of our sons and of our cattle, as is prescribed in the law, and the firstlings of our herds and of our flocks, to bring to the house of God to the priests who minister in the house of our God; and that we should bring the first bread baked of our dough, the fruit of every kind of tree, the new wine and the oil, to the priests, in the chambers of the house of our God; and the tithes of our ground to the Levites; and that they, the Levites, should receive the tithes in all the cities of our agricultural districts. And that the priest the son of Aaron should be with the Levites, when the Levites shall bring up the tithe of the tithes to the house of our God, to the chambers, into the store-house. For the Israelites and the sons of Levi shall bring the gifts of grain, of new wine, and of oil, into the chambers, where are the vessels of the sanctuary, and the priests who minister and the porters and the singers, and that we would not neglect the house of our God.
I. The Ezra Tradition. The tradition regarding Ezra and his work presents many difficult problems. Part of it is found in the heart of the book of Nehemiah; while another part is now found in the second half of the book of Ezra. It is not entirely clear whether this dislocation is due to the Chronicler, who desired to give Ezra, the priest and scribe, the precedence before Nehemiah, the layman, or to the mistake of a scribe. A recent writer (Professor Torrey, in Composition of Ezra-Neh.) has shown convincingly that the Ezra story in its present form is at least from the school to which the Chronicler belonged, if not from his own pen. Not only does it abound in the characteristic phrases of this voluminous editor, but it also reflects at many points his peculiar conception of the history of this period. Ezra is described as a descendant of Aaron and "a scribe skilled in the law of Moses." His work as interpreter of the law, which he is represented as bringing in his hand, is typical of the scribes, who were becoming the chief teachers of Judaism in the days of the Chronicler (the Greek period). The decree of Artaxerxes found in the seventh chapter of Ezra suggests at every point its late Jewish origin. It confers upon Ezra, the scribe, royal authority far eclipsing that given by Artaxerxes to Nehemiah, his favorite. A sum representing more than three million dollars is placed at Ezra's disposal. At his summons seventeen hundred priests, Levites, singers, and servants of the temple rally about the standard of the faithful scribe. He is represented as going under the royal protection to Palestine to instruct the Judean community, to reform its abuses, and to institute the rule of the law of Moses which he bore in his hand.
He first holds a great synagogue service in which the law is read and interpreted to the people. They are then bidden to observe the Feast of Booths or Tabernacles in accordance with its regulations. Later, when he discovers that the people of the land have entered into foreign marriages, he tears his clothes and hair and sits for hours overwhelmed by the great crime that rests upon the community. When the people are gathered about him, he upbraids them for their laxness and secures the appointment of a commission with himself at the head to investigate and put an end to these evil practices. When after three months the community has been purified from this foreign element, the people are again assembled to listen to the reading of the law. Then Ezra utters a fervent prayer in which he sets forth Jehovah's leadership of his people in the past and the disasters which have come as a result of their sins. After this public petition for Jehovah's forgiveness, the people through their nobles, Levites, and priests subscribe in writing to the regulations imposed by the lawbook that Ezra had brought. Its more important regulations are also recapitulated. They are to refrain from foreign marriages, to observe strictly the sabbath laws, and also the requirements of the seventh year of release, to bring to the temple the annual tax of one-tenth of a shekel and the other dues required for its support and for the maintenance of the priests and Levites.
II. The Historical Value of the Ezra Tradition. Recognizing that the Ezra tradition comes from the hand of the Chronicler, certain Old Testament scholars are inclined to regard it as entirely unhistorical. It can no longer be regarded as a strictly historical record. Like II Chronicles 31, it is shot through with the ideas current during the Greek period. With no desire to deceive, but with nothing of the modern historical spirit, the Chronicler freely projects the institutions, ideas, and traditions of his own day into these earlier periods. The result is that he has given not an exact or reliable historical record, but his own conception of the way in which the course of history should have unfolded. The Ezra tradition also lacks the support not only of contemporary testimony, but also of all the Jews who wrote during the next few centuries. Ben Sira in his review of Israel's heroes speaks in highest terms of Nehemiah, but knows nothing of Ezra's work. Even the comparatively late Jewish tradition reflected in the opening chapters of II Maccabees attributes to Nehemiah the re-establishment of the temple Service and the collection of the sacred writings of his race. At many points the Ezra tradition is also inconsistent with the straightforward contemporary record contained in Nehemiah's memoirs. The real question is whether or not there is a historical nucleus in the Ezra story, and if so, what are the facts which it reflects.
III. The Facts Underlying the Ezra Tradition. The later records make it clear that during the latter part of the Persian period the attitude of the Jews in Palestine toward their neighbors became more and more exclusive. Nehemiah appears to have given a great impetus to the movement which ultimately resulted in the Samaritan schism and the high wall that henceforth separated Jew and Gentile. The emphasis on the strict observation of the sabbath grew stronger and stronger, until at the beginning of the Greek period the Jews of Jerusalem preferred to fall before the sword of their foes rather than fight on the sabbath day (cf. Section CIII). The ritual of the temple became even more elaborate, and its income was greatly increased during the latter part of the Persian period. The extension of the territory of the Judean community implied that its numbers were increased by the return of loyal Jews attracted by the security offered by its walls and by the new spirit that animated the Jews of Palestine. The priestly laws which were formulated to meet the new needs of the Judean community appear to have been written in Palestine and by those closely connected with the temple service, but in the emphasis upon the sabbath and in their endeavor to prevent marriage with foreigners they suggest the presence and influence of Jews who had returned from the land of the dispersion. It is possible that among those who thus returned was the priest Ezra, and he may have been at the head of one of these groups of returning exiles. In the days of Josiah the code contained in the newly discovered Book of the Covenant was presented to the people in a public assembly and adopted and enforced by the king, who acted as the representative of the people (Section LXXXIII:iii). It is probable that in the small Judean community new regulations gained acceptance in the same way, except that the people were represented by their nobles and priests rather than by a king. The tradition of Ezra, therefore, is typical of the great movement that shaped the life of Judaism in the century immediately following the work of Nehemiah.
IV. Origin and Aims of the Priestly Laws. The late priestly laws which moulded the life of Judaism are found in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers. They do not constitute a unified code, but rather are made up of a series of smaller groups of laws, the older nucleus being the Holiness Code found in chapters 17-26 of Leviticus (cf. Section XCIII:iii). In some cases variants of the same law are found in different groups. Certain of these laws simply reiterate in slightly different form those already found in the primitive and Deuteronomic codes; but in general they supplement these earlier codes. The formulation, collection, and codification of these later laws apparently continued until toward the latter part of the Persian period when the Samaritan schism (Section CIII) fixed them in their present form.
To these laws was prefixed, as an introduction, the priestly history that opens with the account of creation in the first chapter of Genesis and briefly traces Israel's history to the settlement in Canaan. The interest of these late priestly historians is, like that of the Chronicler, in the origin of institutions. Thus the object of the first chapter of Genesis is to give the traditional origin and authority of the sabbath. The account of the flood culminates in a covenant embodying the command that man shall not eat of the blood of sacrificial animals; the priestly stories regarding Abraham aim to give the origin of the rite of circumcision. Israel's early experiences in the wilderness furnish the setting for the giving of the law at Sinai. In this way the late editors of these opening books of the Old Testament connect all of Israel's legislation with Moses and aim to establish its divine authority.
V. Their Important Regulations. The central aim in all these late priestly laws was similar to that of Ezekiel: it was to make Israel a holy people and to prevent them from falling again into the sins to which were attributed the overwhelming disasters that had overtaken them. This aim they sought to accomplish: (1) by making the temple and its services the centre of the life of the people and through ceremonial barriers and regulations to shield it from everything that might pollute it; (2) by rendering the temple service attractive; (3) by insuring through rigid ceremonial laws the purity of its priesthood; (4) by preserving the ceremonial cleanliness of the people through strict laws regarding the food which they ate and elaborate provisions for their purification in case they were contaminated by contact with that which was regarded as unclean; (5) by prohibiting absolutely all marriages with the heathen; and (6) by emphasizing the rigid observation of the sabbath and other distinctive institutions. In general these late priestly laws represented a return to the older and more primitive conception of religion, and defined duty in terms of ceremonial rather than moral acts.
VI. Their Practical Effects. Later Judaism represents to a great extent the result of the rigid enforcement of these regulations. Its life was centralized more and more about the temple. In its services the people found their chief interest and joy. The numbers of the priests and Levites were also greatly increased. To the older temple dues many new ones were added. Thus each man brought to the temple the first-born of his flock. Even his oldest son must be redeemed within a month after his birth by a gift of five shekels (which represented in modern currency between three and four dollars). Of every animal slain the shoulder, two joints, and the stomach went to the priests. Of the vintage and oil and grain they received about one-fiftieth. In addition a tithe was turned over to the Levites. Part of the wool in every sheep-shearing, as well as a part of the bread which they baked, found its way to the temple. In addition a large income came through the vows made by the people or the conscience money which was paid either in currency or gifts. Although the priests had no temporal authority by which to enforce these laws, it is evident that the people bore their heavy burdens gladly and brought willingly their offerings, that they might thereby win a definite assurance of Jehovah's favor. The law was to them a source of joy rather than a burden. Their love for it steadily grew until two centuries later during the Maccabean persecutions there were many who were ready to lay down their lives for it.
Section CIII. THE JEWISH STATE DURING THE LAST CENTURY OF PERSIAN RULE
[Sidenote: Ps. 36:5-10] Thy loving-kindness, O Jehovah, is in the heavens, Thy faithfulness reacheth to the skies, Thy righteousness is like the mighty mountains, Thy judgments are like the great deep; Thou preservest man and beast. How precious is thy loving-kindness, O God! And the sons of men put their trust in the shadow of thy wings. They are fully satisfied with the rich things of thy house, And thou makest them drink of thy river of delights. For with thee is the fountain of life, And in thy light shall we see light. O continue thy loving-kindness to those who know thee, And thy righteousness to the upright in heart.
[Sidenote: Joel 2:1, 2b] The word of Jehovah, which came to Joel, the son of Pethuel: Blow a horn in Zion, Sound an alarm in my holy mountain, Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble, For the day of Jehovah comes, For near is the day of darkness and gloom, The day of cloud and thick darkness!
[Sidenote: Joel 2:2c-6] Like the light of dawn scattered over the mountains, A people great and powerful; Its like has not been from of old, Neither shall be any more after it, Even to the years of coming ages. Before them the fire devours, And behind them a flame burns; Like the garden of Eden is the land before them, And after them it is a desolate desert, Yea, nothing escapes them. Their appearance is as the appearance of horses, And like horsemen they run. Like the sound of chariots on the tops of the mountains they leap, Like the crackle of flames devouring stubble, Like a mighty people preparing for battle. Peoples are in anguish before them, All faces glow with excitement.
[Sidenote: Joel 2:7-9] Like mighty men they run, Like warriors they mount up a wall, They march each by himself, They break not their ranks, None jostles the other, They march each in his path, They fall upon the weapons without breaking, They scour the city, they run on the wall, They climb up into the houses, Like a thief they enter the windows.
[Sidenote: Joel 2:10-11] Earth trembles before them, Heaven quakes, The sun and the moon become dark, And the stars withdraw their shining; And Jehovah uttereth this voice before his army, For his host is exceedingly great, Yea, mighty is he who performs his word, For great is the day of Jehovah, It is very terrible, who can abide it?
[Sidenote: Joel 2:12-14] But now this is the oracle of Jehovah: Turn ye to me with all your heart, And with fasting and weeping and mourning. Rend your hearts and not your garments, And turn to Jehovah your God; For he indeed is gracious and merciful, Slow to anger and plenteous in love, And relenteth of the evil. Who knows but he will turn and relent, And leave a blessing behind him, A cereal and drink-offering for Jehovah your God?
[Sidenote: Joel 2:16-17] Blow a horn in Zion, Sanctify a fast, summon an assembly, Gather the people, make holy the congregation, Assemble the old men, Gather the children, and the infants at the breast, Let the bridegroom come forth from his chamber, And the bride from her bridal tent. Between the porch and the altar, Let the priests, the ministers of Jehovah, weep aloud, Let them say, Spare, O Jehovah, thy people, And make not thine heritage an object of reproach, For the heathen to mock them. Why should it be said among the nations, Where is their God?
[Sidenote: Joel 2:18-20] Then Jehovah became jealous for his land, and took pity upon his people, And Jehovah answered and said to his people, Behold, I will send you corn, and wine, and oil, And ye shall be satisfied therewith; I will not make you again an object of reproach among the nations, I will remove far from you the northern foe, And I will drive him into a land barren and desolate, His van to the eastern sea, And his rear to the western sea, And a stench from him shall arise.
[Sidenote: Joel 2:21-24] Fear not, O land, exult, And rejoice for Jehovah hath done great things. Fear not, O beasts of the field, For the pastures of the wilderness are putting forth new grass, For the trees bear their fruit, Fig tree and vine yield their strength. Be glad, then, ye sons of Zion, And rejoice in Jehovah your God, For he hath given you the early rain in just measure, And poured down upon you the winter rain, And sent the latter rain as before. The threshing floors shall be full of grain, And the vats shall overflow with new wine and oil.
[Sidenote: Joel 2:25-27] I will make restoration to you for the years which the swarmer hath eaten, The devourer, the destroyer, and the shearer, My great army which I sent among you, And ye shall eat your food and be satisfied, And praise the name of Jehovah your God, Who hath dealt so wonderfully by you, And ye shall know that I am in the midst of Israel, That I am Jehovah your God and none else, And my people shall nevermore be abashed.
[Sidenote: Joel 2:28, 29] And it shall come to pass afterwards, That I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh, And your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, Your old men shall dream dreams, Your young men shall see visions, And even upon thy male and female slaves, In those days I will pour out my spirit.
[Sidenote: (Jos. Ant. XI, 7:1)] When Eliashib the high priest was dead, his son Judas succeeded him in the high priesthood. Then, when he was dead, his son Johanan assumed that dignity. It was on his account that Bagoses, the general of Artaxerxes [Mnemon], desecrated the temple and imposed tribute on the Jews, that at public expense they should pay for every lamb fifty shekels. The reason for this was as follows: Jeshua was the brother of Johanan. Bagoses, who was Jeshua's friend, promised to secure for him the high priesthood. Trusting, therefore, in this support, Jeshua quarrelled with Johanan in The temple and so provoked his brother that, in his anger, Johanan slew him. On this account the people were enslaved and the temple desecrated by the Persians. For when Bagoses, the general of Artaxerxes, knew that Johanan, the high priest of the Jews had slain his own brother Jeshua in the temple, he immediately came against the Jews and began in anger to say to them, Have you dared commit a murder in your temple! And when he attempted to go into the temple they tried to prevent him doing so; but he said to them, Am I not purer than he who was slain in the temple? And when he had said these words, he went into the temple. Thus Bagoses made use of this pretext and punished the Jews seven years for the murder of Jeshua.
[Sidenote: (Jos. Ant. XI, 7:2)] Now when Johanan had departed this life, his son Jaddua succeeded to the high priesthood. He had a brother whose name was Manasseh. And there was a certain Sanballat who was sent to Samaria by Darius, the last king of Persia. This man, knowing that Jerusalem was a famous city and that its kings had given great trouble to the Assyrians and the people of Coele-Syria, willingly gave his daughter, whose name was Nicaso, in marriage to Manasseh, thinking that this marriage alliance would be a pledge that the nation of the Jews would continue their good will toward him.
[Sidenote: (Jos. Ant. XI, 8:2a-c)] The elders of Jerusalem, complaining loudly that the brother of Jaddua, the high priest, though married to a foreigner, was sharing with him the high priesthood, took sides against Jaddua; for they regarded this man's marriage as an encouragement to those who were eager to transgress by marrying foreign wives and that this would be the beginning of a closer association with foreigners. Therefore they commanded Manasseh to divorce his wife or else not to approach the altar. The high priest himself joined with the people in their indignation and drove his brother from the altar.
[Sidenote: (Jos. Ant. XI, 8:2d-g)] Then Manasseh went to his father-in-law, Sanballat, and told him that, although he loved his daughter, Nicaso, he was not willing to be deprived on her account of his priestly dignity, since it was the greatest dignity in their nation and had always continued in the same family. Thereupon Sanballat promised him not only to preserve for him the honor of his priesthood but also to procure for him the power and dignity of a high priest and to make him governor of all the places which he himself ruled, if he would retain his daughter as his wife. He also told him that he would build him a temple like that at Jerusalem upon Mount Gerizim, which is the highest of all the mountains in Samaria. Moreover he promised that he would do this with the approval of Darius, the king. Manasseh, being elated with these promises, remained with Sanballat, thinking that he would gain a high priesthood as the gift from Darius, for Sanballat was then well advanced in years. Now there was a great disturbance among the people of Jerusalem because many of the priests and Levites were entangled in such marriages, for they all revolted to Manasseh, and Sanballat offered them money and distributed among them land for cultivation and dwelling places also. He did all this in order in every way to gratify his son-in-law.
I. Prosperity of the Judean Community. Behind their restored walls the Jews of Jerusalem enjoyed a sense of security and peace that had not been theirs since the days of Josiah. At last they were free to develop the limited resources of little Judah and gradually to extend their territory northwestward over the fertile plain of Sharon. At the most their numbers and territory were small. The memories of their glorious past and their hopes for the future were their chief inspiration. The belief that in supporting faithfully the service of the temple and in conforming to the definite demands of the ritual they were winning Jehovah's favor was to them an unfailing source of comfort and thankfulness. In the rich services of the temple and in the contemplation of Jehovah's character and deeds they found true joy. These feelings are expressed in certain of the psalms, as, for example, Psalm 36, which probably comes from this period. In their weakness they looked up in confidence and gratitude to Jehovah who ruled supreme in the heavens, and who was able and eager to preserve those who "put their trust in the shadow of his wings." Their one prayer was that his loving-kindness would continue to protect them.
II. The Growth of the Psalter. Nehemiah's work apparently gave an impulse not only to the development of the law and the temple ritual, but also inspired poets to voice their own feelings and those of the community in certain of the psalms now found in the Psalter. It also encouraged them to collect the earlier religious songs of their race. The result of their work is the first edition of the Hebrew Psalter. In its present form the Psalter, like the Pentateuch, is divided into five books with a general introduction consisting of Psalms 1 and 2 and a concluding doxology (Ps. 150). At the end of each of these divisions are shorter doxologies or brief epilogues (e.g., 41:13 72:19 89:52 106:48). The Psalter itself is a library containing a great variety of poems written at different periods, from many different points of view and by many different poets. Like the Priestly Code and the book of Proverbs, it consists of a collection of smaller collections. Thus many psalms in the first half of the Psalter are repeated wholly or in part in later psalms. Psalm 14, for example, is identical with Psalm 73, except that in 14 Jehovah is used as the designation of the Deity and in 73 Elohim (or God).
The problem of determining the date of the individual psalms and of the different collections is exceedingly difficult, both because the superscriptions were clearly added by later editors who thought thereby to connect the psalm with an earlier writer or historic incident, and because the psalms themselves contain few historical allusions. A great majority of them reflect the teachings of the pre-exilic prophets or, like the book of Proverbs, come from the lips of the sages and deal with universal human problems. Some were written by priests or Levites for use in connection with the song service of the temple. Because of this timeless quality, however, an appreciation of them does not depend upon an exact knowledge of their authorship or historical background. It is possible that a few of the psalms in the first part of the Psalter come from the pre-exilic period, but the great majority reflect the problems, the hopes, the fears, and the trials of the faithful who lived under the shadow of the second temple. While the superscriptions clearly do not come from the original psalmists themselves, they do record the conclusions of the editors who made the earliest collections. The oft-recurring title "Psalm to David" either means that by the editor it was attributed to David as the author, or is a general designation of psalms that were recognized to be comparatively early. The two great Davidic collections, 3-41 and 51-72, were apparently collected not long after the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem. They are deeply influenced by the inspiring teachings of the II Isaiah. They are remarkably free from that ceremonialism which became a powerful force in Judaism during the last century of the Persian rule. Psalm 51:16, 17, for example, echoes the noble ethical teachings of the great prophets:
Thou desirest not sacrifice, else would I give it, Thou delightest not in burnt offering, The sacrifice of God is a broken heart, A broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.
They represent, therefore, the oldest edition of the Psalter and the songs which were probably sung by the temple singers and the people as they went up to the temple on the great feast days during the closing years of the Persian period.
III. The Prophecy of Joel. For a brief moment the clear light of contemporary prophecy is turned upon the Judean community by the little book of Joel. The immediate occasion was the invasion of a great swarm of locusts which swept into Judea either from the desert or from the mountains in the north. It contains in 3:6 the first Old Testament reference to the Greeks. From 3:2 it is evident that the Jewish race has already been widely scattered. In 3:2 the hope is expressed that the time will soon come when strangers shall no longer pass through Jerusalem. The temple, however, and the city walls (2:9) have already been rebuilt, indicating that the prophecy followed the work of Nehemiah. The priests are exceedingly prominent in the life of the community, and Joel, though a prophet, places great emphasis upon the importance of the ritual. When the community is threatened by the swarms of locusts, whose advance he describes with dramatic imagery, he calls upon the people to sanctify a fast and to summon an assembly, and commands the priests to cry aloud to Jehovah for deliverance.
IV. Hopes of the Jews. In his prophecy Joel has given a very complete description of the hopes which the people entertained regarding the coming day of Jehovah. It is the same day of Jehovah that Zephaniah described (Section LXXXI:v) and yet the portrait is very different. A divine judgment is to be pronounced, not upon Jehovah's people, but upon their foes. Here Joel reveals the influence of Ezekiel's graphic descriptions found in the thirty-eighth and thirty-ninth chapters of his prophecy. Vividly he describes the advance of Israel's hereditary foes. With Full panoply of war they are pictured as advancing to the Valley of Jehoshaphat, the valley of judgment (popularly identified with the Kidron), where Jehovah is to pass sentence upon them. Then suddenly, as the harvester puts the sickle in the grain, they shall be cut down and utterly destroyed. Also in the prophet's imagination above this carnage rises Jerusalem, an impregnable fortress for the people of Israel, holy and no longer polluted by the presence of heathen invaders. Peace and prosperity shall then be the lot of Jehovah's people. Above all he will pour out his purifying, enlightening spirit upon all classes, so that young and old, slave and free, shall be inspired by the consciousness of his message and presence in their hearts.
V. Rule of the High Priests. The few facts that have been preserved regarding the external history of the Judean community during the last century of the Persian rule are in striking contrast to the inner life and hopes of the people. At their head were the high priests, whose names we know, Eliashib, Johanan, and Jaddua. They constituted a hereditary aristocracy intrenched in the temple, which controlled not only the religious but also the civil life of the Jews. Like all hierarchies it lacked the corrective influence of a superior civil authority. The one safeguard of popular liberties, however, was the written law, which was fast becoming the absolute authority in the life of the community. To it the people could appeal even against the decisions of the priests. It therefore kept alive that inherited democratic spirit which had been the priceless possession of Israel through all its history.
There is every reason for accepting the detailed account which Josephus has given of the quarrel between the high priest Johanan and his brother Joshua which resulted in the murder of the latter within the sacred temple precincts. Such an opportunity would naturally be improved by the greedy Persian official to impose an onerous tax upon the Jews. The Elephantine letter establishes the fact that Johanan was high priest in 411 B.C. and that Baghohi (of which Bagoses is the Jewish equivalent) was the Persian satrap. It thus directly confirms the testimony of Josephus. References in late Greek writings (Solinus XXXV, 6; Syncellus I, 486) suggest that the Jews about 350 B.C. were involved with the Phoenicians in the rebellion against Persia. These historians state that at this time Jericho was captured and destroyed and that a part of the Jewish people were transported to the province of Hyrcania at the south of the Caspian Sea. The rebellion was instigated by Tachos, the ruler of Egypt, who about 362 not only shook off the rule of Persia, but invaded Syria and stirred up the Phoenicians to defy the Persian king. Artaxerxes III, popularly known as Ochus, proved, however, the last ruler who was able to revive the waning power of the Persian Empire. At his accession he slew all the members of the royal family, and throughout his reign (358-337 B.C.) he trusted chiefly to the unsheathed sword to maintain his authority. In 346 B.C. he finally succeeded in collecting a huge army with which he invaded Syria and besieged Sidon. Its king betrayed his city into the hands of the Persians, only to be murdered by the treacherous Ochus. The citizens of Sidon, recognizing that they would receive no mercy from the hands of Their conqueror, shut themselves up in their homes and then burned them Over their heads. According to the Greek historians forty thousand Phoenicians perished in this revolt.
VI. The Date of the Samaritan Schism. Josephus has given an unusually full and detailed account of the final schism between the Jews and Samaritans. He dates it under the high priesthood of Jaddua, who died shortly after the close of the Persian period. He implies, therefore, that the schism took place not long before 332 B.C., when Alexander the Great conquered Palestine. This is also in keeping with the fact that the Elephantine letter written in 411 B.C. knows nothing of a division between Jew and Gentile. The fact that at the time of the division the defecting priests took from Jerusalem the Pentateuch in its final form strongly confirms the conclusion (as Professor Torrey has pointed out in his Ezra Studies, pp. 324-330) that the Sanballat who ruled over the Samaritan community was not the contemporary of Nehemiah, but his grandson, who as an old man was ruling in Samaria at the time when Alexander conquered the East.
VII. The Nature and Consequences of the Schism. The schism between Jew and Samaritan was but a revival of the ancient rivalry which dated from the days when the Israelites had first settled in Canaan. The destruction of Samaria in 722 and the strong policy of Josiah had apparently led the Samaritans to look to the temple at Jerusalem as the chief sanctuary of the land. Shechem, however, and Mount Gerizim, which rises abruptly on the south, enjoyed traditions which dated from the earliest days of Israel's history. The sacred oak and altar at Shechem figured even in the patriarchal period. At the temple of Baal-berith in Shechem apparently both Canaanites and Israelites worshipped during the days of the settlement. According to the Samaritan version of Deuteronomy 24:4, Mount Gerizim, not Ebal or Jerusalem, was the place where the Israelites, after entering Canaan, were first commanded to rear an altar to Jehovah, and to inscribe upon it the laws given to Moses. Even in the Jewish version of Deuteronomy 11:29 and 27:12 Mount Gerizim is the mountain of blessing. In the light of these passages such commands as, for example, that in Deuteronomy 12:4, 5 would naturally be interpreted by the Samaritans as a reference to Gerizim rather than to Jerusalem. The destruction of the Judean capital and temple gave a great incentive to the revival of these Ancient traditions and a new prestige to the northern sanctuary. Until the close of the Persian period, however, the Samaritans evidently regarded Jerusalem as an important shrine and worshipped there side by side with the Jews. The ultimate schism appears to have come as a result of the growing jealousy with which certain of the Jews regarded foreign marriages. The marriage of Manasseh, the brother of Jaddua the high priest, to Nicaso, the daughter of Sanballat II, and his ultimate expulsion by the Jews blew into a flame the smouldering jealousy and opposition that had long existed between the two communities. As Josephus recounts, Sanballat, in order to satisfy his son-in-law, ceded lands and special rights to him and to the other Jerusalem priests, who were attracted by these offers, and ultimately built the famous temple on Mount Gerizim over which Manasseh and his descendants presided. In many ways the temple and service on Mount Gerizim appear to have been duplicates of those at Jerusalem. The same law was recognized by both communities; they shared together the same traditions and the same ideals; and yet their subsequent history illustrates the psychological truth that of all forms of hatred that between brothers is the most venomous and lasting. The bitter rivalry and growing hatred that resulted from this act are reflected even in the wisdom teachings of Ben Sira (B. Sir. 47:21, 24, 25). They also fundamentally color the writings of the Chronicler. The strenuous efforts that he made to discountenance the claims of the Samaritans reveals the intensity of the feud even in the Greek period (cf. II Chron. 11:13-16). His zeal in trying to prove that the rebuilders of the Jerusalem temple were of Jewish extraction was doubtless inspired by the Samaritan charge that during the Babylonian and Persian periods they had freely intermarried with the heathen population of the land. He was compelled to admit that even the high priestly families had been guilty of this sin, but asserted that the foreign wives were later divorced or else the offenders were expelled from Jerusalem. In the light of the oldest records it appears that the Samaritans were able to establish almost as pure a lineage as the Jews. Naturally during the succeeding years the ancient breach continued to widen until it was beyond all healing.
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THE GREEK AND MACCABEAN AGE
Section CIV. THE JEWS UNDER THEIR GREEK RULERS
[Sidenote: 1 Mac. 1:1-4] Now after Alexander the Macedonian, the son of Philip, who came from the land of the Greeks, had smitten Darius king of the Persians and Medes, he reigned in his place as the first ruler of the Syrian kingdom.
He fought many battles, And won many strongholds, And slew the kings of the earth; He went on to the ends of the earth; And took spoils from a multitude of nations. And when the earth was at peace before him, He was exalted and his heart was lifted up; He gathered an exceedingly great army, And ruled over countries and peoples and principalities; And they became tributary to him.
[Sidenote: Jos. Ant. XI, 8:7a, c] Now when Alexander was dead, the government was divided among his successors. It was about this time that Jaddua the high priest died and Onias, his son, took the high priesthood.
[Sidenote: Jos. Ant. XII, 1:1b-d] Alexander's empire was divided among many: Antigonus gained possession of the province of Asia; Seleucus of Babylon and the surrounding nations; Lysimachus governed the Hellespont, and Cassander held Macedonia; Ptolemy, The son of Lagus, got Egypt. While these princes ambitiously contended with one another, each for his own kingdom, there were continual and protracted wars. And the cities suffered and lost many of their inhabitants in these days of distress, so that all Syria experienced at the hands of Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, the opposite of what is implied by his title of saviour. He also captured Jerusalem by means of deceit and treachery; for, coming into the city on a sabbath day, as if to offer sacrifices, he without difficulty gained possession of the city, since the Jews did not oppose him, for they did not suspect him to be their enemy, and that day they always spent in rest and quietness. And when he had gained possession of it, he ruled over it in a cruel manner.
[Sidenote: Jos. Ant. XII, 1:1g-j] And when Ptolemy had taken many captives both from the mountainous parts of Judea and the places about Jerusalem and Samaria and Mount Gerizim, he led them all into Egypt and settled them there. And since he knew that the people of Jerusalem were most faithful in keeping their oaths and covenants, he distributed many of them among garrisons. At Alexandria he gave them equal privileges as citizens with the Macedonians themselves. He also required them to take oath that they would be faithful to his descendants. And not a few other Jews went into Egypt of their own accord, attracted both by the goodness of the soil and Ptolemy's generosity. However, there were disorders between their descendants and the Samaritans because of their resolve to preserve that manner of life which was transmitted to them by their forefathers. They accordingly contended with each other; those from Jerusalem said that their temple was holy and they resolved to send their sacrifices there, but the Samaritans were determined that they should be sent to Mount Gerizim.
[Sidenote: Jos. Ant. XII, 2:1a] When Alexander had reigned twelve years and after him Ptolemy Soter forty years, Ptolemy Philadelphus next had the kingdom of Egypt and held it thirty-nine years.
[Sidenote: Jos. Ant. XII, 2:5d, e, 4:1d-f] Now when Onias I. the high priest died, his son Simon succeeded him. When he died and left only a young son called Onias, Simon's brother Eleazer took the high priesthood. After Eleazar's death, his uncle Manasseh assumed the priesthood, and after he died, Onias II. received that honor. This Onia was lacking in sense and was a great lover of money; for that reason he did not pay the tax of twenty talents of silver for the people, which his forefathers had paid out of their own estates to the kings of Egypt. Thus he aroused the anger of King Ptolemy Euergetes, the father of Philopator. Euergetes sent an ambassador to Jerusalem and complained that Onias did not pay the taxes and threatened that if he did not receive them, he would parcel out their land and send soldiers to live upon it. When the Jews heard this message of the king they were filled with dismay, but Onias was so avaricious that nothing of this kind made him ashamed.
[Sidenote Jos. Ant. XII, 4:2a-f] There was a certain Joseph, young in years, but of great reputation among the people of Jerusalem for dignity and exact foresight. His father's name was Tobias and his mother was the sister of Onias the high priest. She informed him of the coming of Ptolemy's ambassador. Thereupon Joseph came to Jerusalem and reproved Onias for not taking thought for the security of his countrymen and for bringing the nation into dangers by not paying this money. Onias's answer was that he did not care for his authority, that he was ready, if it were possible, to lay down his high priesthood, and that he would not go to the king, for he cared nothing at all about these matters. Joseph then asked him if he would give him leave to go as ambassador on behalf of the nation. He replied that he would. So Joseph went down from the temple and treated Ptolemy's ambassador in a Hospitable manner. He also presented him with rich gifts and feasted him magnificently for many days and then sent him to the king before him and told him that he would soon follow him.
[Sidenote: Jos. Ant. XII, 4:3b, 4a-c] Now it happened that at this time all the principal men and rulers of the cities of Syria and Phoenicia went up to bid for the taxes; for every year the king sold them to the most powerful men of each city. And when the day came on which the king was to let the farming of the taxes of the cities, the taxes of Coele-Syria, Phoenicia, Judea and Samaria amounted altogether to eight thousand talents. Thereupon Joseph accused the bidders of having agreed together to estimate the value of the taxes at too low a rate and he promised that he would give twice as much for them, and for those who did not pay he would send the king their entire possessions, for this privilege was sold together with the taxes. The king was pleased to hear this offer, and because it increased his revenues he said he would confirm the sale of the taxes to him.
[Sidenote: Jos. Ant. XII, 4:5a-c, 3, 6a] And Joseph took with him two thousand soldiers from the king, for he desired to have assistance in order to compel those who refused in the city to pay. And when the people of Askelon refused to pay anything, he seized about twenty of their principal men and slew them, and gathered what they had and sent it all to the king and informed him what he had done. Ptolemy admired the spirit of the man, commended him for what he had done and gave him permission to do as he pleased. By these means he amassed great wealth and made vast profits by this farming of taxes. And he made use of the wealth he had thus secured in order to support his authority. This good fortune he enjoyed for twenty-two years; and he became the father of seven sons by one wife. He had also another son whose name was Hyrcanus.
[Sidenote: Jos. Ant. XII, 3:3a, b] Now in the reign of Antiochus the Great, who ruled over all Asia, the Jews, as well as the inhabitants of Coele-Syria, suffered greatly, and their land was sorely harassed, for while Antiochus was at war with Ptolemy Philopator and his son Ptolemy, who was called Epiphanes, these nations suffered equally both when he was defeated and when he was victorious. So they were like a ship in the storm which is tossed by the waves on both sides.
[Sidenote: Jos. Ant. XII, 3:3c-e] But at length when Antiochus had beaten Ptolemy he seized Judea. And when Philopator was dead, his son sent out against the inhabitants of Coele-Syria a great army under Scopas, general of his forces, and took many of their cities and especially our people, who, when he attacked them, went over to him. But soon afterwards Antiochus overcame Scopas in a battle fought at the fountains of the Jordan and destroyed a great part of his army. And afterwards, when Antiochus subdued those cities of Coele-Syria which Scopas had captured, and Samaria among them, the Jews of their own accord went over to him and received him into Jerusalem and gave plentiful provisions to all his army and readily assisted him when he besieged the garrison which was in the citadel at Jerusalem.
I. Josephus's Histories. The Greek period began with Alexander's conquest of Palestine in 332 and extended to the Maccabean uprising in 168 B.C. For the external history of this period the writings of the historian Josephus are the chief sources. This famous Jewish writer was born in 37 A.D., and apparently lived till about the close of the reign of Domitian in 96. According to his own testimony he was the son of a priest named Mattathiah. Until he was sixteen he studied under the Jewish rabbis. He then spent three years with the Jewish sect known as the Essenes. At the age of nineteen he joined the party of the Pharisees. His point of view in general is that of this dominant popular party. He was able to read Latin, but wrote his histories in Greek. At the age of twenty-six he went to Rome where he spent three years. Returning to Palestine at the beginning of the great rebellion against Rome, he was appointed revolutionary governor of the important province of Galilee. The appointment was unfortunate, for he proved both incompetent and unreliable. In 67 A.D. he and his followers were shut up by Vespasian in the Galilean city, Jotapata. During the siege he vainly tried to desert to the enemy. At the fall of the city he was captured, but his life was spared by Vespasian. In time he ingratiated himself with Titus and also incurred the hostility of his countrymen by trying to persuade them to lay down their arms. He spent the latter part of his life in Rome, devoting himself to study and writing. As a result of his long residence at Rome under the patronage of the Roman emperors, he was powerfully influenced by the Greek and Roman philosophical schools.
Josephus was the great apologist of his race. His chief aims in writing his histories were: (1) to excuse his own acts in connection with the great rebellion; (2) to show why the overwhelming calamity had overtaken his race; and (3) to answer the attack of their Gentile foes by tracing the remarkable history of his people, and by presenting in attractive form their beliefs, institutions, and laws. Of his two great historical works the one entitled The Jewish War was issued probably between 75 and 79 A.D. It opens with the beginnings of the Maccabean struggle, and traces the history, with increasing detail, to the destruction of Jerusalem and the suppression of the Jewish revolt at Gyrene, two or three years before the book was written. His second great work was issued in 93 A.D. under the title of The Antiquities of the Jews. In twenty books it traces Israel's history from the earliest beginnings to the opening years of the Jewish war (68 A.D.). The first half of this extensive history is based on the author's free paraphrase of the Greek version of the Old Testament. For the latter half he draws largely from the apocryphal book of I Maccabees and from the writings of contemporary Greek and Jewish historians. Chief among these are Polybius, Nicolaus of Damascus, and Strabo. At certain points, where earlier sources fail him, he employs popular romances and late traditions. The result is that the different parts of his history are of widely varying values. All must be carefully tested by the canons of historical criticism. After due allowance has been made for his apologetic purpose and his well-known tendencies, a large and valuable body of historical facts remain with which it is possible at many otherwise obscure points to reconstruct the course of Israel's history.
II. Alexander's Conquests. In many ways Alexander's conquest was the most significant and far-reaching event in the history of Asia. The causes of this great movement were, first, the fact that the limited territory of Greece and Macedonia gave to the powerful Hellenic civilization little opportunity for local expansion. Compelled, therefore, to break these narrow bonds, it naturally spread in the direction of least resistance. In the second place the decadent Persian Empire, with its fabulous riches and almost limitless plains, was a loadstone that lured on Greek adventurers to attempt feats that seemed incredible. The third reason was Alexander's inherited lust for conquest. His father, Philip of Macedon, had long been accumulating the resources which made it possible for his son to realize his ambitious dreams. The fourth reason was Alexander's desire to make the world more glorious by the diffusion of Hellenic culture, ideas, and institutions and by binding all races together into one great, harmonious family. His brilliant conquests are a familiar chapter in the world's history. At Issus, at the northeastern end of the Mediterranean, he won, in 333 B.C., the decisive battle which left him in possession of the western part of the huge Persian Empire. By 332 he was master of Palestine. Tyre, the commercial mistress of the eastern Mediterranean, and Gaza, the key to Egypt, alone offered resistance. The Persian kings by their onerous taxation and cruel policy had completely destroyed the loyalty of their western subjects. In the symbolic pictures of the book of Daniel Alexander is regarded as the "fourth beast, terrible and fearful and exceedingly strong. And it had great iron teeth. It devoured and broke in pieces, and stamped the rest with its feet" (7:17,23, 8:5-8). Josephus has preserved a popular tradition regarding the meeting between Alexander and the white-robed Jerusalem priests and the homage paid by the conqueror to the God of the Jews. It bears on its face evidence of its unhistorical character. As a matter of fact, the first goal of Alexander's conquest was the rich land of Egypt. Not being possessed of a navy, he entered it through its one vulnerable point, the Wady Tumilat, that ran from the Isthmus of Suez to the Nile Delta. By 331 B.C. he was master of the Nile Valley, and thence turned eastward, conquering in succession the different provinces of the great empire, until before his death in 323 B.C. his empire extended from the Mediterranean to the Indus, and in the northeast far up toward central Asia.