« 上一頁繼續 »
HISTORICAL BOOKS IN GENERAL.
THAT portion of the Old Testament which contains the history of the affairs of the Jewish nation, from the death of Moses to its conquest by the Chaldeans, is comprised in the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. These, in the Hebrew classification, are termed the Former Prophets. The title Prophets is given them on the ground of the general belief, that they were written under the prompting of a Divine impulse; and the epithet Former is applied in reference to the place which they occupy in the Sacred Canon, as preceding the books of the Latter Prophets, an appellation bestowed upon those whose character is more strictly prophetical, viz., Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the twelve Minor Prophets. The records of the nation from the time of the exile and the return thence, down to the close of the Persian empire, are contained in the books of Esther, Ezra, and Nehemiah, which the Hebrews attach to that part of the canon called the Hagiographa, in which are included also the books of Ruth and Chronicles. How ancient this division was, we cannot positively affirm; but it was current at least as early as the time of Jerome and the later Talmudists.
As to the sources from which these records were derived, there is a very great degree of uncertainty, although it is admitted that they are a species of compilation, made up, for the most part, from pre-existing documents, in the shape of annals or chronicles, which were doubtless co-eval with the events narrated. The evidence of such an origin discloses itself repeatedly in the texture of the records themselves, as we shall have occasion hereafter to notice, although it does not seem to have entered into the design of the writers to designate, by formal reference or citation, the sources from which they drew. The mere circumstance that we have, in the Sacred Canon, a number of books bearing the names of certain individuals, does not of itself prove that the books were originally written, or even subsequently compiled, by the persons whose names they bear. Thus, if we admit that Joshua wrote the book which has come down to us with his name, yet as he could not have written the account of his own death, or of the subsequent events, it is clear that some hand besides his own is to be recognized in the composition. So neither was the book of Judges written as the joint production of those whose names it bears; nor the books of Samuel by Samuel, as a great part of the events related in them occurred after his decease; nor the book of Ruth by Ruth ; nor the books of Kings and Chronicles by the kings, each furnishing the history of his own reign; nor, finally, the book of Esther by Esther herself. In regard to Ezra and Nehemiah, the case is somewhat different; as they expressly declare themselves the authors, and nothing in the contents invalidates the claim. As, then, it is as common for historical documents to bear a title derived from the personages and the subject-matter treated, as from the writers themselves, nothing definite can be inferred as to the authorship of any of the sacred books from the simple name by which it is distinguished. This is a question that is to be determined by a variety of considera. tions, in which the voice of tradition is entitled to weigh just in proportion as there is nothing in the internal evidence of the book itself, or in the statements of contemporaneous history, to countervail its testimony.
The question of the inspiration of these writings is not affected by the question of their origin. Their derivation from anterior documents, as we have remarked in regard to the book of Genesis, does not militate with their claims to the character of absolutely truthful and infallible records of the events which they relate. It is clear that the purposes of a Divine revelation require the character of unimpeachable truth in the communications which shall comprise it, and equally clear is it, that under the superintending control of Providence, an inspired man may make use of an uninspired document, handed down to him from a prior period, if that document be true in itself. and adapted to the object for which it is employed. But, in fact, nothing forbids that such preceding documents should themselves have originated in a supernatural prompting, of which the authors were unconscious. The Divine Spirit, who sees the end from the beginning, may have had in view an ultimate use of the written records of his servants, which governed, unknown to them, their form and structure from their very inception; and a song of triumph chanted over a slain or routed foe, the memoir of a distinguished deliverer, the narrative of a siege in some " war of the Lord," the legend of a miracle, the inscription on a pillar or the certificate of a sale, may have been as truly suggested, overruled, and preserved by the Spirit of inspiration, as any precept of the decalogue, or any vision of a prophet. Whatever God sees fit to authenticate, by adopting into His word, is to be considered as having virtually the stamp of inspiration.
The character and attributes of the several historical books will come separately to be considered as we enter upon the exposition of each; but we may here remark, as to the sources from which the materials are drawn, that there is a high probability that persons of a prophetical character existed all along the line of the Hebrew annals, whose office it was to record the leading events of their history, and deposit them in the public archives of the nation. The books of Kings and Chronicles seem to be mainly made up from these sources.
THE BOOK OF JOSHUA.
§ 1. Title, Author, and Age.
The titles of the several books in the Sacred Canon, as we have already remarked, designate, for the most part, rather their subject-matter than their authors. The book before us is the first that is called by the name of an individual, and that probably for the reason now suggested, that it relates exclusively to the important series of events in the Israelitish history in which Joshua was so conspicuous an actor. It details the various proceedings of this illustrious leader in the execution of the high trust committed to him as the successor of Moses. Yet this leaves undetermined the question respecting its true authorship. The voice of Jewish tradition very generally ascribes the book to Joshua, and there is nothing to be gathered from internal evidence which militates with the conclusion that the bulk of it may have proceeded from his hand. That certain passages, however, were, upon this supposition. inserted at a later period, as is evidently the case in regard to the Pentateuch, may safely be admitted, without detracting from its canonical authority or genuineness. Indeed, should it be maintained, as is done by some critics, that it was wholly composed after his demise, from docu ments penned by him or under his direction, this will still leave its claims to a place, in its present form, in the inspired writings, unaffected. The arguments sustaining this position have already been given in the preceding section. Yet, on the whole, the evidence appears to preponderate in favor of-the opinion which makes Joshua the author, with the exception of the parts above alluded to. We cannot, indeed, place
much stress upon the passage, ch. 24. 26, in which Joshua is said to have written these words in the book of the law of God,' for it is not clear that any thing more is there intended than the words uttered on that occasion, and in which the people express their solemn engage. ments to be faithful to the covenant. See Note in loc. But the follow, ing considerations have more weight.
(1.) The style of the composition is remarkably pure, free from foreign words, forms, or idioms, and so strikingly conformed to that of the Pentateuch as to argue a date nearly co-eval with it.
(2.) The writer speaks of himself as one that participated in the transactions which he records, ch. 5. 1: 'And it came to pass, when all the kings of the Amorites which were on the side of Jordan westward, and all the kings of the Canaanites which were by the sea, heard that the Lord had dried up the waters of Jordan from before the children of Israel, until we were passed over, that their heart melted; neither was there spirit in them any more, because of the children of Israel. As it is said, moreover, ch. 6. 25, that 'Joshua saved Rahab the harlot alive, and her father's household, and all that she had ; and she dwelleth in Israel even unto this day, there is a strong presumption that this was not written later than near the close of Joshua's life; and if so, he would be as likely to have written it as any one else.
(3.) It is scarcely conceivable that so many names of persons and places as occur in this book, should have been preserved, unless in a cotemporary document; and from whom would such a document have been more likely to proceed than from Joshua himself ? He might naturally be expected to record such transactions as went to illustrate the truth of the Divine promises made to his people.
(4.) The division of the land among the different tribes was doubtless recorded at the time it was made, and it was certainly made by Joshua in person, immediately after the conquest. The account of this division occupies a very considerable portion of the whole book (ch. 14–21.), and as it is difficult, in the absence of all testimony to the contrary, to assign a reason why Joshua should not have written the hulk of the other parts as well as this, the presumption undoubtedly is, especially as tradition affirms it, that he is the principal author. The truth of the tradition may fairly be taken for granted, unless the work itself can be shown to contain internal evidence against it.
(5.) In ch. 17. 13, it is said, 'It came to pass, when the children of Israel were waxen strong, that they put the Canaanites to tribute; but did not utterly drive them out.' This has the air of having been write ten shortly after the conquest. Had it been penned at a much later period, the writer would scarcely have failed to mention the well known fact, that the Israelites were soon seduced into idolatry by these very tributaries. The date of the writing was undoubtedly prior to this apostacy.
The principal objections against assigning the authorship of the book to Daniel, are the following:
(1.) In ch.10.13, the circumstance of the sun and moon being stayed in their course is said to be written in the book of Jasher. This testimony, it is contended, would not have been quoted by Joshua, or any other contemporary writer, concerning transactions of recent occurrence and unusual notoriety. The inference therefore is, that the book entitled 'the Wars of the Lord' must have been written at a much earlier period than that in which it is cited. But there is no difficulty in supposing, that, as Joshua probably composed his book towards the latter part of his life, he might have introduced an apposite quotation from a history or poem containing a more minute or vivid description of the miracle, and written some years before his own.
(2.) The use of the phrase 'to this day' is supposed to indicate a period very considerably subsequent to the date of the events. Thus of the stones set up in the Jordan, ch. 4. 9, they are there unto this day ;'-of the place where the reproach of Egypt was rolled away, ch. 5. 9, 'the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day ;'-—of the valley of Achor, ch. 7. 26, it is so called unto this day;'-of the ruins of Ai, ch. 8. 28, “it is a desolation unto this day ; '--and so in other instances. In reply to this it can only be said, that the phrase does not necessarily imply any considerable length of time. If Washington had written annals of the American Revolution in the last year or two of his life, no one would have been surprised to hear him saying of certain monuments or memorials of battles and victories, that they remained "unto this day.' In like manner Joshua might have expressed himself in the same language in similar circumstances.
(3.) An argument to the same effect is derived from the narrative ch. 19. 48, 49, of the taking of Leshem by the Danites. This event, it is said, appears from Judges 18. 27-29, to have occurred after the death of Joshua, and therefore the present account of it is inconsistent with the asserted authorship of the book. Hence some have attributed its composition to Eleazar, some to Samuel, and some to Isaiah or Ezra. But it is not necessary, on this account, to attempt to invalidate the claims of Joshua to the authorship of the substance of the book. It is not denied that occasional interpolations have been made by later hands, and this may safely be admitted to be one, although it is to be remarked, that Jahn and others express strong doubts whether the two narratives refer to the same expedition, as they they vary in several particulars.