Alexander's conquests were significant because they represented the victory of Greek ideas and culture as well as of arms. In each country conquered he usually succeeded in Hellenizing the native peoples. Greek cities, settled by his veterans and the horde of migratory Greeks that followed in his wake, were founded at strategic points throughout the vast empire. As recent excavations have shown, Greek art and ideas continued even after the death of Alexander to sweep eastward across Asia, until they profoundly influenced the culture and ideas in such distant nations as China and Japan.
III. The Jews in Egypt and Alexandria. The crown of Alexander's constructive work was the building of Alexandria in Egypt. Selecting a narrow strip of coast, protected on the south by the low-lying lake Mareotis and on the north by the Mediterranean, he built there a magnificent Greek city. On the south it was connected by canal with the Canopic arm of the Nile. Alexander thus diverted to this new metropolis the rich trade of the Red Sea and the Nile. A mile distant was the island of Pharos, which was connected with the mainland by a great moll. On either side, protected from the storms, were the eastern and western harbors, large enough to accommodate the merchant-men and navies of the ancient world. On the west was the native Egyptian quarter. In the centre, opposite the island of Pharos, was the Greek and official quarter. In the northeastern part of the city was the Jewish quarter. Here the Jews lived together under the rule of their law; they were also represented in the civic council by their own leaders. When Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, became governor of Egypt and, after the death of Alexander, subjected Palestine, he carried back to Alexandria many Jewish captives, and attracted others by the special privileges which he granted them. In them he recognized valuable allies in developing the commercial resources of Alexandria and in maintaining his rule over the native Egyptians. Here in time the Jews became wealthy and powerful and developed a unique civilization. From the beginning of the Greek period the number of the Jews in Egypt equalled, if it did not surpass, that of the Jews in Palestine. While they maintained close connection with the Jews in Palestine and remained true to their Scriptures, they were profoundly influenced by their close contact with the civilization and ideas of the Greek world.
IV. The Rule of the Ptolemies. The long-continued rule of the Ptolemies in Egypt is one of the most astonishing phenomena in this remarkable period in human history. Far outnumbered by the native population, involved in almost constant war with their fellow-Greeks, they succeeded by sheer audacity and vigilance in maintaining their authority during the many crises through which they passed. Egypt's natural defences also made its conquest by outside powers exceedingly difficult. Alexandria with its fleet commanded Egypt's one entrance by the sea. In order to protect its eastern gateway, the Isthmus of Suez, it was essential that the Ptolemies should control Palestine. Southern Palestine also commanded the great commercial highway that led southward and eastward to Arabia and Babylonia. Alexandria's ancient rivals, Tyre and Sidon, also lay on the borders of Palestine, and it was essential that they be under the control of Egypt, if Alexandria was to remain the mistress of the eastern Mediterranean. Furthermore, Palestine and the Lebanons (known to Josephus as Coele-Syria, that is, Hollow Syria), alone of the countries adjacent to Egypt, possessed the timber required for the building of Alexandria's navies and merchant-men. Hence Ptolemy, the son of Lagus, and his successors spared no effort to maintain their control over the lands lying along the eastern Mediterranean.
In the division of the empire which followed the death of Alexander three rivals struggled in turn for this coveted territory: Ptolemy, in the south; Antigonus, who soon became master of Asia Minor and northern Syria; and Seleucus, to whom fell the Tigris-Euphrates Valley and the more distant eastern provinces. In the decisive battle of Ipsus in 301 B.C. the overshadowing power of Antigonus was broken and the control of southwestern Asia was divided between Seleucus and Ptolemy. By the treaty that was made after the battle, Coele-Syria was given to Ptolemy; but Seleucus and his descendants, who were known as the Seleucids or the Seleucidae, soon attempted to wrest it from Egypt, and during the following century frequently, with varying success, renewed the attempt. In 295 and again in 219 they were for a brief period masters of Palestine, but during most of this period it was held by the Ptolemies.
V. Fortunes of the Jews of Palestine. Josephus's figure of a ship in a storm, smitten by the waves on either side, well describes the lot of the Jews of Palestine during the Greek period. They were in turn victimized and courted by the rival kings of Egypt and Syria. The Jews, on the whole, favored the rule of the Ptolemies, who had made many concessions to their kinsmen in Egypt. The presence of many Jews in Egypt also made this relation more natural. As a rule the Ptolemies during the intervals of peace left the Jews of Palestine largely to themselves, as long as they paid the heavy tribute that was exacted. It was, however, one of the most corrupt periods in human history. The Ptolemaic court was rich, profligate, and constantly degenerating. The popular story of Joseph the tax-collector (which Josephus recounts at length), while largely fanciful, vividly reflects the conditions and spirit of the age. Joseph, who evidently belonged to one of the leading families of Jerusalem, by his energy and effrontery secured the valuable right of farming the taxes of Palestine. By the iniquitous methods then in vogue, he succeeded in amassing a great fortune. The splendid ruins of Arak el-Emir on the heights of southern Gilead, east of the Jordan, represent the huge castle and town built by his son Hyrcanus and testify to the wealth of this Jewish adventurer. The stories that Josephus relates regarding Joseph indicate that the materialism and sensuality which were regnant in Alexandria had penetrated even into the province of Judea.
The one bright spot in the political history of this period is the reign of the high priest Simon, known as the Just. He appears to have devoted himself to developing, so far as was in his power, the interests and resources of the Palestinian Jews and to have lifted the temple service to a state of magnificence that received the unqualified commendation of Jesus, the son of Sirach.
VI. Conquest of Palestine by the Seleucids in 311 B.C. Seleucus Nikanor transferred the western capital of his empire, known as Syria (a shortened form of the ancient name Assyria), to Antioch, near the northeastern end of the Mediterranean. This city was situated at the point where the Orontes breaks through the Lebanons and where the great roads from the Euphrates and Coele-Syria converge and run westward to its seaport, Seleucia. It was built in the midst of a fertile valley, partly on an island in the river and partly on its northern bank. Not having natural defences, the city depended for protection upon its broad, encompassing walls. To this new capital was attracted a diverse native, Greek, and Jewish population. By virtue of its strategic position and its commercial and political importance, it soon became one of the great cities of the eastern Mediterranean. It occupied the natural site on the eastern Mediterranean seaboard for the capital of a great empire. Shut in by the sea on the west and the desert on the east, Syria's natural line of expansion was north and south. Not until 198 B.C., however, under the rule of Antiochus the Great, did it secure permanent control of Palestine. The degenerate house of the Ptolemies made several ineffectual attempts to win back their lost province, but henceforth Palestine remained under the rule of Syria. The personal attractions of Antiochus the Great, the specious promises which he made, and disgust because of the corrupt rule of Egypt inclined the Jews of Palestine to welcome this change of rulers. The court at Antioch, however, soon became almost as corrupt as that of Egypt, and the Jews were the victims of the greed and caprice of the Syrian despots. Meantime the insidious Greek culture and vices were influencing and largely undermining the character of the Jewish rulers. Judaism was unconsciously facing a supreme crisis in its history.
Section CV. THE WISE AND THEIR TEACHINGS
[Sidenote: Pr. 1:2-6] That men may learn wisdom and instruction, May understand intelligent discourses, May receive instruction in wise conduct, In justice, judgment and equity; That discretion may be given to the inexperienced, To the youth knowledge and a purpose; That the wise man may hear and increase in learning, And the intelligent man may receive counsel, That he may understand proverb and parable, The words of the wise and their riddles.
[Sidenote: Pr. 8:1-6] Does not Wisdom call? And Understanding raise her voice? On the top of high places by the way, In the midst of the street she stands, Beside the gateways in front of the city, At the entrance of the gates she cries aloud: To you, O men, I call, And my appeal is to the sons of men. O inexperienced, acquire discretion, And ye stupid, gain understanding. Hear, for I speak true things, And the utterance of my lips is right.
[Sidenote: Pr. 8:13] Pride and arrogance and evil conduct And false speech do I hate.
[Sidenote: Pr. 8:14-16] With me is counsel and practical knowledge; With me understanding and might. By me kings do reign, And rulers decree justice. By me princes rule, And nobles judge the land.
[Sidenote: Pr. 8:17] I love those who love me, Those who seek me diligently shall find me.
[Sidenote: Pr. 8:18-21] Riches and honor are with me, Lordly wealth and prosperity. My fruit is better than gold, yea, than fine gold, And my increase than choice silver. I walk in the way of righteousness, In the midst of the paths of justice, That I may endow those who love me with wealth, And that I may fill their treasuries.
[Sidenote: Pr. 8:22-26] Jehovah formed me as the beginning of his creation, The first of his works of old, In the primeval past was I formed, In the beginning, before the earth was, When there were no depths, I was brought forth, When there were no fountains full of water. Before the mountains were settled, Before the hills were brought forth, When he had not as yet made the earth, Nor the first of the dust of the world.
[Sidenote: Pr. 8:27, 29, 30] When he established the heavens, I was there, When he marked off the vault on the face of the deep, Made fast the fountains of the deep, When he set to the sea its bound, When he marked out the foundations of the earth, Then I was at his side as a foster-child; And I was daily full of delight, Sporting in his presence continually, Sporting in his habitable earth.
[Sidenote: Pr. 8:31-35] And my delight is with the sons of men; Now therefore, my sons, hearken to me, Hear instruction that you may be wise, And reject it not. Happy is the man who hearkens to me, Happy are they who walk in my ways, Watching daily at my gates, Waiting at the posts of my doors. For he who finds me finds life, And obtains favor from Jehovah.
[Sidenote: Pr. 13:14-20, 24:5] The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life That man may avoid the ways of death. Walk with the wise and you will become wise, But he who associates with fools shall smart for it. A wise man is better than a strong man, And a man who has knowledge than he who has strength.
[Sidenote: Pr. 12:10] A wise man has regard for the well-being of his beast, But the heart of the wicked is cruel.
[Sidenote: Pr. 20:13] Love not sleep lest you come to poverty; Open your eyes and you shall have plenty.
[Sidenote: Pr. 25:16] If you find honey, eat what is sufficient for you, Lest you be surfeited with it and vomit it up.
[Sidenote: Pr. 23:9-35] Who cries, Woe? who, Alas? Who has contentions? Who, complaining? Who has dullness of eyes? They who linger long over wine, They who go about tasting mixed wine. Look not upon the wine when it is red, When it sparkles in the cup. At last it bites like a serpent, And stings like an adder. Your eyes shall see strange things, And your mind shall suggest queer things. You shall be like one sleeping at sea, Like one asleep in a great storm. "They have struck me, but I feel no pain; They have beaten me, but I feel it not; I will seek it yet again. When shall I awake from my wine?"
[Sidenote: Pr. 29:20, 15:23] Do you see a man hasty in his words? There is more hope for a fool than for him. A man has joy from the utterance of his mouth, And a word in due season, how good it is!
[Sidenote: Pr. 19:11, 16:32] A man's wisdom makes him slow to anger, And it is his glory to pass over transgression. He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, And he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.
[Sidenote: Pr. 23:26-28] My son, give me your attention, And let your eyes give careful heed to my ways. For a harlot is a deep well, And an adultress is a narrow pit. Yea, she lies in wait as a robber, And increases the faithless among men.
[Sidenote: Pr. 4:25-27] Let your eyes look right straight forward, And let your gaze be straight before you. Let the path of your feet be level, And let all your ways be stable. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left, Keep your foot away from evil.
[Sidenote: Pr. 14:15] The simpleton believes everything, But the prudent man looks well to where he walks.
[Sidenote: Pr. 26:12, 27:2] Do you see a man wise in his own conceit? There is more hope of a fool than him. Let another man praise you and not your own mouth; Some other, and not your own lips.
[Sidenote: Pr. 4:23, 11:6] Keep your heart above all that you guard, For out of it are the issues of life. The righteousness of the upright shall save them, But the treacherous are caught by their own desire.
[Sidenote: Pr. 21:3] To do what is just and right Is more acceptable to Jehovah than sacrifice.
[Sidenote: Pr. 15:1] A soft answer turns away wrath; But a harsh word stirs up anger.
[Sidenote: Pr. 3:27] Withhold not good from your neighbor, When it is in your power to do it. Say not to your neighbor, "Go, and come again, And to-morrow I will give," when you have it by you.
[Sidenote: Pr. 14:21, 19:17] He who despises his neighbor, sins, But he who has pity on the poor, happy is he. He who has pity on the poor, lends to Jehovah, And his good deed will yet pay him.
[Sidenote: Pr. 25:21-22] If your enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat, And if he be thirsty, give him water to drink; For you will heap coals of fire upon his head, And Jehovah will reward you.
[Sidenote: Pr. 3:11-12] My son, reject not the instruction of Jehovah, And do not grow weary of his reproof, For whom Jehovah loveth he reproveth, Even as a father the son in whom he delights.
[Sidenote: Pr. 3:5-6] Trust in Jehovah with all your heart, And depend not upon your own understanding. In all your ways know him well, And he will make plain your path.
I. Structure and Authorship of the Book of Proverbs. The book of Proverbs is in reality a collection of originally independent groups of proverbs. In its present form it consists of nine general divisions: (1) The preface defining the aims of the book, 1:1-6. (2) A general introduction describing the characteristics and value of the wisdom teaching, 1:7-9:18. (3) A large collection designated as the Proverbs of Solomon, 10:1-22:16. The fact that ten proverbs are repeated in practically the same words indicates that it, like the book of Proverbs as a whole, is made up of smaller collections. In chapters 10-15 the prevailing type of the poetic parallelism is antithetic or contrasting, while in the remainder of the book the synonymous or repeating parallelism prevails. (4) A supplemental collection, 22:17-24:22. This is introduced by the suggestive superscription, "Incline your ear and hear the words of the wise." (5) A shorter appendix, 24:23-34, with the superscription, "These also are from the wise." (6) The second large collection of proverbs, 25-29. This bears the superscription, "These also are the proverbs of Solomon which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, transcribed." It contains several proverbs found in the first large collection, and evidently represents later gleanings from the same field. (7) The words of Agur, 30. Of Agur nothing is known beyond his name, which may be simply typical. The latter part of the chapter contains a collection of numerical enigmas which may or may not have been associated at first with the opening section. (8) The words of King Lemuel, 31:1-9. (9) A description of the ideal Hebrew housewife, 31:10-31. The contents of these collections as well as their superscriptions clearly indicate that these proverbs represent the work of many different wise men, living at different periods and writing from different points of view. Few, if any, can be confidently attributed to Solomon. Even the proverbs in the large collection, 10:1-22:16, which are definitely designated as the Proverbs of Solomon, emphasize monogamy and denounce rulers who oppress their subjects. Many of the proverbs in these larger Solomonic collections give practical advice regarding the bearing of a subject in the presence of the king, and few of them fit in the mouth of the splendor-loving monarch, who by his foreign marriages and grinding taxation exerted a baleful influence upon the political and religious life of Israel. The great majority of the proverbs reflect the noble ethical teachings of the prophets. Clearly the term Proverbs of Solomon is simply a late designation of early proverbs the authorship of which, like that of most popular maxims, had long since been forgotten.
II. Date of the Different Collections. The preface and general introduction to the book of Proverbs reflect the immorality and evils that characterized both the Persian and Greek periods. Their background is the corrupt life of the city. The tendency to personify wisdom is also one of the marks of later Jewish thought. It is probable, therefore, that this part of the book of Proverbs was added by a late editor who lived during the Greek period. The oldest collection in the book is clearly to be found in 10:1-22:10. The evils which it describes, the oppression of the poor and dependent by the rich and powerful, existed throughout most of Israel's history, but were especially prominent in the days of the divided kingdom immediately before the destruction of Jerusalem. The references to the king imply that the proverb writers had in mind Hebrew rulers. In general their rule is just and they enjoy the respect of their subjects. The prevailing occupation of the people is agriculture. Commerce is just beginning to develop. The exile has not yet cast its shadow over Hebrew life and thought. The majority of these proverbs clearly represent the fruitage of the teachings of the pre-exilic prophets, and many of them come from the days immediately before the final destruction of Jerusalem. From the occasional references to the scoffers, the absence of allusions to idolatry, and the fact that monogamy is here assumed, we may infer that some of them at least come from the Persian or even the Greek periods. It is probable that this large collection was not made until the latter part of the Persian or the early part of the Greek period.
The appendices in 22:17-24:34 contain many repetitions of proverbs found in the larger collection. The prevalence of intemperance, the existence of a merchant class, and the allusions to exiled Jews (e.g., 24:11) point rather clearly to the dissolute Greek period as the age when these small collections were made. The word meaning "transcribe," that is found in the superscription to the second large collection (25-29), is peculiar to the late Hebrew, and implies that this superscription, like those of the Psalms, was added by a late Jewish scribe. The literary form of these proverbs is more complex than those of the other large collection. The kings are feared by their subjects, but figure now as oppressors rather than champions of the people. While this collection may contain a few proverbs coming from the period before the final destruction of Jerusalem, it is probable that, like the smaller appendices to the first large collection, they were not gathered until the early part of the Greek period. The long appendices in chapters 30-31 are clearly late. The note of doubt in the opening section of 30 is closely akin to that which recurs in the book of Ecclesiastes. It is also based on Isaiah 44:5 and 45:4. Aramaisms and the acrostic form in 31:10-31 imply that the background was the late Persian or early Greek period.
The history of the book of Proverbs is therefore reasonably clear. Its original nucleus was probably a small group of popular proverbs that had been transmitted orally from the days before the final destruction of Jerusalem. These, together with proverbs which first became current during the Persian period, were collected some time in the days following the work of Nehemiah. To these was added in the Greek period the smaller appendices in 22:17-24:34. Possibly the same editor joined to them the large collection found in 25-29. He or some wise man in the Greek period prefixed the elaborate introduction in chapters 1-9. To the whole was added the appendices in chapters 30 and 31. It is probable that by the middle of the Greek period, or at least before 200 B.C., the book of Proverbs was complete in its present form.
III. The Wise in Israel's Early History. Long before 2000 B.C. the scribes of ancient Egypt were busy collecting "the words of counsel of the men of olden time." Many of these ancient maxims still survive. The best-known is that which bears the title "The Wisdom of Ptah-hotep." The desire to preserve and transmit the results of practical experience is the common motive that underlies the work of the wise. It is that which inspires the teachers of all ages. The ancients were keenly alive to the importance of instruction and training. All that is significant in the civilizations of the past is, in a sense, the result of this teaching motif.
In early Israel there were many men and women famous for their ability to give wise counsel. In his stormy career Joab, David's valiant commander, frequently profited by the counsel of certain wise women (Sections LIII:8-11 LIX:35). David's friend Hushai, by his wily counsel at the time of Absalom's rebellion, saved the king's life. The narrative in II Samuel declares that the counsel of Ahithophel was esteemed almost as highly as the divine oracle. For his keen insight and acute decisions, as well as for his witty utterances, Solomon gained a reputation which made him in the thought of later generations the father of all wisdom literature. In a significant passage found in Jeremiah 18:18 the three classes of Israel's teachers are brought into sharp contrast. In urging that the prophet be put to death his foes declared: "Teaching will not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet." From references in Isaiah and Jeremiah it is evident that before the final destruction of the Hebrew state the counsel of the wise was chiefly political and secular, and often not in accord with the higher ideals of the great pre-exilic prophets.
IV. Their Prominence in the Greek Period. The transformation of the wise into religious as well as secular teachers apparently came after the destruction of Jerusalem. It was the result of a variety of forces which have already been studied. The destruction of the Hebrew state and the resulting prominence of the individual led the wise to turn their attention from questions of political to those of personal import. The result is that the word "Israel" is found nowhere in the book of Proverbs. The teachings there found are both individual and universal and apply to Gentile as well as Jew, to the present as well as the past. The gradual disappearance of the prophets during the latter part of the Persian period, and the fact that the priests ever devoted themselves more and more to the ritual and less to teaching, left a great need in the life of Judaism which called to the front the wise. At the same time the problems of the individual became more and more complex and insistent. Especially was this true during the Greek period when Hellenic civilization, with its corrupting influences, swept over Palestine and the lands of the dispersion. It was a period when the principles enunciated by the earlier prophets had been in general adopted by the Jewish race. The task, however, of interpreting these principles simply and practically into the every-day life of the people was left to these lovers and teachers of men, the wise. The evidence of the voluminous writings of Ben Sira, as well as of the books of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, makes it quite clear that it was during the Greek period, and possibly in part under the intellectual stimulus of Greek thought, that the wise attained their greatest prominence and influence.
V. The Aims of the Wise. The aims of the wise are in part defined in the remarkable preface to the book of Proverbs, which was intended primarily to describe the purpose of the collection of proverbs which embodies their teachings. Four distinct classes commanded their attention: (1) The ignorant, those who were unacquainted with the moral, religious, and practical heritage received from preceding generations. (2) The inexperienced, those who had not yet learned in the school of life the art of adjusting themselves successfully to their environment. (3) The scoffers, who openly rejected the counsel of the sages. And (4) the disciples who were eager to learn and profit by the teachings of the wise.
The definite aims of the wise must be inferred from their teachings. They were concerned with the development of the individual, not the nation. Their first aim was to instruct the ignorant in the fundamental moral and religious principles already laid down by earlier priests and prophets. In the words of the preface to the book of Proverbs they taught,
That men may learn wisdom and instruction, May understand intelligent discourses, May receive instruction in wise dealing, In justice, judgment, and equity.
Their second aim was to point out the pitfalls that lay in the path of the inexperienced, and to save them from moral wreck by inspiring within them right ideals and ambitions. This aim is also well stated in the preface to the book of Proverbs:
That discretion may be given to the inexperienced, To the youth knowledge and a purpose.
The third aim of the wise was to educate the receptive and all who came to them in the attitude of disciples. This aim corresponded very closely to that of the modern educator. Again the preface to the book of Proverbs clearly expresses this educational ideal:
That the wise man may hear and increase in learning, And the intelligent man may receive counsel. That he may understand a proverb and parable, The words of the wise and their riddles.
The wise, therefore, sought not merely to instruct, but to educate; that is, to develop sane, happy, and efficient men and women. They sought to train those who would have not only knowledge and experience, but also the ability to apply these successfully in the varied relations of life. Above all, they endeavored to educate not parts of a man, but the whole man. Hence their interest and the subjects that they treat are as broad as human experience.
The wise were keenly alive to the importance of youthful education. The proverb:
Train up a child in the way in which he should go, And even when he is old he will not depart from it,
voices the fundamental principle upon which all effective education is based. They recognized that in the plastic days of childhood and youth ideals and character and efficiency could best be developed, and that education was not the work of a moment, but a gradual, progressive development.
Primary education, however, they intrusted to parents, and in many proverbs emphasized the responsibility which every parent owed to his child. They also counselled parents regarding the training of their children. The maxims:
The rod of correction gives wisdom, But a child left to himself brings disgrace to his mother. Chastise your son while there is still hope, And set not your heart on his destruction. He who spares his rod hates his son, But he who loves him chastises him,
express their appreciation of the importance of discipline in the early training of the child. It is not clear at what age the wise took up the instruction of the young. Possibly it was at about the age of twelve, when the individual passed from childhood to adolescence, with its increasing dangers and possibilities. Many of their teachings are especially adapted to the problems of this tempestuous period.
VI. The Methods of the Wise. In attaining their aims the wise men of Israel employed a variety of methods. Proverbs such as,
Every purpose is established by counsel, And by wise guidance make thou war,
suggest that, as in the days before the exile, they were still active in connection with the civic, social, and national life of the people, and that by influencing public policies they conserved the moral welfare of the individual as well as the state. Many references to "wisdom's voice crying aloud in the public places" suggest that, like the earlier prophets, the wise men at times taught in public, in the market-places, in the open spaces within the city gates, or wherever men were gathered together. They appear also to have taught in private, by wise counsel delivering the individual disciple who resorted to them from the perils that beset his path, or aiding him by prudent advice in solving successfully his individual problems.
In 6:32-37 Ben Sira has given a vivid sketch of the schools of the wise, which are clearly the forerunners of the later rabbinical schools:
My son, if you wish, you will be instructed, And if you pay attention, you will become prudent. If you are willing to hear, you will receive, And if you listen attentively, you will be wise. Stand in the assembly of the elders, And whoever is wise, stick close to him. Be willing to listen to every discourse, And let no illuminating proverbs escape you. If you see a man of insight, hasten to him, And let your foot wear out his threshold. Let your mind dwell upon the law of the Most High, And meditate continually on his commands. Thus he will enlighten your mind, And teach you the wisdom you desire.
It requires little imagination to picture these ancient prototypes of our modern universities. Like all Oriental teachers, the wise doubtless sat cross-legged, with their disciples in a circle about them. They trusted largely to question and answer, and poured out from their own and their inherited experience wise maxims such as would guide the simple and inexperienced and develop efficient manhood.
VIII. Their Important Teachings. In the opening chapters of Proverbs the wise describe the character and value of that wisdom which represents their teaching as a whole. In chapters 8 and 9 "Wisdom" is personified. Inasmuch as the Hebrew word for "wisdom" is feminine, it is spoken of as a woman. Chapter 9 describes, in a form intended to arrest the attention of the most inattentive, the feast that Wisdom offers to her guests. This is contrasted with Folly's banquet, and the consequences to those who participated in these rival banquets are clearly presented.
In the practical teachings of the wise no question that vitally concerned the individual man was considered beneath their attention. Like the wise modern teacher they made no distinction between the religious and the secular. Everything that influenced man's acts and ideals possessed for them profound religious import. While the proverbial epigrammatic form of their teaching was not conducive to a logical or complete treatment of their theme, yet in a series of concise, dramatic maxims they dealt with almost every phase of man's domestic, economic, legal, and social life. They presented clearly man's duty to animals, to himself, to his fellow-men, and to God. If utilitarian motives were urged in the great majority of cases, it is because they sought to reach their pupils on their own level. Although their ideals sometimes fell below those of the great prophets, and especially those of the Great Teacher of Nazareth, the importance of their work in establishing individual standards of right and wrong, in keeping alive in concrete form the principles of the earlier prophets, and in preparing their race for the crises through which it was soon to pass cannot be overestimated. As effective teachers of the individual they have an intensely practical and significant message for all men in the stream of life to-day as well as in the past.
Section CVI. THE DIFFERENT CURRENTS OF THOUGHT IN JUDAISM DURING THE GREEK PERIOD
[Sidenote: Ps. 19:7-14] The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul; The testimony of Jehovah is trustworthy, making wise the simple, The precepts of Jehovah are right, rejoicing the heart, The commandment of Jehovah is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of Jehovah is clean, enduring forever, The judgments of Jehovah are true and altogether just, They are of more value than gold, yea, than much fine gold, Sweeter than honey and the droppings from the honey-comb. By them is thy servant warned; in keeping them is great reward. Who can discern his errors; cleanse thou me from secret faults, Also from the presumptuous restrain thy servant; let them not have dominion over me. Then shall I be perfect and cleared from great transgression. Let the words of my mouth be acceptable and the meditation of my heart, In thy sight, O Jehovah, my Rock and my Redeemer.
[Sidenote: Ps. 46:1-3] Jehovah is our refuge and strength, An ever present help in trouble. Therefore we fear not, though the earth be moved, And though the mountains totter into the heart of the sea; The seas roar, their waters foam, Mountains shake with the swelling of its stream. Jehovah of hosts is with us, The God of Jacob is our refuge.
[Sidenote: Ps. 46:4-7] His brooks make glad the city of Jehovah, The holy dwelling place of the Most High. Jehovah is in the midst of her, she cannot totter; Jehovah will help her at the turn of the morn. Nations raged, kingdoms tottered, When he uttered his voice the earth melted. Jehovah of hosts is with us, The God of Jacob is our refuge.
[Sidenote: Ps. 46:8-11] Come, behold the works of Jehovah, What desolations he hath made in the earth. He is about to make wars to cease unto the end of the earth. The bow he breaketh, and dasheth the spear in pieces; He burneth the chariots with fire. Be still, and know that I am Jehovah; I shall be exalted among the nations, I shall be exalted on the earth. Jehovah of hosts is with us, The God of Jacob is our refuge.
[Sidenote: Ps. 22:27-30] All the ends of the earth will remember and will turn to Jehovah, And all the families of the nations will worship in his presence; For the dominion belongs to Jehovah and he rules over the nations. Verily, him alone will all the prosperous of the earth worship. Before him all those about to go down to the dust will bow, A seed will serve him, it will be told to a generation to come; And they will declare his righteousness that he hath accomplished to a people yet to be born.
[Sidenote: Jonah 1:1-8] Now this word of Jehovah came to Jonah the son of Amittai:
Arise, go to that great city, Nineveh, and preach against it; for their wickedness has come up before me. But Jonah rose up to flee to Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah. And he went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish; so he paid the fare and embarked to go with them to Tarshish from the presence of Jehovah.
[Sidenote: Jonah 1:4-7] But Jehovah sent a furious wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest, so that the ship threatened to break in pieces. Then the sailors were afraid and cried, each to his own god; and they cast into the sea the wares that were in the ship, in order to lighten it. But Jonah had gone down into the bottom of the ship; and he lay fast asleep. And the captain of the ship came and said to him: What are you doing asleep? Call on your God, perhaps that God will think on us that we perish not. And they said to one another, Come, let us cast lots, that we may know for whose sake this evil has come upon us. So they cast lots and the lot fell upon Jonah.
[Sidenote: Jonah 1:8-10] Then they said to him, Tell us, what is your occupation, and whence do you come? what is your country and of what people are you? And he said to them, I am a Hebrew, and a worshipper of Jehovah, the God of heaven, who hath made the sea and the dry land. Then the men were exceedingly afraid, and said to him, What is this you have done? For they knew that he was fleeing from the presence of Jehovah, for he had told them.
[Sidenote: Jonah 1:11-13] Then they said to him, What shall we do to thee, that the sea may be calm for us? for the sea grew more and more stormy. And he said to them, Take me up and throw me into the sea; so shall the sea be calm for you, for I know that for my sake this great storm has overtaken you. But the men rowed hard to get back to the land; but they could not, for the sea grew more and more stormy against them.
[Sidenote: Jonah 1:14, 15] Therefore they cried to Jehovah, and said, We beseech thee, O Jehovah, we beseech thee, let us not perish for this man's life, neither bring innocent blood upon us, for thou art Jehovah; thou hast done as it pleaseth thee. So they took up Jonah, and threw him into the sea; and the sea ceased from its raging. Then the men feared Jehovah exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to Jehovah, and made vows.
[Sidenote: Jonah 1:17-2:1, 10] Then Jehovah prepared a great fish to swallow Jonah and Jonah was in the belly of this fish three days and three nights. Thereupon Jonah prayed to Jehovah his God, out of the belly of the fish. And Jehovah spoke to the fish, and it threw up Jonah upon the dry land.
[Sidenote: Jonah 3:1-4] And the word of Jehovah came to Jonah the second time, saying, Arise, go to that great city, Nineveh, and preach to it what I shall tell thee. So Jonah rose and went to Nineveh, as Jehovah said. Now Nineveh was a great city before God, of three days' journey. And Jonah began by going through the city a day's journey, and he cried, and said, Forty days more and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
[Sidenote: Jonah 3:5-9] And the people of Nineveh believed God; and they proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them. And when word came to the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, and took off his robe, and dressed in sackcloth, and sat in the dust. And he made proclamation and published in Nineveh: By the decree of the king and his nobles: Man, beast, herd, and flock shall not taste anything; let them neither eat nor drink water; But let them clothe themselves with sackcloth, both man and beast, and let them cry mightily to God, and turn each from his evil way, and from the act of violence which they have in hand. Who knows but that God may relent, and turn from his fierce anger, that we perish not?
[Sidenote: Jonah 3:10] And God saw their works, how they turned from their evil way; and God relented of the evil which he said he would do to them, and did it not.
[Sidenote: Jonah 4:1-5] But it displeased Jonah greatly, and he was angry. And he prayed to Jehovah, and said, Ah now, Jehovah, was not this what I said when I was yet in mine own country? Therefore I hastened to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that thou art a God, gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in love, and relenting of evil. Therefore, O Jehovah, take now, I beseech thee, my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live! And Jehovah said, Doest thou well to be angry? Then Jonah went out of the city, and sat down before the city, and there made him a booth, and sat under it, until he might see what would become of the city.
[Sidenote: Jonah 4:6-11] And Jehovah God prepared a gourd, and made it to come up over Jonah, that it might be a shade over his head. So Jonah rejoiced exceedingly over the gourd. But as the dawn appeared the next day God prepared a worm and it injured the gourd, so that it withered. And when the sun arose, God prepared a sultry east wind. And the sun beat upon the head of Jonah, so that he was faint, and begged for himself that he might die saying, It is better for me to die than to live. And God said to Jonah, Is it well for thee to be angry about the gourd? And he said, It is well for me to be angry, even to death! And Jehovah said, Thou carest for a gourd, for which thou hast not troubled thyself, nor hast thou brought it up—a thing that came in a night and hath perished in a night. Shall I, indeed, not care for the great city, Nineveh, in which there are one hundred and twenty thousand human beings who know not their right hand from their left; besides much cattle?
[Sidenote: Eccles. 1:12-18] I, Koheleth, was king over Israel in Jerusalem. And I applied my mind to searching out and exploring wisdom, all that is done under heaven: it is an evil task that God hath given the children of men at which to toil. I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and behold, the whole is vanity and a striving after wind. The crooked cannot be made straight; and the wanting cannot be numbered. I communed with myself, saying, Behold, I have increased and gathered wisdom more than all who were before me in Jerusalem, and my mind has abundantly beheld wisdom and knowledge. And I applied my mind to know wisdom and knowledge, madness and folly: I know that this also is a striving after wind. For in much wisdom is much trouble, and he who increases knowledge, increases pain.
[Sidenote: Eccles. 2:1-11] I said in my mind, Come now, I will test you with pleasure; so look upon what is attractive; and, behold, this also is vanity. I said of laughter, It is mad; and of pleasure, What does it do? I searched in my mind, how to Stimulate my flesh with wine, while my mind was guiding with wisdom, and how to lay hold on folly, until I should see what is good for the children of men to do under the heavens all the days of their life. I did great works: I built for myself houses; I planted for myself vineyards; I made for myself gardens and parks, and I planted trees in them, every kind of fruit-tree. I made for myself pools of water, to water a grove springing up with trees. I bought male and female slaves and had slaves born in my house; also I had great possessions of herds and flocks, more than all who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold, and the treasure of kings and of provinces. I secured for myself male and female singers, and the delights of the sons of men, mistresses of all kinds. And I grew more wealthy than all who were before in Jerusalem; also my wisdom remained with me. And nothing that my eyes craved did I keep from them; I did not deny my heart any joy, for my heart rejoiced because of all my labor. Then I looked on all the works that my hands had wrought, and on the labor that I had labored to do; and, behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was no gain under the sun.
[Sidenote: Eccles. 2:12-17] And I turned to behold wisdom and madness, and folly; for what can the man do who comes after the king? Even that which has been done already. Then I saw that wisdom excels folly, as far as light excels darkness. The wise man's eyes are in his head, but the fool walks in darkness: yet I know that the same fate overtakes them all. Then I said in my heart, As is the fate of a fool so will be my fate; so why have I then been more wise? Then I said in my heart that this also is vanity. For of the wise man, even as of the fool, there is no remembrance for ever, inasmuch as in the days to come all will have been already forgotten. And how the wise man dies even as the fool! So I hated life, because the work that is done under the sun is evil to me; for all is vanity and a striving after wind.
[Sidenote: Eccles. 2:24-26b] There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and find his pleasure in his labor. This also I saw that it is from the hand of God. For who can eat, or who can have enjoyment without him? This is also vanity and a striving after wind.
I. The Ritualists. Liberty of thought as well as speech was from the first characteristic of Israel's life and thought. It was one of the many valuable heritages that the Hebrews brought with them from the free life of the desert. Their close contact with the outside world, and especially with Hellenic life and thought during the Greek period, increased this sense of freedom. The result is that many different currents of thought are reflected in the Old Testament writings that come from this age. Most familiar and easiest understood is the ritualistic type. It is represented by the Chronicler, who lived and wrote some time between 300 and 250 B.C. For him all life and interest centred about the temple and its services. In general the vision of the ritualists was turned toward the past rather than the present and the future. In the traditions regarding the origin of the temple and its institutions, in keeping the ceremonial law, in participating in the formal ritual, and in joining their songs with those of the temple singers they found an escape from the pettiness of the age and attained that peace and joy which is expressed in many of the psalms of the Psalter.
II. The Legalists. Closely related to the ritualists were those whose interests were all fixed in the study of the law and the teachings of the earlier priests. They regarded the written laws as a complete guide to conduct and the embodiment of Jehovah's supreme message to his race. Psalms like the fragment found in 19:7-14 voice their convictions:
The law of Jehovah is perfect, restoring the soul, The judgments of Jehovah are true and altogether just. By them is thy servant warned; in keeping them is great reward.
They emphasized not merely external acts and words, but inner motives. In character and in conduct they were noble products of that religion which Israel had inherited from the past. By them were probably treasured stories such as are found in the first chapters of the book of Daniel. The detailed references in chapter 2 to the marriage of Antiochus Theos and the daughter of Ptolemy Philadelphus in 248 B.C. and to the murder of Antiochus by his former wife Laodicea, together with the absence of allusions to subsequent events, indicate that these stories were probably committed to writing somewhere between 255 and 245 B.C. Their aim was clearly to emphasize the supreme importance of fulfilling faithfully the demands of the law, even in the face of bitter opposition and persecution, and the certainty that Jehovah would deliver those who were loyal to him. Their teachings were especially adapted to inspire the tried and tempted Jews of the dispersion, who were sorely persecuted by the heathen among whom they lived. The dramatic picture of men who dared face the fiery furnace or the hungry lions rather than depart from the demands of the law undoubtedly proved a great inspiration to the Jews of the Greek period.
III. The Disciples of the Prophets. Throughout the centuries that followed the destruction of Jerusalem the great ethical prophets of the pre-exilic period had never been without spiritual disciples. They faithfully studied and applied in their own lives the principles laid down by their earlier guides. Although the influence of the contemporary prophets constantly waned, yet the spirit of those earlier champions of the faith lived in the hearts of their followers. In many of the psalms of the Psalter Amos and Isaiah and Jeremiah speak in terms adapted to the changed problems of the Jews of the Greek period. In Psalm 46 the trust in Jehovah which Isaiah advocated has become a living force in the life of the Psalmist and of the class in behalf of which he spoke. In the background one hears the march of the multitude armed by Alexander for world-conquest and the din of conflict as army met army; but over all stands Jehovah, protecting his sanctuary and people, supreme in the lives of men and nations. The narrow, nationalistic, messianic hopes have long since been abandoned, and instead Jehovah is recognized as the one supreme being whose kingdom or dominion includes all the nations of the earth. In imagination these disciples of the prophets saw the time when rich and poor, Jew and Gentile, should bow before Jehovah and be united in loyalty to him. Thus arose that highest conception of the kingdom of God which is the foundation of Jesus' teaching.
IV. The Date and Character of the Book of Jonah. From those who sat at the feet of the earlier prophets came one of the most remarkable books of the Old Testament. In literary form the little book of Jonah is closely akin to the stories in the opening chapters of Genesis and the first half of the book of Daniel. Its many Aramaic words, its quotations from the late book of Joel, its universalism, and its missionary spirit all indicate that it comes either from the closing years of the Persian or from the earlier part of the Greek period. The story of Jonah, like many similar stories in the Old Testament, was probably known to the Semites centuries before it was employed by the author of the book to point his great prophetic teaching. In the familiar Greek story of Hercules, Hesione, the daughter of the Trojan king, is rescued by the hero from a sea-monster which held her in its stomach three days. An old Egyptian tale coming from the third millennium B.C. tells of an Egyptian who was shipwrecked and after floating three days was swallowed by a great sea-monster and thus carried to the land. From India comes the tradition of a man who went to sea contrary to the commands of his mother. While on the way the ship was seized by an unknown power and not allowed to proceed until the offender was three times selected by lot and then cast overboard.
V. Teachings of the Book of Jonah. The value and message of the book of Jonah have in the past been largely overlooked because the true literary character of the book has been misunderstood. It was never intended by its author to be regarded as a historical narrative. Its hero Jonah, the son of Amittai, according to II Kings 14:25, lived during the reign of Jeroboam II (780-740 B.C.), and predicted the wide extension of the territory of southern Israel; but the Jonah of the story is evidently a type of the Jew of the Persian and Greek periods. By showing the pettiness of his attitude toward the heathen the author sought to broaden the vision and quicken the conscience of his fellow-Jews. The portrait is remarkably vivid and suggestive. Jonah fled from Jehovah's land and took refuge in the sea, not because he feared the Ninevites, but, as he plainly declares later, because he feared that, if he did preach to the Assyrian foes of his race, Jehovah would repent and spare them. In the scene in the midst of the raging tempest the piety of the heathen Sailors and their zeal in sparing the guilty Israelite stand forth in favorable contrast to Jonah's action in refusing to carry out Jehovah's command. The Ninevites, clad in sackcloth, repenting for their sins, and craving Jehovah's forgiveness, are far more attractive than the sullen prophet, complaining because Jehovah has spared the heathen foes of his race and later upbraiding Jehovah because of the destruction of the gourd that for a time had protected his head from the burning sun. Jehovah's concluding remonstrance voices the message of the book. Like the New Testament parable of the Prodigal Son, the story of Jonah presents in graphic form the unbounded love of the heavenly father and contrasts it sharply with the petty jealousies and hatred of his favored people. It was a call to Israel to go forth and become a missionary to all the world and a protest against the nation's failure to perform its God-given task.
VI. The Book of Ecclesiastes. Very different is the spirit and purpose of the book of Ecclesiastes. It evidently comes from one of the many wisdom teachers who flourished during the Greek period and it speaks in the name of Solomon. It is an essay on the value of life. In its original form its thought was so pessimistic that it has been supplemented at many points by later editors. These insertions include (1) proverbs commending wisdom and praising the current wisdom teachings, and (2) the work of a pious scribe, a forerunner of the later Pharisees, who sought to correct the utterances of the original writer (who is commonly designated as Koheleth) and to bring them into accord with current orthodoxy. The language and style of the book are closely akin to those of the Chronicler and the author of the book of Esther. It also contains several Persian and possibly one Greek word. The book in its earlier form was evidently known to Ben Sira, the author of Ecclesiasticus, who lived about 180 B.C. In 4:13-16 and 10:16-17 there are apparent references to the reign of Ptolemy Epiphanes, who came to the throne of Egypt at the age of five, and whose court was famous for its dissoluteness and profligacy. The book, therefore, may be dated with considerable confidence a little before 200 B.C. It was a corrupt, barren period. Crime was rampant in the temple as well as at the court in Alexandria (3:16). The people were crushed by the powerful and were without means of redress (4:1). A despot sat on the throne (10:5-7) and spies lurked everywhere (10:20).
VII. Koheleth's Philosophy of Life. The author of the original book of Ecclesiastes is the spokesman of that class in Judaism who were oppressed and crushed by this dreary outlook. He evidently lived in Jerusalem and probably near the temple (5:1 8:10). From the allusions in 7:26, 28 it is evident that he was unhappily married. From the classic description of old age found in 11:9-12:7 it would appear that when he wrote he was well advanced in years, and spoke out of the depths of his own painful personal experience, having been left without son or close kinsman (4:8). From his teachings it is clear that he had broken away from the orthodox wisdom school. Before his enfeebled vision rose the seamy, dreary side of life, and yet back of the lament of this ancient pessimist is revealed a man of high ideals, impelled by a spirit of scientific thoroughness. Though he was intense and eager in his quest for true happiness and in his analysis of the meaning of life, he found no abiding joy, for his outlook was sadly circumscribed. Life beyond the grave offered to him no hope or compensation. He was, however, by no means an agnostic. He believed in God's rulership of the world; but the God of his faith was inscrutable, far removed from the life of men. Hence, unlike many of his contemporaries, as for example the psalmists, he found little joy or inspiration in his religion. According to the conclusion, which he proclaimed in the beginning of his essay and held consistently throughout, all human striving and ambition, even life itself, are but superlative vanity, nor can man attain any permanent or complete satisfaction. The one positive teaching which Koheleth reiterates is that it is man's highest privilege to extract from passing experiences the small measure of joy and happiness that they offer, and therewith to be content. Compared with many other Old Testament books, the religious value of Ecclesiastes is slight indeed. Its chief value, however, is historical: it presents one phase of thought in the Judaism of this period, and shows how sorely the Jewish people needed the spur of a great crisis to rouse them to noble and unselfish action. The book of Ecclesiastes also furnishes the darker background which brings out in clear relief the inspiring messages of the great prophets that had gone before, and of the greater Prophet who was to set before the human race a worthy goal and a fresh and true interpretation of the value of life.
Section CVII. THE TEACHINGS OF JESUS THE SON OF SIRACH
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 1:1-10] All wisdom is from the Lord, And is with him forever. The sand of the seas, and the drops of rain, And the days of eternity—who shall number? The height of the heaven, and the breadth of the earth, And the depths of the abyss—who shall search them out? Wisdom hath been created before all things, And keen insight from everlasting. To whom hath the root of wisdom been revealed? And who hath known her shrewd counsels? There is one wise, greatly to be feared, The Lord sitting upon his throne, He created her, and saw and numbered her, And poured her out over all his works. She is with all flesh according to his gift, And he giveth her freely to those who love him.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 2:1-5] My son, if you would serve the Lord, Prepare your soul for temptation. Set your heart aright, and be steadfast, That you may not be dismayed in the time of calamity. Cleave to him, and depart not, That you may prove yourself wise at the last. Accept whatever comes to you, And be patient in sickness and affliction, For gold is tried by the fire, And acceptable men in the furnace of affliction.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 2:6-9] Put your trust in the Lord, and he will help you, Hope in him, and he will make smooth your way. You who fear the Lord, wait for his mercy, And turn not aside lest you fall. You who fear the Lord trust in him, And your reward shall not fail. You who fear the Lord, hope for good things, And for eternal gladness and deliverance?
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 3:17-20] My son, if you are rich, walk in humility, That you will be more beloved than a generous man. The greater you are, humble yourself the more, And you shall find favor before the Lord. For great is the might of the Lord, And he is glorified by those who are meek.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 3:21-25] Seek not the things that are too hard for you, And search not out things that are beyond you. That over which power has been given you, think thereon, For you have no business with the things that are hidden. With that which is out of your field have nothing to do, For more things are shown to you than you can understand. For men have many speculations, And evil theories have led them astray. Where there is no pupil to the eye, the light fails, And where there is no understanding, wisdom fails.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 3:26-29] A stubborn heart fares ill at the last, But he who loves the good finds it. A stubborn heart has many troubles, And the overbearing heap sin upon sin. For the wound of the scorner there is no healing, Since he is a plant of an evil kind. A wise mind understands the proverbs of the wise, And an ear attentive to wisdom is a joy.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 3:30-4:2, 9, 10] Water quenches flaming fire, And right acts make atonement for sins. He who does a favor—it meets him on his way, And when he falls he shall find support. My son, deprive not the poor of his living, And let not the eyes of the needy grow weary. Make not a hungry soul groan, And do not stir up the feelings of him who is smitten. Deliver the oppressed from the oppressor, And be not faint-hearted in giving judgment.
Be as a father to the fatherless, And instead of a husband to the widow; So will God call you his son, And be gracious to you and save you from destruction.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 4:20-22] Observe the opportunity and beware of evil, And be not ashamed of yourself. For there is a shame that brings sin, And another shame, glory and grace. Do not be obsequious to your own shame, And do not humiliate yourself until it is a sin against yourself.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 4:23-25, 28, 29] Hold not back speech, in its proper time, And hide not your wisdom. For by speech wisdom shall be known, And instruction by the word of the tongue. Speak not against the truth, But be humble because of your own ignorance. Strive for the right even to death, And the Lord will fight for you. Be not boastful with your tongue, And slack and remiss in your work.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 4:30, 31] Be not as a lion in your house, Nor arrogant and suspicious among your servants. Let not your hand be stretched out to receive, And closed when you should repay.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 5:1, 2a] Set not your mind upon your possessions, And say not, They are sufficient for me. Follow not your own mind and strength, To walk in the desires of your heart.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 6:2, 4] Do not give yourself up to your passion, Lest it like a bull eat up your strength. For a wild passion destroys its possessor, And makes him the laughing-stock of his enemies.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 6:5-8] Well ordered speech makes friends, And a gracious tongue wins kindly greetings. Let those who are friendly toward you be many, But your confidant one of a thousand. If you would get a friend, get him by testing, And do not give him your confidence too quickly. For there is many a fair-weather friend, But he does not remain in the day of need.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 6:14-16] A faithful friend is a strong defence, And he who finds him finds a treasure. There is nothing equal to a faithful friend, And his worth is beyond price. A faithful friend is a source of life, And he who fears the Lord finds him. He who fears the Lord directs his friendship aright, For as he is, so is his friend.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 7:12, 13] Devise not a lie against your brother, Nor do the like to a friend or associate. Never take pleasure in speaking a falsehood. For its outcome is not good.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 7:20, 21] Do not treat badly a servant who serves you faithfully, Nor a hired servant who gives to you his best. Love a sensible servant as your own self, Defraud him not of liberty.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 7:22, 23] Honor your father with your whole heart, And forget not the pangs of your mother. Remember that of them you were born, And now you can recompense them for what they have done for you.
[Sidenote: B. Sir. 7:29, 30] Fear the Lord with all your soul, And regard his priests with reverence. Love your Creator with all your strength, And do not neglect his ministers.
I. Date and Character of Jesus, the Son of Sirach. Out of the large number of anonymous books that come from the Persian and Greek periods one stands forth unique. It is the Wisdom of Ben Sira. With the exception of the Psalter and Isaiah, it is the largest book that has come to us from ancient Israel. Fortunately, its date and authorship may be determined with reasonable certainty. In the prologue to the Greek translation, its translator describes himself as the grandson of Jesus, the son of Sirach, and states that he went to Egypt in 132 B.C. Hence it is probable that his grandfather wrote some time during the early part of the second century B.C. The appreciative description of Simon the high priest in the fiftieth chapter of Ben Sira indicates that its author was a contemporary as well as an admirer of that famous head of the Judean community. From the references in the rabbinical writings, as well as from the definite statement of Eusebius, it is reasonably certain that this Simon lived between 200 and 175 B.C. Furthermore, the quotations in the writings of Ben Sira from Ecclesiastes in its original form imply that he wrote during the latter part of the Greek period. The complete absence of any reference to the Maccabean struggle also proves beyond question that he lived before 168 B.C. These facts indicate that the date of his writing was somewhere between 190 and 175 B.C.
In the Hebrew version the name of this famous sage appears as Jesus, the son of Eleazar, the son of Sira. In the Greek version, however, he is known simply as Jesus, the son of Sirach. Ben Sira, or Sirach, was apparently his family name, while Jesus is the Greek equivalent of Jeshua or Joshua. From his writings it may be inferred that he belonged to a well-known Jerusalemite family. It is also not improbable that he was connected with the high-priestly line. His references to Simon the high priest reveals his deep sympathies with the ecclesiastical rulers of Jerusalem. The closing words in the Hebrew version of 51:12 are equally significant: "Give thanks to him who chose the sons of Sadok to be priests." In his teachings Ben Sira is in some respects a forerunner of the later Sadducees. Evidently he was a man of influence in the Judean community. His fame as a wise man doubtless attracted many disciples. He was deeply interested in every phase of life. While his point of view was somewhat similar to that of Koheleth, his outlook was thoroughly optimistic. His teachings were positive rather than negative. His faith was that of the fathers, and his purpose constructive. Out of the wealth of teachings inherited from the past, and also out of his own personal experience and observation, he sought to inspire right ideals in the young and to develop them into happy and efficient servants of God and of their fellow-men. In this respect he was a worthy representative of the wise who during this period moulded the life of Judaism.
II. His Writings. The prologue to the Greek version of the wisdom of Sirach states that he was a devoted student of the earlier scriptures of his race. In 33:16 he acknowledges, in all modesty, his indebtedness to the past:
I awakened last of all as one who gathers after the great gatherers, By the blessing of the Lord I profited and filled my wine-press as one who gathers grapes.
It was natural, therefore, that he should write down his teachings in the language of his fathers. Unlike most of his contemporaries, he possessed a classical Hebrew style. Like the wise men whose teachings are preserved in the book of Proverbs, he put his thought into poetic, proverbial form. In his book there is a definite, logical arrangement of ideas. The first part consists of a series of essays on various topics. The same subject is often dealt with in many different settings (e.g., choice of friends, 6:5-17, 7:18, 12:8-12, 37:1-5). These brief essays are grouped together, and each group is provided with a brief introduction, usually in commendation of wisdom. Apparently the first half of the book consists of notes based on Ben Sira's early teachings. Each group of sayings may well represent his teachings on a given occasion. In 31:21 through 50:24 is found the roll call of Israel's spiritual heroes, beginning with a psalm in praise of Jehovah's majesty and power and concluding with the description of Simon the high priest. This latter part of the book is clearly a pure literary creation, and was probably added by him as a conclusion to the collection of his wisdom teachings.
III. History of the Book. The book containing the writings of Ben Sira was known under a variety of titles. The Latin Church followed the Greek in calling it Ecclesiasticus. This term was applied to those books which were not in the canon, but were held to be edifying and proper for public use in the churches. The Hebrew text of Ben Sira enjoyed wide currency, was frequently quoted by the later rabbis, and was often referred to by later Jewish and Christian writers. It was almost completely supplanted in time, however, by the Greek version. Jerome was acquainted with the Hebrew version, but most of the Church fathers followed the Greek. Ben Sira was apparently quoted by Jesus, by Paul, and by the authors of the Epistle of James and of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Twenty or thirty such references or allusions are found in the New Testament. It was also a great favorite with the Church fathers, who quoted from it even more frequently than from the other Old Testament writings. It was adopted in the canon of the Greek and Latin Church; but, in common with the other apocryphal books, was given a secondary place by the Protestant reformers. Unfortunately, during the earlier part of the last century it ceased to be printed in the standard editions of the Bible. The modern revival of interest in the apocryphal books, both in Europe and America, is tending to restore this book, in common with I Maccabees, to the position which they certainly deserve in the practical working canon of the Old Testament. The discovery in 1896 of a fragment of the original Hebrew manuscript of Ben Sira, and the subsequent recovery of many other parts, have also tended to arouse wide interest in this hitherto much-neglected book. Hebrew portions of thirty-nine out of the fifty-one chapters have thus far been discovered. Most of them come from about the eleventh Christian century and are of widely differing values. By means of these, however, and the quotations by the Jewish rabbis and Christian fathers and in the Greek, Syriac, and Latin versions, it is now possible to restore most of the original Hebrew text, and the resulting translation is far superior to those based on the Greek text.
IV. Its Picture of Jewish Life. Ben Sira has given a vivid picture of the domestic, economic, and social life of the Jews of his age. The debased, Oriental conception of marriage had corrupted the atmosphere of the home. Wives were regarded as the possessions of their husbands, and the immoral influence of Hellenism still further undermined the purity and integrity of many a Jewish home. Greek customs and usages were pervading Palestine more and more. Ben Sira refers to banquets with their accompaniments of music and wine. Even these meet with his approval. Agriculture and commerce are the chief occupations of the people. In general Ben Sira voices the wholesome Jewish attitude toward labor:
Hate not laborious work; Neither agriculture that the Most High hath ordained.
He is especially strong in his commendation of physicians:
Be a friend to the physician, for one has need of him, For verily God hath appointed him. A physician receives his wisdom from God, And from the king he receives presents. The knowledge of a physician causes him to lift up his head, And before the princes may he enter. God created medicines out of the earth, And a prudent man will not be disgusted with them.
The following proverb has a universal application:
He who sins before his maker, Let him fall into the hands of his physician!
V. Rise of the Scribes. The writings of Ben Sira reveal the close connection between the earlier wise and the later scribes. He lived at the period when the wise man was turning scribe. He himself had a profound respect for the law:
A man of understanding will put his trust in the law, The law is faithful to him as when one asks at the oracle.
One of his fundamental teachings is formulated in the proverb:
Fear the Lord and glorify his priests, And give him his portion even as it is commanded.
Elsewhere he declares:
The leisure of the scribe increases his wisdom, And he who has no business becomes wise.
In his famous description of the typical wise man in 39:1-11 may be recognized many of the traits of the later scribes. As the law and the ritual gained greater prominence in the life of Judaism, it was inevitable that it should command the attention of the practical teachers of the people. Thus gradually the wise devoted themselves to its study and interpretation, ever emphasizing, however, thought and conduct as well as conformity to the ritual. Scribism was greatly enriched by its lineal inheritance through the earlier wise, and long retained the proverbial, epigrammatic form of teaching and that personal attitude toward the individual and his problems which was one of their greatest sources of strength. The honor which the early scribes enjoyed was well deserved. Their methods were free from the casuistry that characterized many of the later scribes. They not only copied and guarded the law, but were its interpreters, applying it practically to the every-day problems of the people as well as to their duties in connection with the temple service. Their influence upon the Jews in this early period was on the whole exceedingly wholesome, and from their ranks rose the martyrs that a generation later were ready to die for the law.
VI. The Teachings of Ben Sira. Ben Sira was acquainted with Greek culture and shows at several points familiarity with Greek ideals and methods of thinking, but his point of view in general was distinctly Jewish. He gathered together all that was best in the earlier teachings of his race. In many ways he represents an advance beyond all that had gone before and a close approximation to the spirit and teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. The God of his faith was omnipotent, majestic, omniscient, just, and merciful. He was the God of all mankind, although it was through Israel that he especially revealed himself. Ben Sira did not, like Ezekiel, think of God as far removed from the life of men and as communicating with them only through angels, but as directly and personally interested in the experiences and life of the individual. In 23:1, 4 he addresses him as Lord, Father, and Master of my life. Thus he employs in the personal sense the term Father, which was most often on the lips of the Great Teacher of Nazareth. In Ben Sira's stalwart faith and simple trust there is also much that reminds us of the Greater than Solomon. Like the teachers who had preceded him, he had, however, no clear belief in individual immortality (cf. 41:3-4, 38:16, 23) The only reward after death that he could hold up before a good man was his reputation:
A good life has its number of days, But a good name continues forever.
Consistent with the orthodox wisdom school, he taught that rewards for right living came in this life:
Delight not in the delights of the wicked; Remember they shall not go unpunished to the grave.
Even though he lacked the inspiration of future hope, Ben Sira taught loyalty to God and fidelity to every duty. Justice toward all, consideration for the needs of the suffering and dependent, and generosity to the poor are constantly urged by this noblest Jew of the age.
Section CVIII. THE CAUSES OF THE MACCABEAN STRUGGLE
[Sidenote: I Macc. 1:10-15] Now there came forth from [Alexander's successors] a sinful root, Antiochus Epiphanes, son of Antiochus the king, who had been a hostage at Rome, and he began to reign in the one hundred and thirty-seventh year of the Syrian rule (175 B.C.). In those days there appeared certain lawless Israelites who persuaded many, saying, Let us go and make a covenant with the heathen about us; for since we have stood aloof from them many evils have befallen us. And the proposal met with approval. And certain of the people were ready to do it, and went to the king who gave them the right to do as the heathen. Then they built a place for gymnastic exercise in Jerusalem according to the customs of the heathen. They also made themselves uncircumcised, and, forsaking the holy covenant, fraternized with the heathen, and sold themselves to do evil.
[Sidenote: I Macc. 1:16-19] Now when Antiochus saw that his authority was well established, he thought to reign over Egypt, that he might reign over the two kingdoms. So he invaded Egypt with a great multitude, with chariots and elephants and horsemen, and with a great navy. And he made war against Ptolemy, king of Egypt. And Ptolemy was defeated by him and fled, and many fell mortally wounded. And they seized the strong cities in the land of Egypt, and he took the spoils of Egypt.
[Sidenote: I Macc. 1:20-22, 24-28] Then after Antiochus had conquered Egypt he returned in the hundred and forty-third year (169 B.C.) and went up against Israel and Jerusalem with a great multitude. And he insolently went into the sanctuary, and took the golden altar, and the candelabrum, and all that belonged to the table of the showbread, and the cups for libations, and the bowls, and the golden censers, and the curtain and the garlands; and the decorations which were on the front of the temple—he scaled them all off. And taking all, he went away into his own land, after he had made a great slaughter, and had spoken very insolently. Thus a great mourning came to the Israelites wherever they were.
And the rulers and elders groaned, he virgins and young men were made feeble. And the beauty of the women was changed.
Every bridegroom took up a lamentation, She that sat in the marriage chamber was in heaviness. And the land was shaken because of its inhabitants, And all the house of Jacob was clothed with shame.
[Sidenote: I Macc. 1:29-40] After two years the king sent a chief collector of tribute to the cities of Judah, who came to Jerusalem with a great multitude. And he spoke words of peace to deceive them, and they trusted him. Then he attacked the city suddenly, and inflicted a severe blow on it, and destroyed many Israelites. And he took the spoils of the city, and set it on fire, and pulled down its houses and walls on every side. They took captive the women and the children, and gained possession of the cattle. Then they walled in the city of David with a great and strong wall, with strong towers, and it served as a citadel. And they put there sinful people, lawless men. And they fortified themselves in it. And they stored up weapons and food and, gathering together the spoils of Jerusalem, they stowed them away there.
And the citadel became a great trap, And served as a place of ambush against the sanctuary, And an evil adversary to Israel continually. And they shed innocent blood on every side of the sanctuary And polluted the sanctuary. Then the inhabitants of Jerusalem fled because of this, And she became the habitation of foreigners. And she became strange to those who were born in her, And her children forsook her. Her sanctuary was laid waste like a wilderness. Her feasts were turned into mourning, Her sabbaths into a reproach, Her honor into contempt, So great as was once her glory, so now was her dishonor, And her exaltation was turned into mourning.
[Sidenote: I Macc. 1:41-53] Then King Antiochus wrote to his whole kingdom commanding that all should be one people, and that each should give up his own laws. And all the heathen nations yielded to the demand of the king. Many Israelites too consented to worship him and sacrificed to the idols, and profaned the sabbath. And the king sent letters by messengers to Jerusalem and the cities of Judah commanding them to follow customs foreign to the land, and to prevent the making of whole burnt-offerings and sacrifices and libations in the sanctuary, and to profane the sabbaths and feasts, and pollute the sanctuary and the holy things, to build altars, temples, and shrines for idols, and to sacrifice swine's flesh and unclean beasts; also to leave their sons uncircumcised, to stain their souls with all manner of uncleanness and profanation, so that they might forget the law, and change all the customs. And that whoever would not do as the king commanded should die. Thus he wrote to his whole kingdom; and appointed overseers over all the people, who commanded the cities of Judah to sacrifice city by city. Then many of the people, every one who had forsaken the law, gathered about them. And they did evil things in the land, and caused the Israelites to hide themselves in all their places of refuge.
[Sidenote: I Macc. 1:54-58] On the twenty-fifth day of Chislev, in the one hundred and forty-fifth year, they built an abomination of desolation upon the altar; and in the cities of Judah on every side they built idol altars. And at the doors of the houses and in the streets they burnt incense. And tearing in pieces the books of the law which they found, they set fire to them. And wherever a book of the covenant was found in the possession of anyone, or if anyone obeyed the law, the king's decree sentenced him to death. Thus they did in their might month by month to the Israelites who were found in the cities.
[Sidenote: I Macc. 1:59-63] And on the twenty-fifth day of the month they sacrificed upon the idol altar which was upon Jehovah's sacrificial altar. And the women who had circumcised their children they put to death according to the command. And they hanged their babies about their necks, and destroyed their households with those who had circumcised them. But many in Israel made strong resolutions not to eat unclean things, choosing to die that they might not be defiled with the meats, and might not profane the holy covenant. So they died. And exceedingly great woe came upon Israel.
I. Character and Contents of I Maccabees. The first book of Maccabees is in many ways the best history that has come down from ancient Israel. Luther's conclusion that it was more deserving of a place in the Old Testament canon than, for example, the book of Esther is now being widely accepted both in theory and practice. The religious spirit in which it is written, the importance of the events with which it deals, and the faithfulness with which they are recorded, all confirm this conclusion. It is the work of a devoted patriot, who appears to have been personally acquainted with the events which he records. He was an ardent admirer of Judas Maccabeus, and may well have been one of the many valiant Jews who rallied about this sturdy champion. The author was familiar with the early histories of his race, for he has adopted many of the phrases peculiar to the books of Samuel and Kings. His idioms leave no doubt that he wrote in Hebrew, although this version has been lost.
The first book of Maccabees opens with a brief reference to Alexander the Great and to the Greek rulers who succeeded him. The detailed history, however, begins with Antiochus Epiphanes and continues to the death of Simon in 135 B.C. The references in the prologue to the rebuilding of the walls of Jerusalem by Simon's son, John Hyrcanus, between 135 and 125 B.C., and the absence of any allusions to the more important events in the latter part of his reign, indicate that his history was probably completed by 125 B.C. It was written, therefore, less than half a century after all the events which it records took place. While the author is a true patriot and keenly interested in the history of his race, he does not allow his patriotism to carry him into exaggeration. He reveals the true historical spirit and a splendid reserve in recounting the epoch-making events that he records.
II. Character and Contents of II Maccabees. In marked contrast with I Maccabees is the second book which bears this name. The author states in 2:19-32 that it was based on an earlier five-volume history written by Jason, of Cyrene, in northern Africa. The final epitomizer of this earlier work probably lived not long after 50 B.C. Jason himself appears to have lived somewhere between 160 and 140 B.C. and to have written from northern Syria. The language of the original was evidently Greek. The aim of the author was didactic rather than historical, and he drew freely from popular tradition. In general character it corresponds closely to the work of the Chronicler, who compiled the Old Testament books of Chronicles and Ezra-Nehemiah. The miraculous element is prominent, numbers are frequently enlarged, and Israel's disasters are minimized. Notwithstanding all of its obvious faults, II Maccabees has preserved many important historical facts. Where its testimony differs from that of I Maccabees, the latter in general should be followed, but its account of the events which led to the Maccabean uprising are much more detailed than those of I Maccabees, which it supplements at many important points. With the aid of these two histories it is possible to gain a remarkably vivid and detailed conception of the half-century that witnessed the reawakening of Judaism and the birth of a new national spirit.
III. Aggressive Character of Hellenic Culture. Jewish life and religion were at times almost uprooted, but never fundamentally transformed by the Babylonian and Persian conquerors. Alexander, however, and those who followed in his wake introduced an entirely new and aggressive force into the life and thought of Palestine. The centuries that began with 332 B.C. witnessed the most important struggle that the world has ever seen. It was fought not on the open battle-field, but wherever in Palestine and the lands of the dispersion the currents of that ancient life and commerce met and mingled. It was the age-long conflict between Hellenism and Judaism, those two mighty forces that had long been maturing in the coast lands of the northern and eastern Mediterranean. The outcome of this contest was destined to affect the civilization and faith of all the world throughout the ages.
Judaism represented the life and faith of a peasant people, while Hellenism was born in the city. Wherever Hellenism went, it found expression in civic life. The heathen races of Palestine, the Phoenicians and Philistines on the coast, and the east-Jordan peoples readily welcomed the superior civilization of the conquerors. It appealed powerfully to their intellectual, social, and aesthetic sense, and, in the debased form that it assumed in the East, to their passions. Even the Samaritans readily accepted it; and the city of Samaria was settled by a colony of Macedonian soldiers. The ancient cities of Gaza, Askelon, Accho under the name of Ptolemais, Tyre, Sidon, Damascus, Bethshean under its new name Scythopolis, Rabbath-ammon under the name of Philadelphia, and most of the important east-Jordan cities were soon transformed into active centres of Hellenic culture. Civic pride and patriotism took possession of their inhabitants. Most of the cities had a senate and magistrates elected each year by popular vote. Many of them were adorned by magnificent public buildings, including a forum, theatre, stadium, hippodrome, and gymnasium. Civic patriotism took the place of the old despotism and selfish individualism. Each Hellenic city gave to its citizens new ideals and opportunities. The discussions of the forum, the agora, and the gymnasium inspired them with political, social, and intellectual interests. The plays in the theatres, the races in the hippodrome and stadium amazed and fascinated them. Many of the youths were enlisted in the clubs that were formed in connection with the gymnasium, and all classes participated in the public festivities.
IV. Contrast Between Hellenism and Judaism. In the broad perspective of history it is clear that both Hellenism and Judaism were essential to the upbuilding and broadening of the human character and ideals. Hellenism in its nobler form brought what Judaism lacked, and Judaism was fitted to correct the evils and fatal weaknesses of Hellenism. Ben Sira vaguely recognized this, and sought to reconcile these two types of civilization; but in the second century B.C. men were chiefly aware of the glaring contrasts. Compared with the splendor of the life in the Greek cities that of the orthodox Jews seemed crude and barbarous. The intense horror with which the Jews viewed every form of idolatry led them to reject all forms of art. Their hatred of sensuality and immorality led them to regard with aversion the sports and exercises of the gymnasium and the attendant licentiousness. The practical teachers of Israel looked with suspicion upon the subtleties of the different Greek philosophical schools. On the other hand, the homely, domestic joys of the average Jew and his intense devotion to the service of the temple and to the faith of his fathers seemed contemptible to those familiar with the brilliant, voluptuous life of the Hellenic cities. Hellenism protested against the narrowness, barrenness, and intolerance of Judaism; Judaism protested against the godlessness and immorality of Hellenism. Both were right in their protests, and yet each in a sense needed the other.
V. Apostasy of the Jews and the Perfidy of the High Priests. At the beginning of the second century B.C. the Judean state was closely encircled by a ring of Hellenic cities and subjected on every side to the seductions of that debased Greek culture which had taken firm root in the soil of Palestine. As was almost inevitable, many of the Jewish youth yielded to its attractions. Distaste for the narrowness and austere customs of their fathers begat in their minds a growing contempt for their race and its religion. Even some of the younger priests forsook the temple for the gymnasium. Unconsciously but surely Judaism was drifting from its old moorings toward Hellenism, until the perfidy of its high priests and the persecutions of Antiochus Epiphanes aroused it to a full realization of its peril. The apostates in Jerusalem found a leader in Jeshua, who had assumed the Greek name of Jason. He was the brother of Onias III, the reigning high priest, and had been sent to represent him at the Syrian court. There he improved the opportunity by promising greater tribute to secure his appointment as high priest. He was soon outbid, however, by a certain renegade named Menelaus, who with the aid of Syrian soldiers drove Jason from Jerusalem and took his place as head of the hellenizing party. The first cause, therefore, of the Maccabean struggle was the apostasy of certain of the Jews themselves. Apparently in large numbers they abandoned the traditions of their race, and assumed the Greek garb and customs, thus leading their Syrian rulers to believe that the hellenizing of the entire race would be comparatively easy.