CBR.20: Proverbs – Song of Songs: III. Poetic Books: Job-Songs. mjmselim. July29, 2018
((Here are pages 375-486 of CBR, Chapter III, (in three submissions pages 375-402, CBR.18 (Job), 402-450 CBR.19 (Psalms), 450-486 CBR.20 (Proverbs-Song of Songs) of the Poetic Books from Job to Song of Songs, comprising Psalms with Job & Proverbs & Ecclesiastes, & Solomon’s Song of Songs. This Chapter III & Part III will be added to the PDF of CBR from Genesis to Esther, along with the final pages of the Chapter in a few days. CBR. Christian Biblical Reflections. mjmselim. 2018))
PROVERBS: (Selections from various authors, writers, commentaries, &c.)
Solomon’s: Mashals: (Wisdom, Understanding, Knowledge, Truth; Life & Death, etc.)
1: A Picture is worth a thousand words; so a Proverb or Parable a book of a thousand pages.
2: From: Biblical Commentary of Proverbs of Solomon, by Franz Delitzsch.Translated from German, by M. G. Easton. Clarks Theological Library, 4th Serial Edition. (1884)
Older Book of Proverbs 1-24: External Title of Book,(1:1-6). Motto of Book, (1:7). Introductory Mashal Discourse (IMD):
1st IMD (1:8-19): Warning against Fellowship of those who Sin against their Neighbor’s Life & Property.
2nd IMD (1:20-ff): Discourse of Wisdom to Her Despisers.
3rd IMD (2:): Earnest Striving after Wisdom as Way to Fear of God & to Virtue.
4th IMD (3:1-18): Exhortation: Love & Faithfulness & Self-Sacrificing Devotion to God, as True Wisdom.
5th IMD (3:19-26): World-Creative Wisdom as Mediatrix of Divine Protection.
6th IMD (3:27-35): Exhortation to Benevolence & Rectitude.
7th IMD (4:1-5:6): Recollections of His Father’s House.
8th IMD (5:7-23): Warning against Adultery & Commendation of Marriage.
9th IMD (6:1-5): Warning against Inconsiderate Suretyship.
10th IMD (6:6-11): Call to Sluggard to Awake.
11th IMD (6:12-19): Warning against Deceit & Malice.
12th IMD (6:20-ff): Warning against Adultery, by Reference to its Fearful Consequences.
13th IMD (7:): Warning against Adultery: Representation: its Abhorrent & Detestable Nature: Example.
14th IMD (8:):Discourse of Wisdom concerning Her Excellence & Her Gifts.
15th IMD (9:): Double Invitation: of Wisdom & of Her Rival Folly.
1st Collection of Solomonic Proverbs, (10:1-22:16):
Exhortations to Fidelity & other Social Virtues; to Humility and Gentleness; against Drunkenness, Slothfulness, Quarrelsomeness, etc.; to the Exercise of Justice, Patience and Submission to God. Admonitions as to the Obtaining and Preserving of a Good Name; etc.
1st Appendix to 1st Collection of Solomonic Proverbs, (22:17-24:22):
Admonition to lay to heart the “Words of the Wise”. Treatment of the Poor. Warnings against Avarice, Intemperance, & Licentiousness; against Fellowship with Wicked and Foolish. Admonition to Right Conduct toward others. Warning against Slothfulness —a Mashal Ode.
2nd Collection of Solomonic Proverbs (which Men of Hezekiah collected), (25-29):
Admonition to Kings & Subjects to the Fear of God and Practice of Righteousness. Warnings against Folly, Indolence, & Malice; against unseemly Boasting & Anger. Value of Friendship. Contentious Woman. Influence of Mutual Intercourse. Exhortation to Rural Industry —a Mashal Ode. Warnings against Unscrupulous, Unlawful Dealings. Divers Ethical Proverbs: Warnings against Stubbornness, Flattery, Wrath, etc..
1st Appendix to 2nd Solomonic Collection of Proverbs, (30):
“Words of Agur” —his Confession of Fruitless Search for Wisdom. Mashal Ode —Prayer for Middle State between Poverty & Riches. Priamel —a Wicked Generation. Four Insatiable Things. Eye that mocketh. Four Incomprehensible Things. Four Intolerable Things. Four Things that are Small and yet Wise. Four Creatures that are stately in going.
2nd Appendix to 2nd Solomonic Collection of Proverbs, (31:1-9):
“Words of Lemuel” —his Mother’s Counsel for Kings.
3rd Appendix to 2nd Solomonic Collection of Proverbs, (31:10-31):
Alphabetical Poem (“Golden A B C for Women”) in praise of Virtuous Matron.
3: From: Book of Proverbs, Criticcl Exegetical Commentry. International Critical Commentary Old Tetament . Crawford H. Toy. (1899)
Introduction. § 1. Names.
1. Masoretic title is Proverbs of Solomon ((mshly shlmh), [Sepher] Mishlë Shelömö, by the later Jews usually abridged to Mishlë)…..2. By early Christian writers the book was commonly called Wisdom or All-virtuous Wisdom, (hë panaretos sophia), names which were also given to ‘Ben-Sira’ (‘Ecclesiasticus’) and ‘Wisdom of Solomon’…..
§ 2. Divisions.
Divisions of Book indicated in text itself are as follows:
I: Group of discourses on wisdom and wise conduct (1-9):1. General title (1:1), purpose of Book (1:2-6), central or fundamental principle (1:7); 2. Warning against consorting with sinners (1:8-19); 3. Wisdom’s appeal (1:20-33) ; 4. Wisdom as guardian against bad men & women (2:); 5. Advantages attending obedience to the sage’s instruction, fear of Yahweh, & devotion to wisdom (3:) ; 6. Exhortation to obey sage (4:); 7. Warning against unchaste women (5:); 8. Three paragraphs, against suretyship, indolence, slander, here misplaced [?] (6:1-19); 9. Warning against unchaste women (6:20-35); 10. Similar warning (7:); 11. Function of Wisdom as controller of life, & as attendant of Yahweh in creation of world (8:); 12. Wisdom & Folly contrasted as hosts (9:1-6,13-18), & interjected, misplaced [?] paragraph of apothegms on wisdom (9:7-12).
II: Collection of aphorisms in couplet form (10:1-22:16).
III: Two collections of aphoristic quatrains (22:17-24:22, & 24:23-34).
IV: Collection of aphoristic couplets (25:-29:).
V: Collection of discourses of various characters (30:, 31:): “words of Agur” (30:1-4); certainty of God’s word (30:5-6); prayer for moderate circumstances (30:7-9); against slandering servants (30:10); collection of aphorisms citing certain things arranged in groups of fours (30:11-33); instruction to a king (31:1-9); description of model housewife (31:10-31).
The purpose of all these sections is the inculcation of certain cardinal social virtues, such as industry, thrift, discretion, truthfulness, honesty, chastity, kindness, forgiveness, warning against the corresponding vices, and praise of wisdom as the guiding principle of life. If we compare ‘Proverbs’ in this regard with ‘Ben-Sira’, we find that the latter, while it deals in general with the same moral qualities, goes more into detail in the treatment of social relations, and has more to say of manners as distinguished from morals.
§ 3. Structure of the Material.
The divisions indicated above suggest, by their differences of tone and content, that the Book has been formed by the combination of collections of various dates and origins. It is not probable that one man was the author of the philosophical discourses of chs. 1:-9:, the pithy aphorisms of 10:1-22:16, the quatrains of 22:17-24, the couplets of 25:-29:, and the mixed material of 30:, 31:.
A similar conclusion is indicated by the repetitions which occur in the Book. Thus, as between II. and III. we find ‘variant couplets’;… ‘identical line’s…. As between II. & IV.: ‘identical couplets’;… ‘variant couplets’;… ‘identical lines’…. As between III. & IV., an ‘identical line’….
From these repetitions we infer that the collectors of II., III., IV., were mutually independent —no one of them was acquainted with the work of the others. In I. and V. we find no matter that can be called repetition; the peculiar tone of each of these divisions kept it apart from the others; 6:1-19 & 9:7-12 are misplaced [?].
Subdivisions or smaller collections also appear to be indicated by repetitions within each of the three middle sections. Within II.: ‘identical’ or ‘equivalent couplets’:… ‘identical’ or ‘equivalent lines’ Within III.:… ‘couplets’ or ‘lines’: (the couplets which in 23:1,11 form one quatrain are in 22:23, 28 divided between two quatrains);… (a similar division of couplets). Within IV. : 28:12 & 29:2……
4: From: Commentary on Book Proverbs. Moses Stuart. (1860)
Introduction: Section 2: Leading Divisions (Parts) of Book: 6 Different Titles in 3 Sections (Portions) or 6 Divisions or Parts. (1-9; 10-22; 22-24; 25-29; 30; 31; (7th Division (Part) = 31:10-31.)
§ 4. Arrangement and Characteristics of Part I., including 1:8-9:18.
(1) As arranged in the Hebrew, this part consists of 247 verses. Nearly all of these are ‘simple parallelisms’, i.e. they consist of two members or clauses in each verse. Only 11 triplets are found, in the whole (Ch: 1, 3-5, 7-9; none in 2 & 6). The distribution of the parallelisms, as to the different species of them, is very unequal. If I have reckoned rightly, there are 209 ‘synonymous’ parallelisms; 36 synthetic; & only 4 ‘antithetic’, which last are all in one group, viz.: 3: 32-35. In the whole 247 verses, we have only 11 exceptions to ‘bimembral’ parallelism; & these contain each 3 clauses.
(2) From this survey of the kinds of parallelism, it is evident that Part I differs widely from the style and manner of Part II. Here, ch. 10-15 exhibit 186 ‘antithetic’ verses, & only 23 ‘synthetic’; while ch. 16-22: 16 reverse this order, & exhibit 24 ‘antithetic’, & 159 ‘synthetic’. But in neither of these two divisions of Part II do we find the ‘synonymous’ parallelism at all; while in Part I there are 209 to 36 ‘synthetic’ & 4 antithetic. These parallelistic distinctions, therefore, between the two divisions, are of a most palpable and striking nature. Specially is this the case with ch. 10-15, where the antithetic equals 186, the ‘synthetic’ are only 23, and there are no synonymous parallelisms. Yet this last species makes up almost the entirety of Part I. What bearing this may have on the ‘sameness’ of authorship in both cases, will come in due time to be discussed.
(3) Part II, i.e. 10:1-22:16, contains only 3 verses, (19:7,23; 21:20), where the ‘triplet’ is employed; & even in these, there is synthetic parallelism. In this division, moreover, ‘no subject is continued so as to comprise more than one verse or sentence’. This last circumstance is very striking, when contrasted with Part I. Here the same subject is continued, in 2,3,4,5, 10, 15, & even up to 25 verses; & this occurs so constantly, that ‘connected and in some degree prolonged discourse’ is, we may well say, altogether the usual order of the day (E.g. 57 examples in ch. 1-9). I find only 4 cases out of the whole in which a subject is completed by one verse, viz. 3:30, 33-35. This certainly is very remarkable, and has nothing like to it in ‘extent’, in any other portions of the book of Proverbs, and very little which is like to it even in ‘kind’. Only 23:29-35; 24:30-34; 27:23-27; 31:3-7, 10-31, afford specimens (all excepting one are brief) of the like nature, throughout all the rest of the book. Most distinctly marked, then, is Part I, as to treating subjects ‘continuously’, and constituting a kind of short discourse, rather than a gnome; for this is the character and tenor of the composition in this Part. All these things seem to plead strongly for different authors; but the discussion of this question must be deferred, for a little time.
(4) A subordinate and artistic classification appears, here and there, in groups of ‘tens’. So 1:10-19; 3:1-10, 11-20; 4:10-19; 8:12-21, 22-31. The like of this we meet with nowhere else, in this book. I call it artistic, because, somewhat like that of the alphabetical Psalms, such an arrangement appears to be purposely made, for the sake of aiding the memory.
(5) Many paragraphs in Part I. are headed with the address: ‘My son.’ (10 times) ‘This appears nowhere in Part’ II, and but very rarely in the latter part of the book. But this address does not stand at the head of every new and distinct paragraph, although it serves to distinguish paragraphs so far as it goes. It is easy, however, to distinguish them by the subject-matter of their contents, without the aid of such an address. This is another striking point of difference between Parts I and II, on which we must touch again hereafter.
(6) Some of the most extended sentences in all the Bible, are found in Part I. For example, the whole of chap. 2 (twenty-two verses) is in reality but one sentence. Then again, examine 1:29-33, which is virtually of the same description; and so 6:20-26; 7:6-20; 8:22-31; 9:13-18, with many others of less extent indeed, but still longer than is elsewhere common in the book of Proverbs. This is, at least, a circumstance that must be brought into the account, when we come to inquire about ‘authorship’.
(7) The name of (’Elohim) occurs nowhere in Proverbs, except in 2:5,17, and in the little work of Agur, 30:5,9. Everywhere else (Yehowah) is employed, to designate the ‘Godhead’. To speak in the language of some recent critics, the authors were ‘Jehovists’, and not ‘Elohists’. And such being the case, would it not seem probable, that this second chapter came from the hand of a person, who was different from the other writers? We must weigh this in the sequel.
(8) The poetic character of some portions of Part I, is greatly elevated above the rest of the book, with the exception, perhaps, of 31:10-31, which contains the exquisite eulogy of a virtuous woman. In solemn and awful grandeur,1:20-33 is hardly surpassed by any monitory passage of the sublime Isaiah. Indeed, it reminds one of many passages of a like nature in this prophet. There we have that lofty and glowing description of Wisdom, in 8:12-36, hardly surpassed by any scriptural writer. Such is the all pervading spirit of the poet which breathes through it, that on an aesthetical ground it can well claim a high preeminence. Then, in 7: 6-27, is a picture of the “strange woman,” which for vivacity, simplicity, and graphic power, has seldom been exceeded. Nothing can be more discrepant than these pieces are, from the poetry which pervades not only Part II, but the whole book, with some two or three exceptions of a very limited extent. The cause of this difference in style is not merely the different subject-matter of Part1 and that of the rest of the book; for there is plainly another and ‘different spirit’ in the lofty aspirations of the first portion of the book from that of the rest. One is constrained to feel that he is in different company, when he reads Part I, and then the rest of the Proverbs. Still, as there is almost always some room for debate, where taste merely is concerned, we must not place so much reliance on this aesthetical judgment, as on plain and simple matters of fact.
(9) In case the compositions of different authors are comprised in Part I, there is still a pervading unity of design in the whole. The principal design of all is, to lead the young in the way of happiness and peace; to warn them against the dangers and attractive temptations which often assail them; and to show them that they will be safe only by acquiring that heavenly wisdom, which will guide them in attaining to the highest good. There are indeed, here and there, a few brief passages which are apparently isolated; e. g. 3:30-35. But almost throughout the whole, the main objects which have been stated are in view.
We have now before us the design and the individual characteristics of Part I. We seem, then, in some good measure, to have prepared the way for the discussion of the questions which yet remain.
§ 6. Characteristics of Part II, 10:1-22:16:
The great question of authorship is here decisively answered, by the inscription to the piece as it stands in 10:1.There is no critical ground for suspecting that this inscription is incorrect. The ‘time’ when it was written, is of course also settled. What remains is, to exhibit the distinctive characteristics of the writing now before us.
(1) The piece itself seems to be divided, or distinguished as to its method, into two leading portions, viz. 10-15. (which I shall name A), and 16-22:16, (named B). I refer to the ‘kinds of parallelism’ respectively employed in each part, A & B. The part A has 186 ‘antithetic’ parallelisms, & 23 ‘synthetic’; while, on the other hand, the part B has 24 only of the first kind, and 159 of the latter, (see § 4. 2). In the first, the ‘antithetic’ is altogether predominant; in the second, the ‘synthetic’. What led to such an evident diversity of manner in the two parts, we are unable to say. It seems probable, however, that, at first, the two compositions were ‘separate’, and were composed at different times, although by the same writer. ‘Diversity’ may have been an object designed to be accomplished by the change of parallelisms. In other respects than that of the different kinds of parallelism, there is very little, in regard to any discrepancy, that deserves particular notice. We shall soon see that the same general characteristics belong, for the most part, to both divisions.
(2) All throughout the piece is of one tenor, as to ‘the completion of sentences by a single verse’; for every verse forms an independent and complete sentence. Rarely is there ever a similarity of subject in two or more continuous verses, so as to connect them even in a loose way. And so palpable is this trait, that the ‘order’ of the verses might be almost indefinitely changed, without any serious injury to any part of the piece. Even the two parts of the same verse very rarely run into each other, so as to form one composite sentence. The exceptions to this are nearly all in one single chapter, viz. in 20:10, 11,12, 14, 19, 21, 30. Such a rigid method, from beginning to end, both in A & B, shows that the writer had a special design in view, viz. to insert only such proverbs as were complete in one verse, whatever the kind of parallelism might be. This method, although of frequent occurrence in the sequel of the book, is nowhere else so rigidly observed as here.
In A., as we have seen, almost the whole of the verses are of the ‘antithetic’ order; and in B., of the ‘synthetic’. The general rule as to completing the sense, is common to both parts; and so is it also in regard to the respective length of the parallelisms; but in B., there are very few examples of the ‘antithetic’ kind. In 21:15, 20, 26, 28,29, 31; 22:3, are included nearly, if not quite, all the cases of this nature. This does not indeed show a difference of authorship, but merely a different design in the writer as to method, in A & B. It looks very much as if originally there were two ‘libelli’, the one for ‘antithetics’, and the other for ‘synthetics’. It is impossible to examine the whole matter minutely and critically, without coming to the conclusion that such an arrangement is ‘designed’, and not accidental. But one author, however, is admissible in the present case, because the general principle of systematic arrangement, in other respects, is so uniform throughout, and so entirely consistent, as to imply that the whole plan proceeded from one and the same mind.
(3) There is another characteristic exhibited in some passages of Part II, which shows a peculiar ‘artistic’ (if I may so call it) construction. This is, that the same word or words or one or more words of the like import, which are leading and important words, are arranged consecutively in two or more verses, and repeated in each, although the general tenor of meaning in the verses themselves is different. For example: In 10:6,7, we find (tzaddiq) & (reshatzim) in both verses. So in 10:14,15, (mechittah), stands in both; so 10:16,17, (lehaiyim);10:18,19, (siphtey) & (sephathayik); 10:20,21, both (tzaddiq) & (lebh); 10:28,29, (reshatzim); 10:31,32, (tahpukoth). chapter) look like ‘designed’ arrangement. So also 11:8,9, (nechslatz) & (yechaletzu); 11:10,11, (qiryah) & (qereth); 11:25,26, (berakah); 11:30,31, (tzaddiq). Again, in 12:5,6,7, (reshatzim); 12:15,16, (’awil). In 14:12,13, (’achrithah); 14:17,18, (’i); 14:26,27, (yir’ath Yehowah). In 15:31,32, (nn?Tir). In 16:27,28,29, (ia”,K ). In 18:6,7, (kesil); 18:10,11, (‘oz) & (‘uzzo); 18:18,19, (midwanim). —These are specimens. More might be added; but these will suffice. Such a thing is evidently the result of ‘designed’ grouping; and probably it was done in order to aid the memory of the pupil.
The like to this, and for a like purpose, may be seen in 15:33 and 16:1-7,9,11, where the word (Yehowah) occurs 10 times in succession. So in 16:10, 12,13,14,15, (melek) occurs (partly in the plural) five times. And the like to all this is sometimes found in the Psalms, probably thus composed for the sake of easy remembrance.
A few (very few) cases occur, of like matter in two continuous verses; even then each may be taken separately, and be disconnected without injuring either verse. But there is no general plan in such an arrangement; and each verse, although similar, is in fact independent of the other.
There is, moreover, throughout Part II, a general correspondence in the measure or length of the clauses, or verses. Generally, the first clause has 4 words, and the second 3; but sometimes they stand 4 & 4, and 5 & 3; and in a few cases, 3 & 3. In a few cases, also, where small words are attached to larger ones by a Maqqeph [hyphen], there are 9, and even 10 & 11 words; see 17:2,8; 19:18; 21:1.
In some cases, (but few), there is, in the second clause, a virtual repetition of the sentiment of the first; e.g. in 11:7; 14:19,26; 16:16; 17:6; 18:3. Sometimes (very rarely) the second clause is exegetical of the first; as in 15:3. In a few cases, the second clause gives the reason or ground of the first; e.g. 16:26; 21:7. Comparatives by ‘as’ sometimes appear; as in 10:26; 11:32 ((ke) being implied). The comparative degree by (min) is not unfrequent; as in 15:16,17; 16:8,19; 17:10; 21:19.
We must not omit to mention, that there is a considerable number of cases, in which there is a repetition of a preceding proverb, in a dilferent place. Thus 14:12, and 16:25, (comp. 21: 2). 21: 9 and 19 ; and so a ‘repetition’ of one clause of a verse; e.g. 10:1 & 15:20; 10:2 & 11:4; 10:15 & 18:11; 15:33 & 18:12; and specially is this identical as to one clause, in 11:21 & 16:5; 14:31 &17:5; 19:12 & 20:2.
This last circumstance suggests to our consideration, that there were various sources from which Part II must probably have been derived. “We cannot well suppose that Solomon sat down to the composition of Part II as he would in order to write chap. 8, i.e. his eulogy on Wisdom. In the last case, he probably drew directly from his own conceptions, without reliance on any other writing. But in the case of mere gnomes or popular proverbs, he was in quite a different position. Many, perhaps most, of these proverbs were such as common sense and long experience had for substance already suggested to the minds of intelligent men. They were floating among the common people, and subjected thereby to more or less disfigurement or change. Solomon’s mind, under divine influence, could easily recognize such of these proverbs as were true and useful; and, acknowledging them to be so, he transferred them into ‘written’ language, so that they might be rendered permanent in their true and proper sense, and be thus guarded against alterations. These common maxims of life, thus sanctioned by him when in such a state, became ‘authoritative’ and general truths. Of course, we may properly assign the ‘authorship’ of them to him; for he selected them, adopted them, and published them as consonant with his own views. They were only of ‘traditional’ currency before this; but now they became a part of Scripture, under the sanction of Solomon.
We are obliged, as it seems to me, to account in this way for the many ‘repetitions’, in Part II, of the same things. One sole concipient writing, purely from his own mind, in a composition like this, would never have repeated the same things so often, and within so limited a space. His memory could scarcely be so treacherous, as to forget what he had just said. The only probable way, then, in which these repetitions came to be introduced, was through the medium already described. If Solomon wrote three thousand proverbs, he must have been a great lover of ‘gnomic’ lore, and probably must have read [& heard] everything of that nature which was then in circulation. Doubtless, at times, he selected whole paragraphs from other collections, and, transferring them to his own, just as they were, and because he assented to the truth of them, he transcribed them in the state in which they stood in other Mss. In this way, we may suppose many of the maxims in Part II to have been transferred from other collections of gnomes, and when the transfer was made, it was (as usual in ancient times) made without curtailing or expunging. Hence came about the repetitions in question, because they were connected with other matter which was not repetitious. We may suppose, that most well-read [knowing] persons of that day would recognize at once what was new, and what had been transferred. We cannot now do what they could then do; but we can easily see how the whole matter of repetition might take place; and that without supposing the wise king to have forgotten himself, or rather, to have forgotten what he had just written. The proverbs transferred from common life into Part II, are now of course just as valid, by the sanction of Solomon, as they would have been, had he composed them all ‘de novo’.
I see no other probable way of accounting for the phenomenon in question. It seems hardly feasible to make out the probability of a ‘de novo’ composition; and specially at the expense of taxing the writer’s memory with failure, and denying him a consciousness of what he had just written. But as the matter has now been represented, we find no serious difficulties attendant upon the repetition of the same gnome. It does seem probable, at least, that some such cause occasioned the repetition now in question; for the only motive of ‘repetition’, independent of this consideration, must have been the special importance of the matter repeated. But investigation will show, that in the present instance it could not have sprung from this source, because the things repeated, to say the least, are not more important than many other things not repeated.
We must call to mind here, that Solomon wrote or composed some 3,000 proverbs; while in the Book before us, less than one third part of these are contained. He might then, in compiling Part II, have selected much from his own previous ‘libelli’. Who can show even a probability that he did not? Still, one would naturally suppose that, in selecting and transferring his own compositions, he would take more liberty of omitting what was repetitious, than he would when extracting from others. Most probably, then, the ‘repetitions’ occur in cases of extracting from others, while we may still believe that Solomon selected much from his own previous writings, which was adapted to his design in the writing of Part II…….
§ 7. Characteristics of Part III, 22:17-24:34.
The general inscription in 1:1-7, refers to The Words Of The Wise, as one thing which the Book is designed to teach, v. 6. Here now, in 22:17, we find that ‘same title’, in an exhortation to give a hearing ear to such words: ” Hear ‘the words of the wise’.” Again, in 24: 23, some additions to ‘the words of the wise’ are said to be made ; and these are contained in 24:23-34. Here, then, we have at least two collections of those ‘words of the wise’. In the first, the compellation, ‘My son’, is several times repeated; but in the second part it does not at all appear. —Our next question is :How is Part III. characterized?
(1) In Part III, the construction of the verse or metre is nothing like so regular as in Part II. We have indeed here (as there) verses of 8, 7, & 6 words; but they stand mingled with others of 11 words, (22:29; 23:31,35); of 14 words, (23:29); & even of 18 words, (24:12). In some of these instances, distinct traces of proper parallelism can hardly be discovered. They are a kind of measured prose. Here, moreover, the parallelisms are all ‘synthetic’, excepting only 24:16, which is ‘antithetic’. Here also sentences completed in one verse are the ‘exception’, (and a small one); those in two or more, are the ‘rule’. Very often, three verses are combined in a sentence. e.g. 23:1-3, 6-8, 19-21. In one case, 24:30-34, we have 5 verses; & in 23:29-35 (virtually one compound sentence) we have even 7 verses. All this makes a great variety & a miscellaneousness in the composition. In general, Part III is strikingly different from anything which precedes it.
(2) Here, as in Part I., we have the address: ‘My son’. And where this is not prefixed to a paragraph, an address is often made to the second person singular, ‘thou’.
(3) As to the ‘arrangement’ of the proverbs here, some times those similar in their tenor are brought together; e.g. 23:15, seq. But in general, no pains appears to have been taken to make out arrangements regularly consecutive. Neither the compiler, nor the original concipients, seem to
have felt the necessity of subjecting themselves to the ordinary gnomic rules; for in some places we have, as it were, short parables; e.g. 23:29-35; 24:30-34.
On the whole, then, the discrepancy between Part III, and the preceding Parts, is striking, and would of itself raise doubts in the mind of the reader, as to identity of authorship in each of the Parts. But when to all this is superadded the distinctive titles in 22:17, and 24:23, it would seem that there is little room for critical doubt, that the authors of Part III are different from that or those of the preceding Parts. But,……
§ 8. Characteristics of Part IV chap. 25-29.
The ‘authorship’, and of course the ‘time’ of compilation, is here made certain. This Part contains ‘the Proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, copied out’, 25:1. ‘The men of Hezekiah’ must of course mean, the sacred scribes in the service of the king, or his counsellors. Among these doubtless were many excellent men, who would zealously perform such a labor. The verb (hetztiqu), rendered ‘copied out’, lit. means, ‘to transfer from one place to another’. In respect to a ‘writing’, this must mean, ‘to transcribe’, or ‘to copy’. Sept., very happily: (exegrapsanto). This shows that other volumes, or portions of volumes, comprising the gnomic compositions of Solomon, were then in circulation, besides what is contained in Parts I, II, above. From them the scribes of the pious king made a selection, and chaps. 25-29 is the fruit of this selection. We must notice the characteristics.
(1) In respect to ‘parallelisms’, there are 93 ‘synthetic’, & 35 ‘antithetic’ ones, but no synonymous members of verses. In respect to the metres, they very much resemble those in Part II, the verses mostly consisting of 8, 7, & 6 words. In some cases, two closely connected verses contain of course many more; e.g. 25:6,7, comprise 20 words; & 25:21,22 amount to 18 words. The antithetic verses (=35) are strenuously and regularly antithetic. But in chaps. 25-27, most of the verses are ‘comparisons’, either in the strict, or in the freer sense. In many, we can hardly make out a parallelism; e.g. 25: 8,9,10, 21,22; 26:18,19; 27:1; 29:12. Yet there is a ‘symmetry’ even here, in respect to the form of the clauses. We meet here with repeated instances of a proverb extended to several verses; which is altogether different from Part II. There are some passages, e.g. 26: 23, 28, and 27:23, 27, which have a lofty poetic spirit, quite different from that of common gnomes.
(2) There is a striking resemblance in Part IV to Part II, in regard to the repetition of the same word or phrase in different verses. E.g. 25:1 & 2, (melakim); 25:4 & 5, (hago); 25:8,9,10, (ribh); 25:11,12, (zahabh); 25:19, (yom tzarah), & 25:20, (yom qarah); 26:3-12, (kesil) (sing. or plur.) in each of the 10 verses; 26:13-16, (‘atzel) in each verse; 26:20,21, (‘etzim); 27:1,2, (tithhallel) & (yehallel); 27:5,6, (’ahabah) & (’ohebh). So in 27:7,9, (mathoq) & (metheq); 28:4,7,9, (torah); 28:3,6, (rash); 28:2,16, (ya’arik); 28:12,28, (qoiim); 29:2,16, (birboith tzadiqim) & (birboth resha‘im); 28:14 & 29:1, (maqsheh); 29:8,10, (’anshey). All this looks like designed selection and arrangement, in such a way as to attract attention, and to help fix passages in the memory; and this may becalled ‘Solomonic’; for it is very common in Part II.
(3) The point of striking difference between Part II & IV is, that in the latter, there are many cases of two or more verses connected in one sentence, which is never the case in Part II; e.g. 25:6 & 7, 9 & 10, 21 & 22; 26:18 & 19; 27:15 & 16. Moreover, in 26:23-28, there are 6 verses united; & in 27:23-27, there are 5…..
§ 9. Characteristics of Part V chap. 30.
In the Commentary on 30:1, the title to this Part is fully discussed; and the attempt is made to show, that the most probable meaning of v. 1 is this: “The words of Agur, the son of her who was obeyed in Massa,” [i.e. of the Queen of Massa]. It is there shown, that Massa was probably a region or city, lying east of the gulf of Akaba, once possessed by the Amalekites, who at last were expelled by ‘the sons of Simeon’. These last settled down in the room of the expelled, during the time of Hezekiah, whose scribes copied out Part IV of the book of Proverbs; 1st Chron. 4:41-43. It seems natural, then, to suppose that Parts V and VI must have been united to the book of Proverbs, after Part IV had been joined to it; and the arrangement itself speaks for this. Whether the addition was made by the same ‘men of Hezehiah’, who selected and added Part IV, we have no means of determining with certainty. But in itself it seems quite probable. It is clear, that Agur was a son of the queen of Massa; and, as king Hezekiah reigned some twenty-nine years, and as the Simeonites may have made their conquest of Massa and settled there in the earlier part of his reign, they may, as living in a distant country, have had, and probably they did have, an Emir or prince of their own to rule over them; and this prince may have been the father both of Agur and Lemuel, for they seem to be brothers, and sons of the same mother; see on 30:1. The queen in question, may have been such in consequence of the demise of her husband, who gave her his throne; and on this account, as chap. 30 was written during her reign, Agur is spoken of as being her son. A distinguished woman she must have been, according to 30:1, 31:1. It is not said of Agur, however, that he was a ‘king’; yet of ‘Lemuel’ (probably his older brother) this is said, 31:1. But as Agur was the son of a queen, he of course was a prince.
Chap. 30, then, came in all probability from the hand of a ‘Hebrew’. So the language itself of course indicates. There is nothing specially ‘provincial’ in the diction; although the form and manner of the composition is altogether ‘sui generis’. If the sacred scribes of Hezekiah selected this composition of Agur, and judged it meet to be joined to the rest of the Book of Proverbs, we should be satisfied that it properly belongs there.
(1) In regard to the ‘parallelisms’ here, all but three are of the ‘synthetic’ order. Three are partially antithetic. In regard to the ‘quantity’ or space assigned to one & the same subject, some are completed in one verse; others in two; more frequently there are three verses, as in 18-20, 21-23; sometimes four, as in 24-28, & once even six, 1-6. The length of the verses here is often widely discrepant from that in Part II; for here are verses of 11, 12, 13, & even 24 words (v. 4).
Strict correspondence of the parallelisms is not regarded much here. Many of them, likewise, are but little more than measured prose, excepting the poetic spirit which reigns in them. This, and the kind of metre belonging to them, probably contributed to place this composition in a book of poetic proverbs.
There are some things in chap. 30 which are altogether peculiar. The repeated reckoning there of ‘two’ things (v. 7); of four things in vs. 11-14; then of three increased by a fourth in vs. 15,18,21,29; then of four things in v. 24; is unlike in extent to anything else in the whole Bible, excepting in Amos 1 & 2, where we have ‘three’ & then a ‘fourth’ added, 8 times in succession. There is, in our text, a kind of play of the fancy upon the numbers; & the gradual increase, first from two to three, then to three with an appendix, & then four, shows a design or plan of arrangement in the writer’s mind. It is plain, indeed, that the design of Agur is not to develop merely maxims or rules of conduct. In fact, there is little of precept here, excepting it be obtained in the way of making out deductions from what is said in the representations of things. Some of the matter is very grave, and attains to a high moral sublimity; see vs. 2-6, where the unsearchable nature of God and the excellence of his truth are strikingly developed. Then come some excellent sentiments, in vs. 7-9. Then follow four classes of individuals, who seem to be held up to indignation, vs. 11-14. Next, we have one of the (chidoth) (enigmas), which seem to be plainly adverted to in the general introduction to the book, 1:6. It is difficult to make out the moral of vs. 14,15. The ‘insatiability’ of the things named there belong to mere natural objects, and has no moral character. It is probable, that under these (chidoth) is couched some moral truth, which is designedly left for the reader to discover if he can. Perhaps the passage relates to avarice; perhaps to sensual appetites which are nourished, and which grow stronger by indulgence. More difficult still would it be, to find out the design of vs. 18,19, were it not that v. 20 gives us some clue. The amount of what is here said seems to be, that wickedness may sometimes be so concealed, that no traces of it can be discovered by any one, besides those who commit it. The design of vs. 21-23 is like that of vs. 11-14, viz. to hold up to our dislike several ‘incongruous’ things. On the other hand, in vs. 25-28, there are four notable examples of sagacity and active industry and order, which are designed to stimulate us. Last of all, come exemplars of comeliness and strength. Nothing in all these particulars seems to be dependent on the manner of their consecution. They are seized as they occur to the mind, while it is employed in the excogitation of something which is designed to be enigmatical. Consequently, there is no mutual connection between them, and each is independent of the other. And after all that we can do in the way of inquiry, such passages as vs. 15,16, and also vs. 29-31, remain in a good measure among the real (chidoth). They seem to be written more for the sake of entertaining and interesting the reader, (if I may so speak), than for his direct instruction. They are evidently designed to whet his curiosity, and set him on the alert, in order that he may educe from them something useful. Surely, such an object is not beneath the office of him who teaches youth, in a book like the present, which has not a few passages of witty and sarcastic irony. Why should this be entirely excluded? Did not Elijah use the most cutting irony, in speaking to the priests of Baal? A heathen moralist has said, that “ridicule sometimes cuts deeper than severity.” And when the wise king has said, that “a sluggard, who dips his hand into the dish, will not so much as bring it to his mouth,” in order that he may feed himself; and also that “the sluggard will not turn himself over in bed, but must be rolled over by others,” has he not uttered sarcasm, and held up such a man to ridicule? Even so with Agur. When he says that “there is a generation, —O how lofty are their eyes, and their eyelids lifted up!” (v. 13), and again, when he says that “there are four things which the earth cannot endure,” and counts among these “a servant who comes to bear rule,” and “an ugly woman who comes to be married,” does he not teach in the way of ‘sarcasm’? vs. 21-23. Verses 18-21 are indeed of a peculiar tenor; but the point to be illustrated, viz. concealed wicked doings, is vividly illustrated by the similes adduced; although in the last of them there is a boldness of illustration that seems somewhat hazardous, in the view of things as now regarded by us.
On the whole, this chapter has no parallel, and even no similar, in all the Bible. And still, the moral and religious tone of it is high. Look specially at 1-6, 8 & 9, 17, 32,33. The language is vivid and poignant throughout. And if (chidoth) comes within the plan of the whole collection of the book of Proverbs, as 1:6 assures us it does, we cannot wonder that ‘the men of Hezekiah’, or the like men who came after them, added the piece before us to this Book. In the narrower sense, hardly any of the verses in it are proverbs; but the instructions given assume the general costume of proverbs, i.e. they exhibit ‘metre’ and ‘parallelism’, although in the laxer sense.
The tenor of this chapter seems to render it certain, that the general introduction in 1-7 was not written, until this was added, and probably chap. 31 also; for 1:6 appears pointedly to recognize such a composition as this. That the compilers of Part IV, the men of Hezekiah, made this addition to the Book, and wrote the general introduction, cannot indeed be positively proved; but it still remains quite probable, that the book was completed, and brought to its present form, by them. If so, then was it completed not far from 700 B.C. There is nothing in its diction or in the facts to which it adverts, that renders a junior age of this composition necessary, or even probable.
§ 10. Characteristics of Part VI chap. 31.
The introduction, in v. 1, tells us that the sequel contains ‘The words of king Lemuel’. It tells us also, that he was ‘king of Massa’; and since 30:1 presents us with a ‘queen of Massa’, and Lemuel is said (31:1) to have been taught by his mother; and since the two compositions (in ch. 30, 31) are united together, as if they came from the same or a like source; we may reasonably conclude, that “both originated in Massa, and at or near the same time. For this cause, it was natural to associate them together, as the compiler has done. In case this is conceded, then the time, place, and author, are sufficiently ascertained, if what has been said in § 9 is correct.
The part appropriate to Lemuel consists only of vs. 1-9. The king was warned, he says, by his sagacious mother, against wine, & women, & oppression in the judgment of causes. The ‘parallelisms’ here are altogether regular, and unusually synonymous. The verses, indeed, are not all of the same length; but there is nothing specially notable in regard to them, in this respect. The composition is through and through ‘gnomic’ in its cast, and the precepts given are not only excellent in a moral point of view, but highly important. Well might Agur exalt the excellence of a mother, who could teach thus; and in a filial and honorable manner did he behave, when, although a king, he attributed to her the honor of the composition which he wrote down.
Chap. 31: 10—31.
I have not ranked this as a ‘seventh’ Part of the Book, (as might be done), because it seems to me probable, from the connection here, that the same mother who taught Lemuel, composed the eulogy that follows, of a virtuous, or rather of an energetic woman; or else the son, perhaps, may have composed it in honor of his mother. If it be objected that such occupations as are here described, could not well be attributed to the ‘queen-mother’, it should be called to mind, that the queens of small nations or tribes were not exempt, in those times, from labor, or rather from overseeing the affairs of their household. Every classical reader is familiar with the story of Penelope, the wife of Ulysses, and of the web which she daily wove. But it is not necessary, that this should apply personally to the queen herself of Massa; it is sufficient that she, or whoever wrote the piece, had right views of the importance of industry and care in the mistress of a household, and has given us the outline of them.
As to the eulogy itself, it is in the highest style of parallelistic writing. In perfection of metre, scarcely any even of the Psalms exceed it. Nearly every verse is a synonymous parallelism, and the whole composition has an air of such simplicity, vivacity, and ‘naivete’, that it is truly admirable. From whatever quarter the composition came, there is no discerning reader who would not regret its omission. The tenor of it is, indeed, not the same as that of the Proverbs in general ; but as it inculcates, in a most attractive manner, both industry and frugality, it falls in entirely with the general spirit and design of the Proverbs.
One other circumstance should be noted. This is, that the song is ‘alphabetical’, like a number of the Psalms, and the book of Lamentations. This method of writing reminds one of our ‘acrostics’. Beyond all doubt, such a composition must be designedly ‘artistic’. Why this fashion of writing should be introduced, we may not be able to say with certainty, but there is much probability that the object in view was to make songs easy to be remembered. The ‘alphabetic’ order of the verses would plainly aid recollection. Whether this method of writing belongs only to the later Hebrew, as Ewald, and after him Bertheau, asserts, is a question that does not concern the passage before us; for this was composed, as we have seen, in Hezekiah’s time, or soon after, i.e. not far from 700 B.C. But in regard to Ewald’s general assertion, it may be said, that violence must be done to the Hebrew text, in order to make it good; for Ps. 25, 34, 37, are expressly ascribed to David, in the title. I know not how the genuineness of such titles can be disproved. If not, then David, the leader of all lyric poets among the Hebrews, practised this method of writing, and of course it did not originate with the later Hebrews.
§ 11. Plan of the Book:
…When commentators of the present day have done their utmost, they are obliged to confess,as I have done, that they can see but darkly. There are parts of the chapter that yet remain in a measure unexplained, —not as to the language, perhaps, but as to the ‘design’ of the writer. Nearly the whole chapter puts on veiled or enigmatical forms. The meaning of most can be made out by diligence; but it requires not a little both of diligence and of knowledge to make it out satisfactorily. In view of this, all seems to be plain in 1:6. Not only is 22:17-24:34 designated by ‘the words of the wise’, but the closing part of the book seems to be specifically designated by ‘dark sayings’ and ‘enigmas’.
From this view of the matter, it appears quite certain, that ‘the general introduction in 1:1-7 was designed to cover the whole ground’, and therefore must have been written when the collection or compilation was completed. Of course this introduction came from a later hand, from someone who lived at or after the time of Agur and Lemuel.
The whole order of the book in general reminds us of the order of the five parts of the Psalms. Passing by Prov. 1-9, as an appropriate introduction to the book in general, we have in Part II the proverbs of Solomon; in Part III the words of the wise; in Part IV again the proverbs of Solomon; in Parts V, VI, the words of Agur and Lemuel. So with the book of Psalms; Part I the Songs of David, 2-41. Part II songs of Davidic singers, 42-50. Part III. David again, 51-72. Part IV. Davidic singers again. (Exceptions in these parts are few). So there comes David, his contemporary singers, and then David again, followed again by them. So in Proverbs; beginning with c. 10, we have first Solomon, then his contemporaries; then Solomon again, followed at the close by Agur and Lemuel. The two last Parts, like the two last in the Psalms, were added to the book, before extant, a considerable time after the first two were in circulation……
(Stuart writes at close of his Preface: Should a kind Providence still preserve me in life, with the power of action, I think seriously of endeavoring, at some future period, to write a commentary on this book, altogether adapted to common readers, that is, to the great mass of our population. There is no book on earth of deeper interest, in a social, moral, industrial, and economical point of view, than the book of Proverbs. May and should it not have a wider diffusion, and be more read and studied, and better understood? I believe it may, if it shall be duly provided with popular and appropriate illustrations. I hesitate, indeed, as to my own competency duly to perform this task; but I cannot hesitate as to cherishing an ardent desire that it should be speedily and well performed.)
5: Proverbs 31:10-31King James Version (AKJV) (18.104.22.168.Doubled) (mjm.2017)
The Worthy Woman who can find? Far above rubies is her price!
Her husband’s heart in her confides: He needs no other spoil or heist;
Without evil she does him good: Within all of her living days;
For wool and flax she ever seeks: And with her hands she works her ways.
She is lik’n to the merchant’s ships: Which brings her food from very far.
She wak’ns early, e’en in the night: Feeds house and maid’ns from her store.
She sees a field, and she invests: With fruit of hands, she plants her vines.
She girds her loins with might and strength: And with both arms she seeks and finds.
She perceiveth her wares are good: Her candle goes not out at night.
She lays her hands to the spindle: She holds the distaff with her might.
She extends her hand to the poor: And her hands to those needing foods.
She braves the snow for her family: Clothes them in scarlet finest hoods.
She weaves her cloths with tapestry; Her silk purple clothin by hand.
Her husband is known in the Gates; And sits with Elders of the land.
She makes fine lin’n garments to sell; Supplies girdlebelts to merchant trade.
Strength and honor are her clothing; Then she’ll rejoice in what she’s made.
She opens her mouth with wisdom: Her tongue is the law of kindness.
She looks well to her family’s ways: She eats not the bread of idl’ness.
Her children grows to call her blessed: Her husband also praises her well:
“Many daughters have done virt’ously: But thou above them doth excell.
Favor deceives, and beauty vain: But praised is’woman who fears the Lord.
Give her from the fruit of her hands: In the Gates praise her works and word.
(“Who can find a virtuous woman? Far above rubies is her worth!
Many daughters have done well: But thou excellest in thy birth.”)
ECCLESIASTES: Koheleth (Preacher): (Life & Experience; Vanity, Futility, Duty, Eternity, etc.)
1: Compare Erasmus Praise of Folly.
2: From: Biblical Companion, Introduction to Reading & Study of Holy Scriptures .etc. William Carpenter. (1836)
1. Chapter III of the Poetical Books. (Holden “Attempt to Illustrate Book of Ecclesiastes,”)
….”The conclusion of the work is worthy of an inspired author: “Fear God, and keep His commandments; for this is the whole duty of man,” &c. The following synopsis is from the work just referred to (Attempt to Illustrate Book of Ecclesiastes. Paraphrase & Notes. Rev, George Holden (1822)
Part I: [Solomon’s Words: Koheleth: Vanity of Vanitiies: All is Vanity on Earth in the World of Man Seeking Wisdom:]
Vanity of all earthly conditions, occupations, & pleasures; & of all earthly things (1:2); unprofitableness of human labour, & transitoriness of human life (1:3-11); vanity of laborious inquiries into ways & works of man (1:12-18); luxury & pleasure are only vanity & vexation of spirit (2:1–11); though the wise excel fools, yet, as death happens to them both, human learning is but vanity (2:12–17); vanity of human labour, in leaving it they know not to whom (2:18–23); emptiness of sensual enjoyments (2:24–26); though there is a proper time for the execution of all human purposes, yet are they useless & vain; divine counsels, however, are immutable (3: 1-14); vanity of human pursuits proved from wickedness prevailing in courts of justice, contrasted with righteous judgment of God (3:15–17); though life, considered in itself, is vanity, for men die as well as beasts, yet in the end, it will be very different with the spirit of man and that of beasts (3:18–22); vanity is increased unto men by oppression (4:1–3); vanity of prosperity (4:4); vanity of folly, or of preferring the world to true wisdom (4:5-6); vanity of covetousness (4:7-8); though society has its advantages, yet dominion & empire are but vanity (4:9-16); errors in performance of divine worship, which render it vain & unprofitable (5:1-7); vanity of murmuring at injustice; for though the oppression of the poor and the perversion of judgment greatly prevail, they do not escape the notice of the Almighty (5:8-9); vanity of riches, with an admonition as to the moderate enjoyment of them (ver. 10-20); vanity of avarice (6:1-9).
Part II: [Conclusion Word of Wisdom: Fear God & Obey His Commandments is Man’s Duty:]
Nature, excellence, & beneficial effects of wisdom, or religion [living]. Since all human designs, labours, and enjoyments are vain, it is natural to inquire, What is good for man? What is his supreme good (6:10–12)? Answer is contained in the remainder of the book. Praise of character and reputation (7:1); affliction improves heart, & exalts character of the wise (vii. 7:2-10); excellence of wisdom (7:11-14); objection, with the answer (7:15-8:7); evil of wickedness shows the advantage of true wisdom (8:8–13); objection, with the answer (8:14-9:1); objection with the answer (9:2, 10, 17); the banefulness of sloth (x. 18); the power of wealth (10:19); an exhortation against speaking evil of dignities (10:20); an exhortation to charity and benevolence (11:1-10); exhortation to early cultivation of religious habits [wisdom] (12:1–7); the conclusion (12:8–14).
3: From: Attempt to Illustrate Book of Ecclesiastes. Rev, George Holden. (1822)
….”The idea that the Bible is easily understood, flatters the self-sufficiency of ignorance and fanaticism; but the great difficulty attending its interpretation is a fact too palpable to be denied, except by those who are benighted in the mists of prejudice, or who have never doubted, only because they have never inquired…. Of all the Hebrew writings, none present greater obstacles to the expositor than the book of Ecclesiastes. Together with the obscurities which it has in common with the other Jewish canonical Scriptures, it possesses some peculiar to itself; and, with respect to the style of the work, the author’s design, the nature of his argument, and the chain of his reasoning, the opinions of critics and commentators have diverged to an incredible distance”….
4: From: Book Koheleth, Commonly Called Ecclesiastes, Relation to Modern Criticism & Doctrines of Modern Pessimism with Critical & Grammatical Commentary & Revised Translation, etc. Donnellon Lectures 1880-81. Rev, Charles H.H. Wright, D.D. (1883)
New Translation: [Koheleth’s Words (Preacher’s Sermons): David’s Son, Jerusalem’s King]
§ 1. Absolute Vanity of Everything Earthly: Earthly Phenomena: Circle with no real progress.
§ 2. Koheleth’s 1st Discovery: Vanity of Wisdom.
§ 3. Koheleth’s 2nd Discovery: Vanity of Pleasure & Riches.
§ 4. Koheleth’s 3rd Discovery: Vanity of Wisdom: End of Wise Man & Fool is alike; Riches obtained by much Toil are Vanity; Conditions necessary for cheerful Enjoyment.
§ 5. Short-sightedness & Powerlessness of Men before God, (Disposer & Arranger of all things).
§ 6. Unrighteous Actions of Men left to themselves: Men Compared to Beasts that perish.
§ 7. Misery common to Man: Oppression of Man by his fellow; Rivalry & Useless Toil of Man.
§ 8. Disadvantages of Man being Alone by himself & Benefit of Companionship.
§ 9. Vanity of popular enthusiasm for a new monarch 290
§ 10. Vanity in Religion: Divine Worship & Vows.
§ 11. Vanity of Riches: State under Despotic Rule; Riches Little Advantage; Gathered for others.
§ 12. Ultimatum: Vanity of possessing Riches Without Enjoying them.
§ 13. Insatiability of Desire.
§ 14. Human Powerlessness & Short-sightedness with Respect to Destiny.
§ 15. Proverbs concerning things to be Preferred by Man.
§ 16. Patience & Wisdom best Preservatives in Time of Oppression & Adversity.
§ 17. Importance of keeping “Middle Mean,” & Practical Advantages of Wisdom.
§ 18. Snare by which Men are generally Caught: Wicked Woman.
§ 19. Benefit of Wisdom in Days of Oppression: Wise Man will be Obedient & Patient, Knowing that there is a God who Judgeth Earth.
§ 20. Man Knows Not Work of God, but is in all things Conditioned by a Higher Power than his own, which Permits the same things to Happen to all alike.
§ 21. Fate that awaits all, State of Dead: Men ought therefore to Enjoy Life, while working for their Daily Bread. Uncertainties of Life & Certainty of Death in an Unexpected Time.
§ 22. Poor Wise Man & Benefits of Wisdom.
§ 23. Usefulness of Wisdom & Danger of Folly, Shown by Various Proverbs.
§ 24. Fool Noted for his Useless Talk & Aimless Toil.
§ 25. Misery of Land Cursed with Foolish King, & Necessity of Prudence in Subjects of such a Monarch.
§ 26. Wisdom of Beneficence: Future belongs to God, & Man ought to Labour & Enjoy Life while he can.
§ 27. Song of Koheleth: Days of Life & Days of Death.
§ 28. Epilogue: [Koheleth’s (Preacher’s) Final Words & Message: Wisdom & Man’s Duty: Fear God & Keep His Commadments & God’s Judgment]
Grammatical & Critical Commentary. Appendix: Excursus:
I. Talmud and the Old Testament Canon, with special reference to Hagiographa.
II. Talmudic statement that “Holy Scriptures defile hands.”
III. “Men of Great Synagogue.”
IV. Grammatical peculiarities of Book of Koheleth, & Glossary.
Index of Texts (200+) & General Names & Subjects (500+).
Chapter I: Admission of Book of Koheleth into Canon of Jewish Church:
Tradition of Talmud; Hezekiah & his Religious Reforms; His College of Scribes; Succeeded by men of Great Synagogue; Their work with respect to Canon; Views of Kuenen & Robertson Smith as to legendary character of that tradition; Summary of their leading arguments; Arguments in favour of its historical truth; Testimonies of Talmud; Early difficulties felt with regard to Book of Ecclesiastes; These difficulties, according to tradition, solved by men of Great Synagogue; Later contests with respect to Ecclesiastes between the Schools of Hillel & Shammai; Book admitted into the Canon previous to that controversy; Explanation of point in dispute; “Holy Scriptures defile hands”; Canonicity of Book of Ecclesiastes; Herodian theory of Professor Graetz; Book of Ecclesiastes quoted as canonical in interview between Herod the Great & Ben Buta; & Discussion respecting the Messianic Age between Gamaliel & his disciple; Probabilities in favour of that disciple having been St. Paul, note; Book of Ecclesiastes prior to Herodian era; Antilegomena of the Old and New Testament Canons.
“”Moses received the law from Sinai, and delivered it to Joshua, and Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets, and the prophets to the men of the Great Synagogue.” Such are the opening words of the remarkable treatise of the Talmud, entitled Massecheth Aboth, “the Sayings of the Fathers,” often termed Pirke Aboth, or “the Chapters of the Fathers.” The Prophets and the men of the Great Synagogue were, according to the Talmudic tradition, important links in the line of succession, not only of the Law, but also of the other Sacred Writings of the Jews.
In the latter days of the Jewish monarchy, Hezekiah was remarkable for the extent and boldness of his religious reforms. He restored the true religion of Jahaveh, the precepts and ritual of which had been disregarded in the dark days of Ahaz, and suppressed the open practice of idolatry throughout the land. But while he brake down the carved and molten images erected in every place, and according to the Jewish tradition destroyed the books of sorcery and incantations then current among the people, he also manifested the utmost concern in all matters connected with the preservation of the Sacred Writings of the nation. For this purpose, as may be inferred from Proverbs 25:1, he organized a special company of learned men interested in the study of that ancient literature. They busied themselves in collecting from all sides the Sacred Writings then extant, and in multiplying copies of those books. Under their superintendence a considerable number of the proverbs of Solomon, not previously included in the Book of Proverbs, were rescued from oblivion and added to the original collection. On account of such labours Hezekiah has been justly styled by a great modern critic and expositor, “the Pisistratus of Israelitish Literature.”
This important company, or College of Scribes, entitled in the Proverbs, “the men of Hezekiah king of Judah ” (inasmuch as the society was originally founded by that monarch), continued to exist as a Jewish institution for several centuries. It may have lasted, under some form or other, down to and during the period of the exile. According to the Talmud, ” Hezekiah and his college wrote Isaiah, Proverbs, Song of Songs and Koheleth” (Baba Bathra, 15 a). This statement is not to be regarded as a stupid anachronism. The fact that Hezekiah died previous to Isaiah was not forgotten, and the word “wrote ” was probably used in the sense of “copied out and edited.” For the College of Hezekiah continued in existence for centuries after the death of that monarch. “The men of Hezekiah” appear to have employed themselves in editing correct copies of the Sacred Writings, and while doing so to have occasionally, as in the case of the Book of Proverbs, added new matter to the old. It is highly probable that this body decided from time to time what books were to be regarded as of Divine authority. First estimates the period of its activity as extending from B.C. 724, when Hezekiah ascended the throne of Judah, to B.C. 444, when Nehemiah became governor of Judaea. “The men of Hezekiah” no doubt included in their number some of the “former prophets” (Zech. 1:4) and others known afterwards as “the latter prophets.” Hence that company may, perhaps, be referred to in the passage quoted from the Treatise Aboth, under the general term of “the Prophets.”
According to the tradition referred to, “the men of the Great Synagogue” in later days discharged the functions performed in earlier times by “the men of Hezekiah.” The establishment of the Great Synagogue is generally ascribed to Ezra. The accounts given of its origin and acts cannot, indeed, in all points be relied on as historically correct. Part of the work said to have been accomplished by the members of this body is thus described by Rashi: “The men of the Great Synagogue, namely, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi, seeing that Ezekiel and Daniel had died during the Babylonian Exile, and that the books of the twelve minor Prophets, as also the history of Esther,” were of small size, wrote out these anew from the books of the exile and formed the twelve into one book, in order that the single books might not be lost on account of their small size, and thus Esther and the four other books, Ruth, Koheleth, Song of Songs, and Lamentations, were united together. But they did so because they knew that after them the prophetic spirit would depart from Israel.” See his Comm. on Baba Bathra, 15 a.”……..[Chapter II compares Ecclesiastes (Koheleth of Solomom) with Ecclsiasticus (Sepher of Yoshua (Book of Jesus) benSirach. Chapter III compares Book of Wisdom with Book of Koheleth. Chapters IV & V considers Authorship & Authenticity against certain extreme Scholars & Critics. Chapter VI is against extreme Natural Rationalists & Social Philosophers of Modern Pessimism & Science & Buddhism. Chapter VII treats Book of Koheleth’s Pessimism (Fatalism) & Reation to Future State & Character of Women & Modern Pessimism. Chapter VIII closes with examination of last chapter of Koheleth concerning Days of Life & Days of Death.] (Wright’s Notes & Comments & Translation are excellent.)
5: From: Coheleth Commonly Called the Book of Ecclesiastes. Translations from Original Hebrew. Commentary Historical Critical, by Christian David Ginsburg. (1861) (Almost 300 pages of Introduction, 1/2 the Book. A very influential Book on future generations for serious scholars & students & his Massorah, 4 large volumes, is still a unique standards for Jews & Christians Biblical studies.)
Introduction: Section I: Title of Book, & Signification:
“This book is called in Hebrew (Qoheleth) ‘Coheleth’, the appellation which its hero gives himself. This term occurs seven times in the book; three times in the beginning (1:1,2,12), three times at the end (12:8,9,10), and once in the middle (7:27) of it. That it is not a proper name, but an ‘appellative’, is evident from its having the article in 12:8, and especially from its being construed with a feminine verb in 7:27. It is generally agreed that ‘Solomon’ is described by this designation, as David ‘had no other son’ who was King of Israel in Jerusalem; ‘vide’ 1:1,12.
The precise signification of this appellation has, from time immemorial, been a matter of great contention, and the occasion of numerous and most conflicting opinions. According to its form (qoheleth) is participle active feminine, Kal, from (qahal), kindred with (qol), Greek (kaleö), Latin ‘calo’, and our English word ‘call’; it signifies primarily ‘to call’, then ‘to call together’, ‘to assemble’, ‘to collect’. Like (dober), (kozeb), (noger), (qoweh), (shocher), this participle is the only instance in which ‘the Kal’ is used; but the sense is easily ascertained from the other conjugations. As the Niphal (niqhal) ‘i.e’. the passive of Kal, means ‘to be called’, ‘to be collected together’ (Exod. 32:1; Levit. viii. 8:4; Numb. 16:3; 17:7; Josh. 18:1; 22:12 ‘al’.), (qoheleth) the Kal part. act. fem. means ‘congregatrix’, ‘die Bersammeinde’, ‘die Bersammierin’, ‘collectress’, ‘female gatherer’. Now the difficulty consists in determining three questions, viz., what did Solomon collect? why does he bear this name here? and how came it to be in ‘the feminine gender’?…. (1) Natural signification of (qoheleth) therefore is, ‘an assembler of scattered people into the more immediate presence of God’; ‘a gatherer of those afar off unto God’; and we retain the literal meaning of ‘assembler’, ‘gatherer’…..(2) He has it ‘because it is descriptive of the design of the book, and because it connects his labours here with his work recorded in’ 1st Kings 8…..[After examining 13 views of Solomon as Qoheleth, both ancient and modern, he writes:] These interpretations are so far-fetched, and so unnatural, that they require no refutation, and the enumeration of them will tend to shew the soundness of the explanation we defend. (3)…Because Solomon personifies Wisdom, who appears herself, in Prov. 1:10, & 8:1, &c, as Coheleth, or ‘the Gatherer’ of the people….Such a personification of wisdom also occurs in the New Testament, as will be seen from a comparison of Luke 11:49,50, with Matt. 23:34, and is in perfect harmony with the notions which were current about Solomon, who is regarded as wisdom incarnate, and is represented as teaching in this capacity (Book of Wisdom, 7:7-9).”
Section III: Design & Method of Book:
Design of this Book, as has already been intimated (‘vide supra’, p. 2), is ‘to gather together the desponding people of God from the various expediencies to which they have resorted, in consequence of the inexplicable difficulties and perplexities in the moral government of God, into the community of the Lord, by shewing them the utter insufficiency of all human efforts to obtain real happiness, which cannot be secured by wisdom, pleasure, industry, wealth, &c., but consists in the calm enjoyment of Ufa, in the resignation to the dealings of Providence, in the service of God, and in the belief in a future state of retribution, when all the mysteries in the present course of the world shall be solved’.
Method which the sacred writer adopts to carry out this design is most striking and effective. Instead of writing an elaborate metaphysical disquisition, logically analyzing and refuting, or denouncing, ‘ex cathedra’, the various systems of happiness which the different orders of minds and temperaments had constructed for themselves, Solomon is introduced as recounting his painful experience in all these attempts. Thus by laying open, as it were, to the gaze of the people the struggles of a man of like feelings with themselves, who could fully sympathise with all their difficulties, having passed through them himself, and found the true clue to their solution, the sacred writer carries out his design far more touchingly and effectively than an Aristotelian treatise, or the Mount Ebal curses upon the heads of the people, would have done.
Book consists of ‘a Prologue’, ‘four sections’, and ‘an Epilogue’: the Prologue and Epilogue are distinguished by their beginning with the same phrase (1:1; 12:8), ending with two marked sentences (1:11; 12:14), and embodying ‘the grand problem’ and ‘solution’ proposed by Coheleth; whilst the four sections are indicated by the recurrence of the same formula, giving the result of each experiment or examination of particular efforts to obtain real happiness for the craving soul (2:26; 5:19; & 8:15).
Prologue: 1:2-11 —gives the theme or problem of the disquisition. Assuming that there is ‘no hereafter’, that the longing soul is to be satisfied with the things ‘here’, Coheleth declares that all human efforts to this effect are utterly vain & fruitless; that conscious man is more deplorable than unconscious nature: he must speedily quit this life, whilst the earth abides for ever; the objects of nature depart and retrace their course again, but man vanishes and is for ever forgotten.
1st Section: 1:11-2:26 —records the failure of different experiments to satisfy the cravings of the soul with temporal things, thus corroborating the allegation in the Prologue, & also shewing what their disappointment from this point of view led to. Coheleth, with all the resources of a monarch at his command, applied himself assiduously to discover, by ‘the aid of wisdom’, the nature of earthly pursuits, & found that they were all fruitless, since they could not rectify destinies. Reflecting, therefore, upon the large amount of wisdom he had acquired, he came to the conclusion that it is all useless, as the accumulation of it only increased his sorrow and pain. He then resolved to try ‘pleasure’, to see whether it would yield the desired happiness, but found that this too was vain, and hence denounced it; for, having procured every imaginable pleasure, he found that it was utterly insufficient to impart lasting good. Whereupon he compared wisdom with pleasure, & though he saw the former had a decided advantage over the latter, yet he also saw that it does not exempt its possessor from death & oblivion, but that the wise & the fool must both alike die & be forgotten. This made him hate both life & the possessions which, though acquired by industry & wisdom, he must leave to another, who may be a reckless fool, convincing him that man has nothing from his toil but wearisome days & sleepless nights; that there is, therefore, nothing left for man but to enjoy himself; yet this, too he found was not in the power of man, God gives this power to the righteous & withholds it from the wicked, and that it is, after all, transitory.
2nd Section: 3:1-5:19. — Having shewn in the preceding section that neither ‘wisdom’ nor ‘pleasure’ can ensure lasting good for man, Coheleth now shews that ‘industry’ is also unable to secure it.
All the events of life are permanently fixed, & hence the fruitlessness of human labour. God has indeed prescribed bounds to man’s employment, in harmony with this fixed order of things, but man through his ignorance often mistakes it, thus again shewing that there is nothing left for man but the enjoyment of the things of this world in his possession, being the gift of God to the righteous. The cause of this immutable arrangement in the events of life is, that man may fear God, & feel that it is He who orders all things. The apparent success of wickedness does not militate against this conclusion, since there is a fixed day for righteous retribution; but even if, as is affirmed, all terminates ‘here’, & man & beast have the same destiny, this shows all the more clearly that there is nothing left for man but to enjoy life, since this is his only portion. The state of suffering, however, according to this view, becomes desperate, & death, & not to have been born at all, are preferable to life. The exertions made, in spite of the prescribed order of things, either arise from jealousy, & fail in their end, or are prompted by avarice, & defeat themselves. Since all things are thus under the control of an Omnipotent God, we ought to serve Him acceptably, trust to His protection under oppression, remember that the rich oppressor, after all, has not even the comfort of the poor labourer, & that he often brings misery upon his children& himself. These considerations, therefore, again shew that there is nothing left for man but to enjoy life the few years of his existence, being the gift of God.
3rd Section: 6:1-8:15. —’Riches’ comes now winder review, and it, too, is shewn to be utterly unable to secure ideal happiness, since the rich man can neither overrule the order of Providence, nor know what will conduce to his well-being. And lastly, ‘prudence’, or what is generally (tailed ‘common sense’, is examined and shewn to be as unsatisfactory as all the preceding experiments. Coheleth thought that to live so as to leave a good name; to listen to merited rebuke; not to indulge in a repining spirit, but to submit to God’s Providence; to be temperate in religions matters; not to pry into everybody’s opinions —lessons of prudence or common sense, higher wisdom being unattainable; to submit to the powers that be, even under oppression, believing that the mightiest tyrant will ultimately be punished, and that, though righteous retribution is sometimes withheld, which, indeed, is the cause of increased wickedness, yet that God will eventually administer rewards and punishments , that this would satisfy him during the few years of his life. But as this did not account for the melancholy fact that the fortunes of the righteous and the wicked are often reversed all their life-time, this common sense view of life too proved vain; and Coheleth therefore recurs to his repeated conclusion, that there is nothing left for man but to enjoy the things of this life.
4th Section: 8:15-12:7. —To shew more strikingly the force of his final conclusion, submitted at the end of this section, Coheleth gives first a ‘resume’ of the investigations contained in the preceding sections. Having found that it is impossible to fathom the work of God by wisdom; that even the righteous & the wise are subject to this inscrutable Providence, just as the wicked; that all must alike die and be forgotten, & that they have no more participation in what takes place here; that we are therefore to indulge in pleasures here while we can, since there is no hereafter; that success does not always attend the strong & the skilful; & that wisdom, though decidedly advantageous in many respects, is often despised and counteracted by folly; that we are to be patient under sufferings from rulers, who by virtue of their power frequently pervert the order of things, since violent opposition may only tend to increase our sufferings; that the exercise of prudence in the affairs of life will be more advantageous than folly that we are to be charitable, though the recipients of our benevolence appear ungrateful, since they may after all requite us; that we are always to be at our work, and not be deterred by imaginary failures, since we know not which of our efforts may prove successful, and thus make life as agreeable as we can, for we must always bear in mind that this isthe only scene of enjoyment; that the future is all vanity: but as this too did not satisfy the craving of the soul, Coheleth at last came to the conclusion, ‘that enjoyment of this life, together with a belief in a future judgment, will secure real happiness for man, and that we are therefore to live from our early youth in the fear of God and of a final judgment’, when all that is perplexing now shall be rectified.
Epilogue: 12:8-12. —Thus all human efforts to obtain real happiness are vain; this is the experience of the wisest & most painstaking Coheleth; the Sacred Writings alone are the way to it; there is a righteous Judge, who marks, & will in the great day of judgment judge, everything we do; we must therefore fear Him, & keep His commandments.”
Section V: Historical Sketch of Exegesis of Book: (Reviews & Examination of key works.)
A: Jewish Expositions. (p. 27-99): Wisdom of Solomon, Midrash Jewish works, Rashi, Rashbam, Ibn Ezra (Rabe), Maimonides (Rambam), &c.
B: Christian Expositions.(p. 99-243): Gregory (Thaumaturgus), Gregory of Nyssa, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine, Olympiodorus, Elias of Crete, Hugo of St. Victor, &c, Nicholas de Lyra, Reformers (Luther, Melancthon, &c), &c.
Then, after 200 pages of reviews of Jewish & Christian & others relating to Qoheleth, Ginsburg writes: “What lessons of humility and forbearance ought we to learn from the sketch of what has befallen this book, when we see that ‘the pious’ and ‘the learned’, both among Jews and Christians, have, with equal confidence, advanced the most opposite and contradictory theories about its meaning! We are positively assured, as we have seen, that the book contains the holy lamentations of Solomon, together with a prophetic vision of the splitting up of the royal house of David, the destruction of the temple, and the captivity; and we are also told that it is a discussion between a refined sensualist or hot-headed worldling, and a sober sage —That Solomon makes known in it his repentance to all the Church, that thereby he might glorify God, and strengthen his brethren, thus imitating his father David in the fifty-first Psalm; and that he wrote it ‘.’ when he was irreligious and skeptical, during his amours and idolatry ” —That “the Messiah, the true Solomon, who was known by the title, Son of David, addresses this book to the saints ; “and that a profligate, who wanted to disseminate effectually his infamous sentiments, palmed it upon Solomon. It teaches us to despise the world, with all its pleasures, and flee to monasteries; it shews that sensual gratifications are man’s greatest blessings upon earth —It is a philosophic lecture delivered to a literary society upon topics of the greatest moment; it is a medley of detached and heterogeneous fragments belonging to various authors and different ages —It describes the beautiful order of God’s moral government, proving that all things work together for good to them that love the Lord; it proves that all is disorder and confusion, and that the world is the sport of chance —It is a treatise upon the ‘summum bonum’; it is “a chronicle of the lives of the kings of the house of David, from Solomon down to Zedekiah ” —Its object is to prove the immortality of the soul; and to deny a future existence —It is designed to comfort the unhappy Jews in their misfortunes; it contains the gloomy imaginations of a melancholy misanthrope —It “is intended to open Nathan’s speech (1st Chron. 17) touching the eternal throne of David; “it propounds the modern discoveries of anatomy, as well as the Harveian theory of the circulation of the blood —”It foretells what will become of men or angels to eternity (as found rebelliously fixing in their first-creation life and state of vanity, or obediently surrendering it for the second), in eternal life or death; “it propounds a view of life inclining to fatalism, scepticism, and epicureanism! What a solemn lesson for the pious and for the learned to abstain from dogmatism, and what an admonition not to urge one’s own pious emotions or ingenious conceits as the meaning of the Word of God!”
SONGS: Sherim: (Lovers Love Songs: Bride & Groom, David & Solomon, Israel & Messiah, etc.)
(Canticles: Solomon’s Song of Songs has been Outlined or Arranged in several important ways which govern the way the Book is interpreted: in 12 Canticles or 7 or 8; in various Acts & Scenes. The Book has been & is still viewed from extremes as Puritanical or Pornagraphic, and both are very wrong.)
1: From: Evidence from Scripture and History of the Second Coming of Christ about the year 1843 Exhibited in a Course of Lectures, by William Miller. (Miller was the primary influence for the Adventist Movement in America in the 19th century, which in turn became the 7th Day Adventist Church which became global or international; and Adventism continued to produce or form many other movements & groups (WatchTower & Jehovah’s Witness; Armstrong’s World Wide Church of God; &c.)
Lecture 18: Solomon’s Song: 8:5: “Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?”
“The text is a passage of divine inspiration, which strikes the mind of the hearer or reader with more than ordinary power and force; and is propounded by way of question, as though in the answer we might receive much instruction and useful knowledge. It is truly so; and may the Spirit of God assist us to gather honey from this beautiful flower from the wilderness. We find it in the Songs of Solomon, which are highly figurative and allegorical, and were when composed presented in poems or songs; but by reason of the translation they have come to us in prose. Some have supposed, that when Solomon composed this Song, or Songs, they were composed for dramatical performances, either as preludes, interludes, or epilogues. But I am of opinion that it was composed for a prophetic song of Christ and his church. But be that as it may, they certainly do represent, in rich and beautiful figures, the character and love of Christ for his church; likewise, her character and love towards her divine Master, her connection to him, and her dependence upon him in this state of trial. That the church has been, and will be, in a state of trial as long as she remains imperfect, cannot be doubted by any man of common reflection, perception, or knowledge. She has enjoyed her seasons of prosperity; and has been strongly tried in scenes of adversity. In tracing her history from the patriarch Abraham to the present day, we find her variable as the wind, and changeable as the weather. [The following descriptions are taken from the Songs and other Bible verses :] To-day, she is coming up out of the wilderness leaning on the arm of her beloved; to-morrow, “like a young roe leaping upon the mountains, and skipping upon the hills.” Now she is seen among the trees of the woods; next in a palace of silver inclosed in boards of cedar. There we saw her in the clefts of the rock; here we behold her in the broad way, in the streets of the great city. Again we find her among the foxes of the desert; and anon we perceive her seeking him whom her soul loveth. She is asleep on her bed by night; and the same night the watch finds her in the city. Behold her Lord, knocking at the door for admittance, while she is too indolent to arise and let him in. The next moment she is opening to her beloved; but he had withdrawn himself. At one time the voice of her beloved sounding over the hills, and echoing among the mountains like the roar of distant thunder, has no impression; next the soft whisper of love gains all her attention. Here blows the rough north wind and strong south wind upon her spices; yet they put forth no fragrancy. And there the lightest breeze makes her roses blossom, and all the air is perfume. See her countenance to-day black as the tents of Kedar; and to-morrow comely as the daughters of Jerusalem, and fair as the purple curtains of Solomon. Today she is “a garden barred, a spring shut up, a fountain sealed;” to-morrow “a garden open, a well of living waters, and streams from Lebanon.” Now she is weak as a babe; a single watchman can “smite, wound, and take away her vail;” and then she is courageous and valiant, “terrible as an army with banners.” Today she is made to keep another’s vineyard; to-morrow she is realizing a thousand pieces of silver from her own. She is truly a changeable being, carried about by the slightest circumstances. This is the description of the church, as given to us in this Song of Solomon’s. I shall therefore show in explanation of our subject, I. What has been the general character of the church in the wilderness; II. Her character when out of the wilderness; and, then, III. Make an application of our subject, by showing in what state the church may be considered at the present time……
2: Biblical Companion, Introduction Reading & Study of Holy Scriptures .etc. William Carpenter. (1836)
1. Chapter III of the Poetical Books.
3. The manner in which the Song of Solomon has been interpreted by most expositors, has had
the effect of exposing it to unmerited ridicule and contempt. Not entering into the style and spirit
of oriental poesy, they have given to some passages a coarse and indelicate appearance; and, not
distinguishing between the literal and the allegorical senses, they have destroyed the consistency and beauty of the poem, while they have bewildered the mind of the reader. To understand it well, requires not only a renewed heart and an enlightened mind, but a sober and cautious judgment. The spiritual senses must be exercised to discern clearly spiritual truths, and the imagination must be curbed by a reverential apprehension of the majesty and condescension of God. Among the Jews, they were not allowed to read it until they had attained the sacerdotal age of thirty years [30 for the Ecclesiastes (Koholeth) but 40 for the Song of Songs (Sher Sherim)].
3: From: Book of Canticles, or Song of Solomon, according to the English Version, Revised & Explained from the Original Hebrew. [F. Rolleston] (1859)
“In some cases it may be found that the modern Jews themselves take the least refined view of the meaning. Similar instances occur in poetry far less ancient and difficult. Should the pointing of the Hebrew text sometimes seem to require accommodation, it must be remembered that manuscripts vary, and that points, however ancient, however useful, are of human, not divine, origin. There are in Hebrew two words for love, one, Aheva, desiring1; another, (whence David, [beloved],) abiding, satisfying love . They may here be distinguished by 1 and 2, as the genders by (*, m) masculine, (†, f) feminine. These, as well as the beautiful word for a female friend [girl-friend], meaning a companion with whom to feed, break bread, (consequently in the East a bride or wife,) are very imperfectly appreciated in translations.
The ancient Jews understood this book to be an allegory of God’s love to the Jewish Church; the early Christians understood it as shadowing forth the love of Christ to the Christian Church, typified under the same figure by St. Paul, Eph. 5:32. A very large portion of the Christian Church in all ages has so considered it, and so it is interpreted here. Being part of the Jewish canon, to which our Lord referred as “the Scriptures”, thus giving it His infallible sanction, no further evidence of its inspiration need be sought: it is part of that Word of God “which cannot be broken”. Similar faith in the inspiration of the Apocalypse has always existed in the Christian Church. Before any of its predictions had been explained by the events, that faith reposed on Its internal divineness. The words were of God, spoken by the glorified Redeemer to all coining time. By such as knew and loved His words in the Gospel, the words of the Apocalypse were recognized as His. In both these mysterious portions of the ” One Book,” the Bible, the subject is the same, the love of Christ to His Church, her wanderings, her woes, her final union to her Lord in glory. Her inward feelings, those more or less experienced by every believer, are especially dwelt on in the earlier, her outward trials and earthly vicissitudes, in the later book. The termination of those troubles is in both the same. At the end of the Canticles the bride comes up out of the wilderness, leaning on her Beloved; as the bride of the Apocalypse, after long exile in its dreary solitudes, is brought to the holy city, the new Jerusalem, the abode of peace, wherein is the throne of God and of the Lamb.
It has been inferred that the English translation of the Book of Canticles could not be depended upon as to the speeches of the different speakers, from the difference of some of the ancient translations, especially as given in Walton’s Polyglot, but this difficulty is here met.
The English Version generally agrees with the pointed Hebrew that is given in Bagster’s Polyglot, which is the received text. Ancient translations may have been made from corrupt MSS., or from unpointed ones, in which case the gender of particular words could not always be clearly determined. As for instance the pronouns “thou,” “thee,” and “thy,” which in the spoken and pointed Hebrew are distinguished, but not in the unpointed. It is scarcely necessary to explain that the points express unwritten vowels, by which some pronouns and some parts of the verb are made feminine. The pronouns “he” and “she,” “this ” and “that,” do not depend on points, but are written with different letters, as are the feminine verbs in many parts of their conjugation. In these cases the gender does not admit of a doubt. In the Keri, or Jewish correction of their MSS., nothing occurs to alter the genders of the speakers, as given in the received text, though in chap. 4:9, the gender of the adjective “one,” as applied to “eyes,” is made regular. The verses in which the gender is fixed by letters, and not by mere points, are these: 1: 9,13-16; 2: 2-3, 6-10, 13, 16-17; 3: 1-6, 11; 4: 1, 7-12, 16; 5: 1, 2. 4-6, 9-16; 6: 1-4, 9-10, 13; 7: 1-11, 13; 8: 5, 8, 13-14.
In other places the pronouns “thou,” “thee,” “thy,” determine the genders by their points, with which the English generally agrees. But in chap. 8:5, 2nd clause, where the English is indefinite, the unpointed Hebrew is equally so, though the points make the five pronouns masculine. The verb translated “to raise” cannot apply to an infant, but is “to wake,” as in chap. 5:2; 3:5; 4:16. In chap. 2:1, it is probably the Bride who speaks, as there are two forms of the noun “lily,” and the feminine is here used. Though a noun-substantive be not altered in gender to suit the speaker, yet where there are two forms, as (shishn) and (shishnh), the use of the feminine would indicate a woman being the thing compared to it. “Rose” is always feminine, and though in Hebrew the comparison might be applied to the King, it is less likely; still it must be remeinbered that in Prov. 8 and Hag. 2 a noun with a feminine (or rather neuter) termination is so applied.
Luther prefaces his “High Song” of Solomon, by saying it is the desire of the Christian Church for her bridegroom Christ, and that the Christian Church longs for her bridegroom Christ in expectation and betrothment.
Some have held, that in the Canticles were set forth “the several ages and periods of the Christian Church, in agreement with the seven Churches of Asia, as [Johannes] Cocceius and those that follow him; as thus: [This dispensational interpretation in turn influenced the dispensational views of the 7 Churches of the Book of Revelation as Prophetic History of the Church & Churches.]
Ephesian Church, Cant. 1:5-7, from the Ascension of Christ to A.D. 370;
Smyrnean Church, Cant. 2:1-17, from A.D. 371 to 707;
Church at Pergamos, Cant. 3:1-11, from A.D. 708 to 1045;
Thyatiran Church, Cant. 4:1-5:1, from A.D. 1046 to 1383;
Sardian Church, Cant. 5:2-6:8, from A.D. 1384 to 1721;
Philadelphian, Cant. 6:9-7:14, from A.D. 1722 to 2059;
Laodicean, Cant. 8:1-14, from A.D. 2060, onwards;
“but these senses are very arbitrary, uncertain, & precarious.” (John Gill, in his Commentary) “There seem to be allusions & references to various passages of this book in the New Testament; see Matt. 21:33; 25:1. Mark 12:1. Luke 20:9. Matt. 25:1, &c. John 3:8, 29; 6:44. 2nd Cor. 11:2. Eph. 5:27, & Col. 2:17. Rev. 3:20; 19:7, 8, compared with Cant. 1:3, 4; 2:17; 4:1, 16; 5:1, 2; 7:13; 8:11, 12.” (Gill.)
The ancient Jews called this book “the holy of holies;” the Syriac version, ” the wisdom of wisdoms of Solomon.” By the Jews, ancient and modern, its inspiration and authenticity have never been questioned. “They have a saying, that wherever the word Solomon is used in this Song the Holy One is meant, the Holy God, or Messiah.” (Maimonides, quoted by Gill.) That they were familiarized by the prophets with this allegorical showing forth of the love of the Redeemer to the Church may be seen in the subjoined texts. Might it not be imparted to Adam before the fall or the creation of Eve? (Gen. 2) Betrothing, (Hos. 2:16-20. Isa 54:5. Eph. 5:29, 32.) Espousals, (Jer. 2:2; 3:14. 2nd Cor. 11:2. Isa. 62:4-5,) thy sons, rather thy builders. (Rev. 19:17.) (Isa. 50:1, divorcements.) Bride, (Isa. 11:18; 61:10; 62:5; Rev. 19.) Wife, (Isa. 54:1. Rev. 21:9. Ps. 45.) throughout.
His Revised Version with Notes: Song of Songs of Solomon: [David = Beloved; Solomon = Peace (masculine); Shulamite, Shulamith = Peace (feminine) (Pacifica); Jerusalem, Yeru-Salem = City of Peace; compare with AbiShag Shunamite (> Shunem = Shulem = Sulem = Salem = Salam), and see Gesenius (old and new) under Shulammith, Shulamite.]
Chapter I: [Shulamite Shepherdess & Jerusalem’s Virgin Daughters & Shepherd-King]
Bride [She to Virgins & to Him] [Shulamite Shepherdess: Beloved, Lover, Love, Friend] Speaks (1:1-4a), Virgins [Daughters of Jerusalem] to Bride [& Groom] (1:4b), Bride (1:5a), [to] Virgins (1:5b), Bride (1:5c), [to] Virgins (1:5d), Bride to Virgins [as Vine-Keeper] (1:6), Bride to King [Shepherd-King: David: Groom: Beloved, Lover, Love, Friend] (1:7), King [to Her as Shepherdess & Steed in Pharaoh’s Chariots ] (1:8-9), Virgins to Bride [Her Adornment] (1:10-11), Bride [ She to Them off Him] (1:12-14), King [He to Her] (1:15), Bride [She to Him] (1:16-17).
Chapter II: [Rose & Lily & Tree & Stag-Hart & Dove ]
Bride [Rose & Lily] (2:1), King [He of Her] (2:2), Bride [She of Him] (2:3-6), King [Charge to Them of the Beloved] (2:7), Bride [She of Him] (2:8-13), King [ He to Her as Dove] (2:14), Bride [She of & to Him] (2:15-17).
Chapter III: [Shepherd-King-David & King Solomon & Jerusalem’s Daughters]
Bride [She of Him & Watchmen] (3:1-4), King [Charge to Them of the Beloved](3:5), Virgins[: Coming Wilderness Traveler & King Solomon & His Glory & Jerusalem’s Daughters] (3:6-11).
Chapter IV: [Lover’s Love & Beloved’s Spouse & Beauty Compared]
King [He of & to Her of Her Beauty] (4:1-5), Bride [Desire to Escape] (4:6), King [He to & of Her] (4:7-15), Bride [Call to Winds to Blow on His Garden](4:16).
Chapter V: [Groom in His Garden & Friends. She Dreams of Her Beloved & Watchmen & Jerusalem’s Daughters & Her Beloved & His Beauty]
King [Groom comes to His Garden with Friends (5:1), Bride [She Dreams of Her Beloved] (5:2), Bride [She Dreams of Her Beloved & Meets Watchmen] (5:3-7), Bride [ She Charges Jerusalem’s Daughters to Tell Him] (5:8), Virgins [They Reply to Her about Him] (5:9), Bride [Her Handsome Beloved & His Beauty Compared & Jerusalem’s Daughters] (5:10-16).
Virgins [They to Her of Her Beloved] (6:1), Bride [Her Beloved in His Garden] (6:2-3), King [He to Her of Her Beauty as Jerusalem & Flock of Goats & Flock of Sheep & Pomegranate & Queen & Dove & Companions] (6:4-9), Virgins [They of Her as Morning, Moon, Sun, & Banners] (6:10), Bride [She Goes to Garden with People’s Chariots] (6:11-12), Virgins [They to Her to Return] (6:13a), Bride [See Shulamite as Company of 2 Armies (MahaNaim)] (6:13b).
Chapter VII: [They to Her of Her Beauty & He of Desire for Her & Her Desire for Her Beloved]
Virgins [They to Her of Her Beauty] (7:1-5), King [He to & of Her & His Desire] (7:6-9), Bride [Her Desire for Her Beloved to Elope] (7:10-13).
Bride [She Desires Him as Brother with Mother’s Instruction ] (8:1-3), King [Charge to Jerusalem’s Daughters] (8:4), Virgins [They of Her with Him] (8:5a), Bride [She to Him as Her Babe & Love] (8:5b-7), Mother’s Sons (Her Brothers) [They of Her as Little Sister] (8:8-9), Bride [She as Wall & Towers to Him Compared to Solomon’s Vineyard but Her Vineyard is Hers] (8:10-12), King [Desire to Hear Garden Dweller] (8:13), Bride [She Desires Her Beloved to Come as Roe or Hart on High Places (Mountains) of Balsams (Spices, Heavens)] (8:14).
4: From: Commentary of Song Songs, Ancient & Medieval Sources, by Richard F. Littledale, LLD. (1869)
Introduction: Song of Songs. Canticles. Solomon’s.
I: Canonicity of Song: ….”One fact alone remains undisputed, that of its inclusion within the Canon, both Jewish and Christian, from the earliest times of which we have any record.”…
Rabbinical Estimate of it: …..”Fully in accordance with this position is the remark of Rabbi Akiba, a contemporary of the Emperor Hadrian, saying, “ The entire history of the world does not present an epoch like the day when the Song of Songs was given to Israel, for though all the Hagiographa are holy, yet the Song of Songs is most holy.”…
First Objection to Mystical View Refuted: “It has been objected in modern times against the alleged admission by the ancient Jews of a mystical import underlying the letter, that they prohibited the perusal of the Canticles by all persons below thirty years of age, whence it has been argued either that the book was given in vain so far as all who died in youth were concerned, or that the very fact of with holding it establishes the denial of its spiritual character. This objection, apart from its failing to settle whether the Jews were. right or wrong in their discipline on this head, falls to the ground for two reasons; first, that the Rabbins extended the same prohibition to the beginning of Genesis and the earliest and latest chapters of Ezekiel, without any impeachment of their inspiration; and secondly, that the Eastern Church, like the Church of England, while avowedly upholding the mystical sense, refrains, on grounds of expediency, from public reading of the Canticles in divine worship, though the place of the book in the Old Testament Canon, as received by Christians, has been acknowledged ever since the earliest known list was drawn up by Melito, Bishop of Sardis, about A.D. 170.”
III: “The third question, and that which has been most eagerly contested of all, concerns the Interpretation of the Song, whether it is to be Mystical, Allegorical, or Literal, and in each of these cases what is the Method to be followed. As before, there is a Traditional View in possession, which has the pleas of remote antiquity, continuous tenure, and perfect consistency with itself in its favour. This view, common to the Talmud and Targum and to all Christian writers (with a brief exception to be noticed presently) for sixteen centuries, is that the poem is wholly mystical, with no historical basis whatsoever, and that it denotes the relations between ‘God’ and His Church, albeit there is much variety of detail in setting forth the particulars of this relation. An Intermediate View supposes an historical foundation for the Song, preferably the bridal of Solomon with Pharaoh’s daughter, and holds that a superstructure of religious allegory has been raised on this basis, as in that other case of the Exodus, so frequently used as a type of spiritual deliverance from sin. And a Third View, almost exclusively modern, denies all inner meaning to the poem, save of the most incidental kind, and maintains a literal exposition. The Mystical Interpretation, which forms the subject matter of the commentary in this volume, and which traces the history of the Divine dealings with man under the Law and the Gospel, has in its favour a cumulative mass of evidence of a very cogent nature. In the first place, the relationship of marriage is very frequently used in Scripture to denote the union between ‘God’ and the chosen people, the ornaments of a bride and abundant progeny are the promised rewards of devotion and obedience, barreness and divorce are the threatened punishments of spiritual adultery. There is thus no antecedent improbability, as has been alleged, in the nuptial imagery of the Song having a mystical signification. This comes out most clearly in from the that Book which has most obviously approached, if not actually borrowed, the Language of the Canticles, namely, the prophecy of Hosea, in which the marriage of ‘God’ to Israel, and her sins against the nuptial bond, are steadily dwelt upon. A further illustration is afforded by the language of the forty-fifth Psalm, which represents a King, who is styled ‘Lord’ and ‘God’, as the Spouse of a Virgin Bride, and which is directly applied to ‘Christ’ in the Epistle to the Hebrews. As the structure of this Psalm, like that of the 72nd, absolutely forbids its literal application to any mere human sovran, save at the hands of those who are resolved to see no Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament, be the evidence what it may, it contributes a most important item of proof to the tenability of the traditional view. This is further borne out by the Gospels, the Pauline Epistles, and the Revelation. The Baptist speaks of ‘Christ’ as the Bridegroom, and of himself as the Bridegroom’s friend; while the ‘Saviour’, in defending His disciples from the charge of religious laxity, applies the name Bridegroom to Himself, and that of “children of the bridechamber” to His followers. St Paul illustrates the metaphor further by declaring that he has “espoused” his converts “ as a chaste virgin, to ‘Christ’,” and that earthly marriage is only a type of a heavenly mystery. The Apocalypse, with its description of the heavenly Jerusalem as the Bride of the Lamb, and of the final triumph of the redeemed as His marriage feast, completes the chain of Scriptural evidence; and if the mystical interpretation of the Canticles be set aside, it becomes exceedingly difficult to explain the use of this peculiar imagery, which cannot be traced to any other source.
The plea that not marriage, but courtship, which leads to marriage, is the scope of the Song, has been urged against the Catholic view, but vainly in the face of the recurrent phrase “the Virgin of Israel” in the Old Testament, and the clear statement of the New that the marriage has not yet come, and only the be trothal has taken place. The next argument of weight is that which serves to repel the ‘a priori’ objections taken to the form and diction of the poem as a vehicle for spiritual ideas. If it could be shown that the Song, if mystically explained, is an isolated phenomenon, having no parallel in any literature, very much would be done towards discrediting the ancient view. But such is not the case. (Parallels in Arabic & Persian Literature:) The Arab nation, which in blood and language is most nearly allied to the Hebrews, has preserved to the present day the custom of chanting in Public Worship Songs in which the religious meaning is veiled under the ordinary terms of earthly love. The service at which these are recited is called a ‘Zikr’, the poems themselves (usually in honour of Mohammed) ‘muweshshah’.”……
4: Solutions Proposed for this difficulty: “The sense that this is so has prompted, at solutions different eras, various tentative solutions of the difficulty. The earliest of these was propounded by Theodore of Mopsuestia in the 1st quarter of the 5th century, and represented the Song as merely an epithalamium [< epi ‘upon’ + thalamos ‘bridal-chamber’] on the marriage of Solomon with Pharaoh’s daughter or with Abishag the Shunammite. This theory, after being condemned in express and forcible terms in the 5th General Council, disappeared completely for more than 800 years, when it was reproduced for a moment by Gregory Abulfaraj. It rested again till revived by Grotius, who allowed it, nevertheless, to include an allegory; and it was finally developed into a very elaborate form by the celebrated Bossuet, in 1690, whose genius gave it a measure of popularity amongst scholars till the early part of the present century, when the ingenious criticisms of Dr. Mason Good (some of which had been anticipated long before by Natalis Alexander,) established the utter incongruity of the language of the Song with the circumstances of a State alliance and with the national surroundings of an Egyptian princess, to whom the pastoral character of the Bride could in no wise be accommodated. The eloquent words in which Theodoret expresses the mind of the Church in his day against the views ascribed to Theodore of Mopsuestia merit citation. In the preface to his commentary on the Canticles, he says: “Since the majority of those who ‘slander the Song of Songs and deny it to be a spiritual book, weave fables unworthy of crazy old women, some of them saying that Solomon the Wise wrote it concerning himself and Pharaoh’s daughter; a few authors of the same stamp alleging that Abishag the Shunammite is the Bride, and not Pharaoh’s daughter; while others, taking a somewhat more philosophical view, call it the Royal Speech, so as to understand the people by the Bride and the King by the Bridegroom; we think that we shall be well employed in refuting at the outset of our exposition these false and mischievous theories, and then will proceed to set forth the true and clear meaning of the author. And yet these men ought to know that the holy Fathers, much their superiors in wisdom and spiritual insight, were they who placed this Book amongst the divine Scriptures, and approving it as full of the ‘Spirit’, pronounced it worthy of the Church. For had they thought otherwise, they would never have included a work whose subject was passion and desire in the number of Holy Writ….Not only Eusebius of Palestine, and Origen the Egyptian, and Cyprian of Carthage, crowned with the diadem of martyrdom, and men earlier than they were and nearer to the Apostles, but also those who were afterwards famous in the Churches, Basil the Great in his exposition of the beginning of Proverbs, and the two Gregories, allied to Basil, one by blood and the other by friendship, and that valiant champion of religion Diodorus, and John, who to this day waters the whole earth with the streams of his teaching, and they who came still later, all pronounced this Book to be spiritual…. Coming then from the old to the new Bride, let us in this wise interpret the Song of Songs, and rejecting false and mischievous theories, let us follow the holy Fathers, and recognize one Bride conversing with one Bridegroom; and learn from the holy Apostles who that Bridegroom and Bride may be. For the inspired Paul teaches us that, writing thus, ‘I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ,’ (2 Cor. 11:2). He calls her a Bride who is made up of many. For he does not say, ‘ I have betrothed ‘thee’ [sing. individ.],’ but ‘you’ [plur., collectiv.] that is, holy souls,’ perfected in virtue. For Divine Scripture understands the Church by the Bride, and calls ‘Christ’ the Bridegroom.””…
(Sample:) Commentary: Chapter I:1-3: (Verses < Old & New Testaments; Quotes < Church Fathers, Rabbis, &c. e.g.: Origen; Ex.15:1; Num. 21:17; Deut. 32:1; Jud. 5:1; 2nd Sam. 22:; Is. 5:; Targum; Is.30:29; Aponius; Ricard.; Victorin.;Rupert.; Theodore; Eph. 5:19; Nicol. Argent.; Honor.; Aug.; St Greg.; Magn.; St Bernard; &c.)
1: The song of songs, which is Solomon’s.
‘Song of songs’. (Origen:) “As we have been taught by Moses that there are not only holy holies, that there are not only other Sabbaths, but Sabbaths of sabbaths; so now we are taught, by the pen of Solomon, that there are not only songs, but a Song of songs. Blessed, truly, is he who enters into the holy place, but more blessed he who enters the Holy of holies. Blessed is he who keepeth the Sabbath, but more blessed who kee eth the Sabbath of sabbaths. So, too, blessed is he who understands songs, and sings them, for no one does sing save on high festivals, but much more blessed is he who sings the Song of songs. And as he, who enters into the holy place, still needs much ere he is able to proceed into the Holy of holies, and as he who keeps the sabbath enjoined on the people by the ‘Lord’, wants many things that he may keep the Sabbath of sabbaths, so too he who traverses all the songs of Holy Writ, finds it no easy thing to ascend to the Song of songs. Thou must needs go out of Egypt, and, issued thence, cross the Red Sea, that thou mayest sing the first song, sayin, ‘I will sing unto the ‘Lord’, for He hath triumphed gloriously.’ (Exod. 15:1) And even though thou mayest have sung this first song, thou art still far from the Song of songs. Pass spiritually through the wilderness, till thou comest to the well, which the princes dug, that thou mayest there sing the second song. Afterwards approach the borders of the Holy Land, and, standing on Jordan’s banks, sing the song of Moses, ‘Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth.’ Yet again, thou needest soldiers, and the inheritance of the Holy Land, and that a bee should prophesy to thee and judge thee —for Deborah is, by interpretation, bee —that thou mayest utter that hymn also, which is contained in the Book of Judges. Ascending to the record of the Kings, come to the song when David escaped from the hands of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul, and said, ‘The ‘Lord’ is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer.’ Thence thou must reach Isaiah, that thou mayest say with him, ‘I will sing to my Beloved a song of my Beloved touching His vineyard.’ And when thou hast traversed all these, go up yet higher, that thou mayest with pure soul cry unto the Bridegroom this song of songs.” The Targum counts up ten songs, adding to Origen’s list those of Adam, sung after his fall and pardon; Joshua’s at Ajalon; and a tenth, never yet uttered, to be sung by the people of ‘God’ at the end of their long captivity, to which applies that prophecy, “Ye shall have a song, as in the night when a holy solemnity is kept.” This one, however, is the Song of songs, because as ‘Christ’ our ‘Lord’, as Man, surpassing all Apostles, Patriarchs, Prophets, and heavenly powers, is King of kings, and ‘Lord’ of lords, so this song, since entirely concerning Him and His Bride, excels, and includes in itself, all the hymns of victory, of thanksgiving, of instruction, and of lamentation in Holy Writ, just as the bridal feast surpasses all others, and since no blessing which other songs commemorate can be compared with the Incarnation. And as the Apostle tells his hearers to speak to themselves “in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs,” we understand that psalms, accompanied by an instrument, denote the active life of charity, and hymns the contemplative life, and songs, embracing these two, are the life of the righteous, who give soul and body to ‘God’; while the ‘Song of songs’, that holy secret which only ‘God’s’ unction can teach, only spiritual experience can make clear, is the life of the perfect. The Song is Solomon’s, the third in order of his books, following Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, to teach us that after they have passed the purgative way, by following the moral precepts of the first of these; and the illuminative way, by learning in the second that all earthly things are vanity, and ‘God’ alone to be desired; we attain in the third place to the unitive way, and by it make our entrance into the Holy of holies, where the High Priest, our Bridegroom, stands, that we may there sin the song of perfect love, —there only, for “how shall we sing the ‘Lord’s’ song in a strange land? It is ‘Solomon’s’, for Solomon means Peaceful, and ‘Christ’, to Whom it in truth appertains, is “our Peace,” having been “made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption.”
2: Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.
First, say the Fathers in general, it is the cry of the Synagogue, ‘God’s’ ancient Church, yearning for the Incarnation of ‘Christ’, and desiring that ‘God’ would no more speak to her only by the voices of angels and prophets, but face to face. I care not, she says, to hear Moses, who is slow of speech to me, the lips of Isaiah are unclean, Jeremiah cannot speak, for he is a child, and all the Prophets are tongueless. Let Him of Whom they speak, Himself speak, ‘let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth’. And His answer is set down for us by the Apostle: “ God, Who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His ‘Son’.” She asks for His kiss, because as two separate bodies unite in the act of kissing, so ‘Christ’, by His becoming flesh, united ‘God’ and man together, two natures in One Person. And as a kiss denotes peace and reconciliation, it is the fit greeting of Him, our peaceful Solomon, Who came to us as ‘God’ and Saviour’. It is also the cry of the Gentile world, yearning for the teaching of the ‘Holy Spirit’ for as t e breath of one that kisses is felt by the one that is kissed, so by the kiss of ‘Christ’, we understand the inspiration of the ‘Holy Ghost’ Whom He hath sent. Next, the words belong to every faithful soul which desires the presence of its ‘Lord’. See, exclaims a Saint, how sudden is the opening of her address. Asking a great thing from a mighty Person, she uses no customary fiattery, she takes no indirect way to that which she longs for. She makes no preface, she seeks not to conciliate good-will, but breaking out from the abundance of her heart, says, in plainest and boldest words, ‘Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth’. ‘His mouth’. Yes, but it is not every one who dares ask this, but only such as have already received the pledge of love, and desire it again. For us sinners it is fitter to fall down trembling at the feet of our righteous ‘Lord’, like the publican, not daring to look up, but like the sinful woman, content to kiss His feet, and to bathe them with our tears. Then, when He hath said, “Thou art made whole, sin no more, lest a worse thing happen to thee,” we may dare to rise a little, and kiss the Hand which has cleansed and lifted us, giving Him the homage and glory which are His due. At last, after man tears and prayers, we may, in fear and trembling, lift our heads to His glorious month, not merely to gaze upon it, but to kiss it. To Thee, O ‘Lord Jesus’, to Thee has my heart fitly said, Thy Face, ‘Lord’, will I seek. For Thou madest me to rear of Thy mercy betimes in the morning, when, as I lay in the dust, kissing Thy sacred footsteps, Thou forgavest me the sins of my life. Then, as the day grew on, Thou madest glad the soul of Thy servant, bestowing on me the grace of holy living in the kiss of Thy Hand. And now what remains, O gracious ‘Lord’, save that in the fulness of light, in the fervour of the Spirit, Thou, mercifully admitting me to the kiss of Thy mouth also, wouldst fill me with joy with Thy countenance? Note, too, how it is said ‘Let Him kiss me’, with no name particularized, no context to explain who is meant. And that because to the Bride there can be but One to think of, because her word ever is, “ Whom have I in heaven but Thee? and there is none on earth I desire in comparison of Thee.” She asks, too, not for a single kiss, but for ‘kisses’, for those seven great gifts of the ‘Spirit’ which ‘Christ’ bestows, and for other graces besides. And He gives them in four ways, by His Incarnation, by His conversation amongst men as their Teacher, by mystical incorporation with us for our redemption, and by the final glory which He promises. Peace with ‘God’ in ‘Christ’, is then the scope of the Bride’s longings, as she prays for illumination, for love, for perfect union with Him of Whom she says, “Full of grace are Thy lips, wherefore ‘God’ hath blessed Thee for ever.” His lips, which give the kiss, are His truth and sweetness, hers, which receive it, are her understanding and affection. And He has heard the cry of His Bride, and answered it, giving her more than she asked, giving her Himself again and again in the Holy Sacrament of the Altar. “ The soul,” observes an ancient writer, “ sees herself cleansed from all her sins, and fitted to approach the Altar of ‘Christ’. She sees the wondrous sacrament and saith, Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth, let ‘Christ’ Himself impress His kiss on me.” And Simeon Metaphrastes, in that hymn which the Eastern Church puts in the mouth of her children before Communion, speaks of the kiss which the penitent soul offers in turn to her ‘Lord’ in that sacred rite:
More than the harlot I have erred, who, learning Thine abode,
Made purchase of the precious nard, and boldly took her road
To seek and to anoint Thy feet, O ‘Christ’, my ‘God’ and ‘Lord’,
And, as she came with love to greet, was not by Thee abhorred.
So, ‘Word’ of ‘God’, calm Thou my fears, and give me, not despised,
Thy feet to clasp, and kiss, and wash with tears, that nard unpriced.
The soul may kiss her Lord also by acts of love and compassion towards His poor, and will be rewarded by Him therefore with that last kiss which He will give at the Doom, saying, “Come, ye blessed.” But they who have not so kissed Him here, shall see His face no more, for He will turn His back upon them. And that which is true of the Church, and true of every believing soul, is especially true of her who is the Church’s fairest ornament, the purest and most blessed of Saints, the Virgin Mother of ‘God’. The words are her prayer to ‘God’ the ‘Father’, that by the breath of His mouth, which is the ‘Holy Ghost’, He may give her that ineffable kiss, His Only-begotten ‘Son’. When the Angel brought her the marvellous tiding s of her true betrothal, then by her answer, “ Behold the handmaid of the ‘Lord’, be it unto me according to thy word,” she did in truth say, ‘Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth’. And after His nativity, the prayer was yet more literally answered, when the tender Mother hung over her infant ‘Lord’, and clasped Him to her breast. And His love so endured that even at the last moment of life He bent to offer His kiss. “He bowed His head to His Mother,” says a holy writer, “ and to all mankind, as though bidding His last farewell, and offering the kiss of peace. See here, O faithful soul, the unspeakable love of thy ‘God’, that He loved us unto the end.” And we learn hereby the pain as well as the sweetness of His kiss…..
‘For Thy love is better than wine’. The change from the third person to the second, from speaking ‘of’ the Bridegroom to speaking to Him, denotes, some Fathers say, is swift appearing in fulfilment of His Bride’s desire, coming even before He is actually called; showing how more than ready ‘God’ ever is to answer our prayer, according to that saying of the Prophet, “ Before they call, I will answer: and while they are yet speaking, I will hear.” The LXX and Vulgate have ‘Thy breasts’. And some tell us that the gentle teaching of ‘Christ’, drawn from the secret treasures of His wisdom and knowledge, is meant thereby, milk fitted for babes, ‘better than the wine’ of human wisdom or even of the old Law. Philo of Carpasia and several others see in the ‘breasts’ the two Testaments, both given by ‘Christ’, whence the sincere milk of the Word, refreshing, and not hurtful like wine, is granted to mankind. And a kindred explanation is found in those writers who will have the Apostles and Doctors of the Church to be meant here. The ancient exposition of the Three Fathers interprets the words of the hidden grace of the Holy Eucharist, with which agrees well that passage of St Chrysostom: “See ye not with what eagerness infants seize the breast, with what pressure the fix their lips upon the teats? Let us approach with no less desire to this Table, and to the spiritual breast of this Chalice, nay, with yet greater longing , let us, as sucking children, drink in the grace of the ‘Spirit’; let it be our one sorrow, our one grief, if we be stinted of this spiritual food.” Some of the interpretations, however, bring us back to the true mean of the literal Hebrew, ‘Thy loves’. Thus St Bernard bids us see here the long-suffering of ‘Christ’ in bearing with sinners, and His loving-kindness in receiving them when they return to Him…..
3: Because of the savour of thy good ointments thy name is as ointment poured forth,
therefore do the virgins love thee.
The first clause here does not exactly represent the existing Hebrew text, nor yet any of the chief versions. The true rendering is, ‘Pleasant for odour are Thine ointments’. The LXX reads, ‘The perfume of Thine ointments is above all spices’. And the Vulgate, connecting the words with the previous verse, has ‘[Thy breasts are] fragrant with the best ointments’. The Bride, observes Origen, had already some acquaintance with spices, to wit, the words of the Law and the Prophets, wherewith, before the Bridegroom’s coming, she was partially instructed and trained for the service of ‘God’, as still in her early youth, and under tutors and governors, for “ the Law was our schoolmaster, to bring us unto ‘Christ’.” All these were spices, wherewith she seems to have been nourished and made ready for her Bridegroom. But when the fulness of time was come, and she came of age, and when the ‘Father’ sent His Only-begotten into the world, anointed by the ‘Holy Ghost’, the Bride, smelling the fragrance of the divine unction, and perceiving that all those spices which she had been hitherto using were far inferior compared with the sweetness of this new and heavenly ointment, saith, ‘The perfume of Thine ointments is above all spices’….. All Thy garments smell of myrrh, aloes, and cassia.” The Latin Fathers, following the Vulgate, explain the passage somewhat differently. As they often speak of the Apostles and Doctors of the Church as the breasts of Christ, so they call them here ‘fragrant’, because eminent for miracles and holiness, so that the perfume of their righteousness came abroad, giving delight and refreshment to their hearers. And in this sense we may take the words of S. Paul: “Now thanks be unto GOD, which always causeth us to triumph in ‘Christ’ and maketh manifest the savour of His knowledge by us in every place, for we are unto ‘God’ a sweet savour of ‘Christ’.” St Bernard, who supposes the breasts to be of the Bride as well as of the Bridegroom, tells us that she is fragrant with the triple unction of contrition, devotion, and of piety; the first pungent, causing pain, the second lenitive, soothing pain, the third healing, and even expelling disease. The first is made by the soul breaking and grinding her sins in the mortar of conscience, and then distilling them within the crucible of a glowing heart with the fire of penitence and grief, that she may say, “My heart was hot within me, and while I was thus musing, the fire kindled.””…..
On 6:13 of the Shulamite: Return, return, O Shulamite; return, return, that we may look upon thee. What will ye see in the Shulamite? As it were the company of two armies.
The first question to be settled here is the meaning of the name ‘Shulamite’. One literalist view is that it is a local appellation from a supposed place ‘Shulem’, formed by the same analogy as Shunammite from Shunem. And in fact the LXX does read ‘Sunamitis’, and the Vulgate did read it, so that a reference to Abishag has been seen here by some ancient writers, and Abishag herself by some modern ones. Another opinion is that the name is strictly a proper one, the personal name of the Bride, akin, perha s, to ‘Shelomith’, the feminine form of the name Solomon. And this brings us closer to the mystical view, which takes the word as an adjective, and explains it variously as “belonging to Solomon,” or “daughter of Salem,” or “perfect ;” or again, most satisfactorily, as “ Peaceful,” which last is supported by the authority of Aquila, who translates it (eirëneuousa). One other suggested meaning is that of Symmachus, who, deriving the epithet from (shalal), ‘shalal’, ‘spoliavit’, views it as equivalent to “ plundered,” or “ captive,” (eskuleumenë). Either of these last-given meanings will suit the Synagogue, to which the Targum applies the verse, paraphrasing thus: “’Return’ to Me, O congregation of Israel, ‘return’ to Jerusalem, ‘return’ to the House of My Law, ‘return’ to receive prophecy from the Prophets who prophesy in the Name of the Word of the ‘Lord’. Israel heard and obeyed the call, notes De Lyra, and returned at four several times after the Captivity; first, under Zorobabel and Ezra, in the reign of Cyrus; secondly, in the next migration headed by Ezra in the seventh year of Artaxerxes; thirdly, under Nehemiah; and, fourthly, when Judas Maccabeus cleansed and restored the profaned sanctuary. The ‘We’, then, Who desire to look upon the Shulamite, and therefore call her back, may best be taken, as many of the Fathers do take it, of the Most ‘Holy Trinity’, calling the wandering Church, Jewish or Christian, or the soul which has gone astray, back to its true home, to the presence of the Divine Countenance. It is, notes Rupert, the Voice of Amminadab Himself as He sits upon His chariot, saying, Thou, ‘O Shulamite’, that is, captive or depised, thou, O faith, O dignity of the true Priesthood (wellnigh given up to oblivion through carnal ceremonies, so that the Synagogue knows not, and thinks not that her father Abraham was justified by thee, and not by the Law, as it is written, “Abraham believed ‘God’, and it was counted unto him for righteousness,”) ‘return’, and again I say, ‘return’, and a third time I say, ‘return’, and a fourth time I say, ‘return’, one call for each horse of My chariot. For I was born and I suffered to this end, that thou mightest return, and rise again, and ascend into heaven to Me, and therefore till thou dost return I cease not My calling upon thee…..
‘What will ye see in the Shulamite?’ Who asks the question, and of whom? They reply , for the most part, that the Bridegroom addresses the daughters of Jerusalem, and tells them of the aspect which the Synagogue will present when it has returned to the faith. The Three Fathers alone suppose that the Shulamite herself both puts the questlon and answers it. As it were the com any of two armies. The ancient versions and the English one have each lost something in translating this verse. The latter, by rendering (mecholath) ‘mecholath’, merely ‘company’, has missed the true force of the word, which is ‘dancing company’, preserved in the (choroi) of the LXX and the ‘choros’ of the Vulgate. On the other hand, these versions have omitted to take notice of the dual form ‘Mahanaim’, found here as in Gen. 32:2, and have turned it merely as ‘camps’, with no mark of number. There appears at first sight, says Theodoret, an inconsistency between the words ‘choirs’ and ‘camps’, for the one has to do with feasting, and the other with war. But as the Bride is made up of many Saints, she is like to camps because of her valiant soul and warlike panoply, and she is at the same time the choir which as in its mouth the praises of ‘God’. And after showing how David tells us of the Church’s song and St Paul of her weapons and conflict, the good Bishop continues: That the Saints are not merely like camps, but like choirs also, let us hear the ‘Lord’ telling: “Then shall the kingdom of heaven be likened unto ten virgins, which took their lamps, and went out to meet the Bridegroom.” He says well, then, ‘What will ye see in the Shulamite, who cometh like chairs of camps?’ (LXX) He does not say, “camps of choirs,” but ‘choirs of camps’. For the choirs are gathered out of the camps, since when brave soldiers in camps have been victorious, they return singing the paean, and chanting in the dance the song of triumph. So the old Western hymn for All Saints:
Spouse of ‘Christ’, in arms contending, O’er each realm beneath the sun,
Blend with prayers for help ascending, Notes of praise for triumphs won.
‘What will ye see?’ Nothing else save these military choirs? No blood of victims, no rite of circumcision? No, all is gone save combat and praise, because “it seemed good to the ‘Holy Ghost’ to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things.” And observe, that as in choirs it is necessary that the cassiodor, singers and dancers should keep time together, we have here a type of the need of harmony and union in the Church. And if we dwell on the phrase dancing, we shall remember how the women of Israel went out after Miriam with timbrels and dances, when she sang of the overthrow of the Egyptians; how the Psalmist bids the children of Sion raise their King in the dance and with the cymbals; how the saddest of Prophets can yet declare that in the day of the ‘Lord’s’ redemption “the virgin shall rejoice in the dance.” But this dance, as Theodoret has already told us, is not merely one of girls, nor yet of peaceful priests, such as David shared in when he danced before the ark. It is one of tried warriors, whose swords and shields make the music to which they keep step; and it is of ‘two armies’, not met in deadly rivalry, but in close and perfect alliance, met in her who is the Peaceful, the Church Triumphant, where the two bands move beneath Jacob’s staff, Jew and Gentile in the Church Militant on earth, men and Angels in the Church Triumphant in heaven. Until the great day of the last battle against the hosts of evil shall dawn, these two choirs join in the mingled Song of Moses and the Lamb, but the time will come when the Song of Moses, with its echoes of war, shall be forgotten, and only the new Song of eternal peace shall be heard from the lips of the Peaceful as she sings the praises of the Prince of Peace, her Spouse…..
And they will truly be ‘Mahanaim’, the two heavenly armies of the ‘Lord’ of Hosts, for the ranks of the celestial hierarchies, long broken since the fall of the rebels under Lucifer, shall be filled up with ransomed men, now “like the Angels which are in heaven.”
5: From: Essay on Canticles, Song of Songs, Translation of Poem, Short Explanatory Notes. Rev, W. Houghton. (1865)
Introduction: Essay on Canticles: (After survey & selections of the various views of Jews & Christians in the hermeneutics of the Song in allegory, type, & literal senses, admiring Lowth in leading the way from allegory to literalism, basing his book and doctrine in Ginsburg work, and dedicating his volume to Bishop Colenso as the Apostle and Prophet of the new Higher Biblical Criticism, he gives us his doctrine:) “The simple story of this beautiful poem may be told in a few words. A village girl of Shulem, the only daughter of her widowed mother, is betrothed to a young shepherd. Their attachment appears to have excited the fears of her brothers, who were anxious for her welfare and the preservation of her chastity. They kept a strict watch over her and sent her to look after the vineyards on their farm, where continual exposure had the effect of burning her complexion.
Whether the young Shulamite was married to her shepherd lover at the time of which the poem treats, or whether she was still only betrothed, it is not easy to decide positively. I incline to the opinion that the young couple were married. One day when on a visit to or from her garden, where she had gone to see the opening buds of spring, —all unawares, she fell in with the cortege of King Solomon, who was, it is probable, on a spring visit to the country. Her beauty and attractions arrest the king’s attention, and he captures [?] the Shulamite damsel, places her in the royal palanquin, and takes her, an unwilling companion, to the palace at Jerusalem. She is introduced into the harem, where her sun-burnt face attracts the notice of the fair ladies of the court. True to her humble shepherd lover, the virtuous girl resists all the allurements of Solomon to win her affection. She will think only of her own true love; she asks the other ladies of the harem to leave her alone that she may enjoy the thoughts of his excellence and the assurance that she was his and he hers. The shepherd is supposed to follow her to the palace, and to gain sight of her from the outside of the palace. Solomon, finding that all his advances are in vain, allows her to leave the royal palace. Hand in hand the two faithful lovers proceed to her home, and under the quince tree, where the love-spark was first kindled, they stop and renew their vows of constancy and fidelity. The companions of the shepherd see them coming, and when they meet he asks his young wife* to sing for them, which she does in words she had formerly used under the circumstances of their separation. *(The question as to whether the Shulamite and shepherd were or were not married, can only be decided, in the absence of other indications, by the meaning of the Hebrew word ,(kallah) (‘callah’), which, being most probably derived from a root signifying “to crown,” favours the opinion of those who maintain that the pair was wedded. The word also signifies “daughter-in-law,” and is so rightly rendered by the English version in several passages.)
Such are the main features of the plot of this poem, which I now present before my readers.
Commentary: Specimen of Chapter 1:1-3:
Ch. 1:1. The Song of Songs, Which is Solomon’s. Part I.
A Court Lady of the Harem addressing Solomon.*(This is simply the inscription, and certainly not the statement of the author of the poem; it is similar to the inscriptions in the Book of Psalms, ascribing certain Psalms to different authors, as “a Psalm of David,” “a Psalm or Song of Asaph,” &c, and should have been printed in small type distinct from the poem itself. The inscriptions of the Psalms are, it is well known, not always trustworthy. They are, in some cases, “due to the guess of a later writer.” (See Perowne on the Psalms, p.105) The question of authorship must be decided by the internal evidence supplied by the style and contents of the different hymns.
2. Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, For thy caresses are better than wine; *(The scene is supposed to be laid in the gynaecium, or women’s apartment of Solomon’s tent, or summer-house in the country. The king is surrounded by the court ladies, who address him in amorous language. The Shulamite is brought in, and begs her lover to deliver her. The court ladies look with astonishment upon her, and are inclined to despise her on account of her sun-burnt face, occasioned, as she tells them, by the harsh conduct of her brothers, who compelled her to keep their vineyards. She longs to know where her shepherd lover is feeding his flock (1:1-7). Some commentators suppose that the Shulamite is, in verses 2 to 4, addressing her absent lover. This may be so. The details in the distribution of the verses will always be more or less a matter of taste, unless the text affords a decisive hint.)
Thy ointments are lovely with fragrance.*(The ancient Jews were in the habit of anointing their heads, hands, and clothes, with perfumed ointments; “oil of myrrh “was a favourite cosmetic.)
3. Like ointment is thy name diffused; Therefore do the damsels love thee.
(Outline of Canticles Song: Shulamite (‘to her absent lover’). (1:4a); Court Ladies ‘addressing’ Solomon. (1:4b); Shulamite (to Jerusalem’s Daughters (Virgins, Maidens of the Court& Harem) . (1:5-6); Shulamite: ‘She addresses her absent Lover’. (1:7); Court Ladies. (1:8); Solomon.*(Solomon praises the Young Girl’s beauty (9-11); she dwells on her Love to her Shepherd Spouse (12-14); Solomon reiterates his admiration (15); the Shulamite () for her Beloved (16); the Shulamite compares herself to the Flowers of the Vale of Sharon (2:1); the Shepherd Lover admires her above all other women (2:2); the Shulamite dwells in thought upon her beloved (2:3).)….&c
Houghton closes his Canticles Essay thus: *Mr Plumptre characterizes M. Kenan’s work on the Canticles as “bringing down a noble poem to the level of an operatic ballet at a Parisian theatre.” (” Smith’s Dictionary,” iii. p.1352, note.) Do the following extracts from M. Renan’s volume warrant so severe a stricture?
“The poem is neither mystical, as theologians have wished to make it; nor unbecoming, as Castalion believed it; nor simply erotic, as Herder would have it: it is moral, it is summed up in one verse, the 7th of ch. 8: ‘Rien ne peut resister a l’amour sincere; quand le riche pretend acheter l’amour, il n’achete que la honte.’ [“Nothing can resist sincere love; When the rich pretend buy love, he buys only the shame.” = “Many waters cannot quench love, Neither can the floods drown it. Though a man were to offer all his wealth for love, He would be utterly despised.”] The object of the poem is not the voluptuous passion that languishes in the harems of the degenerate East, nor the equivocal sentiment of the Hindoo and Persian quietist; but true love, love which inspires courage and sacrifice, preferring free poverty to servile riches, hating everything untrue or base, and ending in calm happiness and fidelity.” (p.137) Again, “The Song of Songs is a secular book, but by no means a frivolous one. Those features which may offend us are the same which are found in all ancient poetry.
Besides, we must remark that the only two really sensual passages have for their object the presentation of the harem and the manners of Solomon’s court in an odious light, and serve as a kind of contrast. The poor shepherdess who preferred him she loved to Solomon, ought not to be despised. None of her contemporaries, though more civilized, in the immoral world in which she lived would have done as she did; no daughter of Memphis or Babylon, a thousand years before Christ, would have resisted a king or preferred a hut to a harem. The Shulamite was a saint in her time. Do not let us criticise, according to the rules of our modern proprieties, each word of this ingenuous peasant girl. The book which shows us, ten centuries before Christ, virtuous love true and strong, though not yet perhaps lofty and delicate, is, in one sense, a sacred book. Let us remember what Niebuhr replied to a young pastor troubled by the necessity of admitting a lovesong into the Biblical canon: ‘As for me,’ said the illustrious critic with vivacity, ‘I should believe that something was wanting in the Bible if there could not be found there any expression of the deepest and strongest of the feelings of mankind.'”
Some writers have attempted to establish an identity between the Shulamite and Abisbag the Shunammite, —the young damsel who cherished David in his old age (1st Kings 1:3),— and believe they have discovered therein a clear explanation of some of the circumstances of Solomon’s accession. “The historical starting-point of the Song of Songs,” says Mr Plumptre, “connects itself, in all probability, with the earliest facts in the history of the new reign. The narrative as told in 1st Kings 2 is not a little perplexing. Bathsheba, who had before stirred up David against Adonijah, now appears as interceding for him, begging that Abishag the Shunammite, the virgin concubine of David, might be given him as a wife. Solomon, who till then had professed the profoundest reverence for his mother, his willingness to grant her anything, suddenly flashes into fiercest wrath at this. The petition is treated as part of a conspiracy in which Joab and Abiathar are sharers. Benaiah is once more called in, Adonijah is put to death at once. Joab is slain even within the precincts of the tabernacle, to which he had fled asan asylum. The facts have an explanation. Mr Grove’s ingenious theory, identifying Abishag with the heroine of the Song of Songs, resting, as it must do, on its own evidence, has this further merit, that it explains the phenomena here. The passionate love of Solomon for the ‘fairest among women’ might well lead the queen-mother, hitherto supreme, to fear a rival influence, and to join in any scheme for its removal. The king’s vehement abruptness is, in like manner, accounted for. He sees in the request at once an attempt to deprive him of the woman he loves, and a plot to keep him still in the tutelage of childhood, to entrap him into admitting his elder brother’s right to the choicest treasure of his father’s harem, and therefore virtually to the throne, or, at least, to a regency in which he would have his own partisans as counsellors. With a keen-sighted promptness he crushes the whole scheme.”
There is no doubt whatever that Adonijah’s desire to marry Abishag accounts in the most natural manner for his own death and the concomitant circumstances of Solomon’s accession, as described by Mr Plumptre; but there is not a fragment of evidence, beyond the fact that the heroine of the Song of Songs and Abishag were both inhabitants of Shunem, and were both beautiful women, to show that they were identical; while there is clear and positive proof that they were distinct personages. The whole plan and structure of the poem contradicts “this ingenious theory.” The Shulamite is a young girl, probably married, at all events betrothed, —whose affections Solomon is represented as vainly endeavouring to gain; while Abishag would be his own concubine according to his successionary right in his father’s harem.*(The expressions which the Shulamite uses in praise of her shepherd spouse are all referred by Prof. Plumptre to Solomon,) Again, how can we possibly reconcile with this view the statement that the heroine of the Song of Songs makes of herself, viz. that she was swarthy or sun-burnt? Did the fair Abishag who shared the luxuries of David’s palace become a keeper of her brother’s vineyard, immediately after the death of the old king? [The conjecture of Plumptre & Houghton are both near but not exact. Shulamite & Shunamite are the same names & meaning; both are from Shunem or Shulem, which means Salem (Peace) as in HeruSalem; Solomon’s Song is this Love Story of Abishag as the Shulamite-Shunamite Solomonitess, the Female Solomon; and the Beloved is David the Shepherd-King, to whom Abishag was given as a secondary wife, or concubine, though he never knew her carnally or sexually, but was her Spouse & Friend, and thus she was an unrequited Lover, Wife, Queen, in love , but a lost, deprived, love for her Beloved, (her David); and her life would be most touching & significant, thus prophetical & mysterious of Jerusalem & New Jerusalem, that is of Divine Love between God and Man in Christ. This is her Story told by Solomon.]
The Song of Songs, stripped of the garb of fanciful allegory with which it has so long been surrounded, is one of the most beautiful books in the Bible, and contains a lesson of high moral value which deserves to last as long as the world endures. “Every part of this song,” as Bishop Bossuet has said, “abounds in poetical beauties; the objects which present themselves on every side are the choicest plants, the most beautiful flowers, the most delicious fruits, the bloom and vigour of spring, the sweet verdure of the fields, flourishing and well-watered gardens, pleasant streams, and perennial fountains. The other senses are represented as regaled with the most precious odours, natural and artificial; with the sweet singing of birds and the soft voice of the turtle; with milk and honey and the choicest of wine. To these enchantments are added all that is beautiful and graceful in the human form, the endearments, the caresses, the delicacy of love. If any object be introduced which seems not to harmonize with this delightful scene, such as the awful prospect of tremendous precipices, the wildness of the mountains or the haunts of lions, its effect is only to heighten, by the contrast, the beauty of the other objects, and to add the charms of variety to those of grace and elegance.” But the essential part of the Song of Songs is the example of morality which it sets for the copy and admiration of all ages. The successful struggle against sin under circumstances of unusually strong temptation, —this is the point to which the moral compass of this exquisite poem is steadfastly turned. Dreamy allegorisers may satisfy themselves with their own mystical interpretations, but the man or woman who seeks for instruction in the way of practical righteousness, will value only the simple story of the poem, the story of the virtue and fidelity of a Hebrew village girl, —a story to be read with delight both by prince and peasant, a story of human love, pure and devoted, which shall find a response in the heart of humanity as long as time shall last.*(I have been informed by Dr Kalisch that modern Jewish scholars have for the most part abandoned all allegorical interpretations of this book.)
“For love is strong as death, Inexorable as the grave is ardent affection;
Its burnings are burnings of fire, With the flames of Jehovah.
Many waters cannot quench love, Neither can the floods drown it.
Though a man were to offer all his wealth for love, He would be utterly despised.”
6: From: Wisdom Literature of Old Testament. W. T. Davison, DD. (1900)
Chapter 12: Song of Songs:
…..”2. Admitting, however, the literal as the primary meaning of the poem, it is yet possible to maintain that it has an ideal and typical significance. The well-known commentator, Delitzsch, may serve as perhaps the best representative of those who take this view. According to him, the Song is, as it appears at first sight, a love-poem. The maiden who figures so largely in it is not the daughter of Pharaoh, but “a country maiden of humble rank, who by her beauty and by the purity of her soul filled Solomon with a love for her which drew him away from the wantonness of polygamy, and made for him the primitive idea of marriage, as it is described in Gen. ii. 24, a self-experienced reality. This experience he here sings, idealising it after the manner of a poet; i.e., removing the husk of that which is accidental, he goes back to its kernel and its essential nature. We have before us six dramatic figures, each in two divisions, which represent from within the growth of this delightful relation to its conclusion….. The Song represents paradisaical, but yet only natural love. It stands, however, in the Canon of the Church, because Solomon is a type of Him of whom it can be said, ‘a greater than Solomon is here.” Referred to Him the antitype, the earthly contents receive a heavenly import and glorification. We see therein the mystery of the love of Christ and His Church shadowed forth, not, however, allegorically, but typically.” *(Introduction to Commentary) It will be seen that this mode of applying the words to the Church of Christ differs materially from that before described. It violates no rule of exegesis, and if it can be maintained, reconciles the obvious meaning of the words with that deeper meaning which spiritually-minded readers have delighted to find in them.
According to this view, the outline of the poem is somewhat as follows. The Shulamite (vi.13) is a country maiden from the north of Palestine, who has been raised by Solomon to the rank of queen. She is a stranger among the daughters of Jerusalem, in appearance, in habits, and in her thoughts and feelings. The development of the little drama is very slight, the only progress in it being that by which the simple country girl teaches the wise man the superior joys of wedded love in its purity, weaning him from the luxury and indulgence of court-life as enjoyed by Oriental monarchs, to the delights of the pure affection of one husband for one wife. A number of graceful pictures succeed one another, all heightening the effect of the climax when it is reached, and helping to set forth the value and Divine significance of marriage as a holy bond uniting two souls together, who pass readily enough from thoughts of earthly to thoughts of heavenly love. The transition from this train of thought to the level on which St. Paul describes marriage as a mystery, a pattern of the relation between Christ and His Church, is easy and natural.
The poem, as thus interpreted, divides itself into six parts: (1) Anticipation, 1:2-2:7; (2) Awaiting, 2:8-3:5; (3) Espousal & Results, 3:6-5:1; (4) Absence, 5:2-8; (5) Presence, 5:9-8:4; (6) Love’s Triumph, viii. 8:5-12; Conclusion, 8:13-14.
The scene is laid partly in Jerusalem, partly in Solomon’s park, partly at the Shulamite’s home in the country. The persons who speak in this lyrical drama are the Shulamite maiden, Solomon the king, and the daughters of Jerusalem who serve as chorus. “In the first half of the dramatic pictures, Shulamith rises to an equality with Solomon; in the second half, Solomon descends to an equality with Shulamith. At the close of the first, Shulamith is at home in the king’s palace; at the close of the second, Solomon is at home with her in her Galilean home.”
3. It has been increasingly felt, however, for the last half-century, among the majority of scholars, that the difficulties in the way of this hypothesis are insuperable. That Solomon should appear alternately as a stately king and as a simple shepherd, and that he should be found abandoning his court for a country cottage, appears on the face of it improbable; while a closer examination of the structure of the poem reveals the fact that it is not as simple as the above theory would make it. The view which Ewald was the first to work out, and which has been adopted since his time by Ginsburg and others, though with many subordinate modifications,” may be described as follows.
The poem is a pastoral drama, in which the action is represented by a number of lyrical monologues, with occasional dialogue of the very simplest form. The persons are Shulamith, the maiden-heroine; her shepherd-betrothed, whose home, like hers, is in North Palestine; Solomon the King, the ladies of his court, the Shulamite’s brothers, certain citizens of Jerusalem, and perhaps one or two minor interlocutors. The scene opens in Jerusalem, where the Shulamite is detained against her will [?] by Solomon, who desires to take her as his bride among the many ladies of the royal household. She, however, is full of the thought of her shepherd-lover, to whom, in spite of all the attractions held out to her, she continues faithful. The poem describes, in by no means regularly sustained fashion, the admiration of Solomon, the devotion of the Shulamite to her absent betrothed, her dreams of the past and her home among the Northern hills, the unsuccessful attempts made to excite her ambition and induce her to assume queenly rank, closing by a description of her return to her parental home, her reunion with her shepherd-lover, and the triumph of pure and loyal natural affection. More in detail, the scheme would be as follows:
Part I: 1:2-2:7: Shulamite & Ladies of Court in conversation; they fail to understand her longing for her Absent Friend. (1:2-8) Solomon seeks to win the Shulamite’s Love. Her thoughts are elsewhere; she begs that there may be no attempt to excite and transfer her Affections. (1:9-2:7)
Part II: 2:8-3:5: Reminiscences of scenes from the past life of the Shulamite, when she was happy with her Beloved in her Northern home. She hopes that their separation may speedily end. (2:8-17) Dream, in which the Shulamite seems to go in search of her Lover. (3:1–5)
Part III: 3:6-5:8: Citizens of Jerusalem describe the Royal Pageant which is seen approaching; Solomon in his Palanquin, with his Crown of State. (3:6-11) Solomon seeks again to win the Shulamite’s Love, and praises her Beauty. (4:1-7) Shulamite and her Lover in real or ideal interview. (4:8-5:1) Second dream, in which the Maiden seeks her Beloved in vain throughout the city. (5:2-8)
Part IV: 5:9-8:4: Ladies in conversation with the Shulamite concerning her Shepherd-Lover. (5:9-6:3) King enters, & seeks again to win the Maiden’s Affection; but with less success than ever, as she declares her unswerving Love for the Absent One, and desire to be with him once more. (6:4-7:4)
Part V: 8:5-14: Shulamite approaches, leaning on her Lover’s arm. She recounts her history, her brother’s care for her welfare, her own purity and constancy; & the Poem closes with a brief Song expressive of the happiness of the pair reunited in their home among the hills. (8:5-14)
This may be described as the generally prevailing modern view of the poem. Some of the chief arguments which have led to its adoption in preference to the simpler and perhaps more spiritual interpretation previously described are these, First, the difficulty of supposing that Solomon could fill the various parts implied in such a hypothesis; appearing first as a shepherd in a country home, then as king in his palace, then returning again to the simplicity of country life and remaining in it. Secondly, the unlikelihood that a self-respecting maiden, with the feelings of pure affection expressed in the poem, could consent to be one in a royal harem consisting of many queens and concubines, as described in ch. vi. 8. Thirdly, the difference in language and tone observable in the addresses both of Solomon to the Shulamite, and of the Shulamite to her Beloved, make it difficult, if not impossible, to suppose that only two persons are concerned in them. One supposition introduced to relieve this difficulty, and make what has been called the “King-hypothesis” seem more probable than the “Shepherd-hypothesis,” implies an estrangement between Bride and Bridegroom almost on the morning after their marriage, and in ch. iv. 6 it would appear that the Bride proposes on her very wedding day to withdraw from the company of her husband……
We must close this part of our reflections of these Selections which could be extended to infinity. We return to Biblical Reflections with some fuller survey & observations to the Poetic Books.