Skip to main content

Full text of "A New Commentary on the Five Megilloth"

See other formats


STOP 



Early Journal Content on JSTOR, Free to Anyone in the World 

This article is one of nearly 500,000 scholarly works digitized and made freely available to everyone in 
the world byJSTOR. 

Known as the Early Journal Content, this set of works include research articles, news, letters, and other 
writings published in more than 200 of the oldest leading academic journals. The works date from the 
mid-seventeenth to the early twentieth centuries. 

We encourage people to read and share the Early Journal Content openly and to tell others that this 
resource exists. People may post this content online or redistribute in any way for non-commercial 
purposes. 

Read more about Early Journal Content at http://about.istor.org/participate-istor/individuals/early- 
journal-content . 



JSTOR is a digital library of academic journals, books, and primary source objects. JSTOR helps people 
discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content through a powerful research and teaching 
platform, and preserves this content for future generations. JSTOR is part of ITHAKA, a not-for-profit 
organization that also includes Ithaka S+R and Portico. For more information about JSTOR, please 
contact support@jstor.org. 



514 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

255. 8. For 3D:1 read 3p;i; 1 9, for 13p:i read aojl. 

256. 8. For alD"', aion read 3iDJ, DSon. 

259. 14. Punctuate "Finsi. L. 16, punctuate ^?, '''??, niDB, finiS, 

W. Bacher. 



A NEW COMMENTAEY ON THE FIVE MEGILLOTH. 

Kurzer Hand-Commentar zum Alien Testament. Die fiinf Megillot 
(Hohelied, Ruth, Klagelieder, Prediger, und Esther). Erklart von 
K. BxTDDE, A.BEHTHOLET, und Qt. WiLDEBOEK. Herausgcgeben 
von K. Marti (Freiburg i. B. : J. C. B. Mohr). 

The contemporaneous publication in Germany of two series of 
commentaries on the Old Testament of a higher character, and at 
a comparatively small price, tends to show, if proof were needed, 
that in that country the scientific study of the Bible is still pursued 
with unremitted vigour. In the Jewish Quarterly Review for 
October last I reviewed a recent issue of the Handkommentar. We 
now have before us a section of the Kurzer Hand-Commentar, deal- 
ing with the five Megilloth. Of these, Budde takes Canticles and 
Lamentations ; Bertholet, Ruth ; and Wildeboer, Ecclesiastes and 
Esther. 

The estimate which the student may form of the commentary on 
the Canticles is likely to be influenced to a very great extent by his 
regarding with favour or otherwise Wetzstein's view of the origin 
and structure of the Book ; for Dr. Budde is an ardent advocate of 
Wetzstein's theory, and expresses confidence in its ultimate general 
acceptance. According to this theory the book is a collection of 
bridal songs analogous to such as are used during the festive week 
in which the nuptials of the Syrian peasantry are celebrated ; and, 
indeed, the songs of the Canticles may be regarded as having derived 
their origin from such celebrations. But the student who compares 
the details of the Canticles with the array of facts set forth by 
Wetzstein, or his disciple Dr. Budde, is not unlikely to exclaim 
immane quantum discrepat! Special prominence is, however, given 
to the procession in Cant. iii. 6-1 1 ; and this is compared with a very 
curious proceeding on the part of the Syrian peasants, who, on the 
morning after a marriage, fetch, according to Wetzstein, from the 
barn or other receptacle the threshing- table or threshing- dray^ 
which, placed on a kind of scaffold on the threshing-floor, forms 



CRITICAL NOTICES 515 

a tlirone for the newly wedded pair. The threshing- table, it should 
be explained, consists of two boards bound together, and bent up at 
one end. Beneath, the machine is set with rows of stones for the 
purpose of rubbing and cutting. The use on such an occasion of 
an apparatus so seemingly incongruous is explained on the ground 
of poverty. The threshing-table having been brought in by village 
youths with songfs of victory or love, a carpet is spread over it, and 
a pair of gold-bedecked cushions placed thereon for the seats of the 
king and queen, as the newly mairied pair are now designated. 

From the nxt and ni?'y of Cant. iii. 6 it would seem that the pro- 
cession is that of the bride, who is brought to the bridegroom before 
her espousals, on the litter or palanquin which he had sent. The 
eleventh verse may be taken to mean that she is met and received 
by the bridegroom, who wears the bridal crown placed on his head by 
his mother. The palanquin, with its gold, and silver, and perfumes, 
is evidently seen coming up " from the desert " before the marriage. 
This seems of fundamental importance. As to the incongruity in- 
volved in the use of the threshing -dray, Budde thinks that in 
Palestine a sofa or some more suitable piece of furniture would be 
employed. But there is a still greater difficulty in the introduction 
of the name " Solomon." Our author suggests that this name may 
owe its introduction to an explanatory gloss, or it may have been 
an accentuation and development of the idea of "king." I may 
add that the heroes surrounding the palanquin with their swords 
ready " because of fear in the night " would be, no doubt, explained 
by the anthropologists as a vestige of the ancient practice of mar- 
riage by capture. The song, as supposed, accompanying " the sword 
dance of the bride" (vi. 10— vii. 6), would require greater space for 
its discussion than can be here given to a matter so doubtful. And 
how much there is in the Canticles which Wetzstein's theory fails 
to explain the reader may convince himself without very much 
difficulty. But if this theory cannot now be regarded as giving 
a solution of the difficult problem of the Canticles, it is at least 
possible that it may be found hereafter to lead on to some extent 
towards such a solution. 

With regard to the Lamentations Budde rejects, and, as is prob- 
able, rightly rejects, the supposed Jeremian authorship, a supposition 
which, however, goes as far back as the LXX. Budde, indeed, finds 
it in 3 Chron. xxxv. 25. But niJ^ijin in this verse may well refer 
to a collection of dirges which has not come down to us. As to 
the language our author assents to the position that it is not in 
sufficient agreement with that of Jeremiah to warrant the assertion 
that he was the author. And the mind of the prophet would scarcely 

VOL. xr. N n 



5l6 THE JEWISH QUARTERLY REVIEW 

have had the tranquillity and freedom necessary for lyrical effusions. 
With regard to the number of authors, a decision is not made without 
difficulty. In chapters i, ii, iii, iv, there is an acrostic or alphabetic 
arrangement. The last three of these chapters, however, depart from 
the usual order of the letters, placing B before V. The first chapter 
conforms to the usual order. This remarkable variation has not yet 
been explained, as Budde tells us, and he suggests no new theory. 
The variation is, moreover, accentuated by the triplets of chapter iii. 
The foundation of the book Budde finds in the second and fourth 
chapters. But in his opinion these chapters show a discrepancy 
in what is said in ii. 20 and iv. 13-16, concerning the fate of priest 
and prophet. It remains to be remarked that to Dr. Budde is assigned 
the merit of having proved that Hebrew elegiac verse is divided 
by a caesura into two unequal parts, first a longer and then a shorter 
member, constituted in the ordinary proportion he tells us, of three 
to two. The result of his researches on this matter was first pub- 
lished in the Zeitschrift fur alttestamentliehe Wissenschaft for 1882. 

Bertholet, who, as said above, writes on Ruth, accepts the position 
that the book is of late date. He is quite conscious of the literary 
merit and the charm of the narrative, which gained for it the high 
praise of Goethe. The vivid impression of truth and reality is 
attributed to the great artistic skill of the author. But still the 
book was written with a special object, namely, to controvert the 
teaching of Ezra and Nehemiah with regard to extraneous marriages, 
and to show that all Moabite women were not bad, and moreover, 
to inculcate the duty and the blessing of observing the Levirate law 
even in relation to such women. Whatever may be thought of the 
genealogy at the end of the book (iv. 18-22), in Bertholet's view 
the narrative attains its supreme point when Boaz becomes through 
Ruth the great-grandfather of David. To this consummation the 
wish of iv. 1 1 looks forward : " The Lord make the woman which 
is come into thy house like Rachel and like Leah, which two did build 
the house of Israel." The book, in our author's opinion, emanated 
from the party opposed to the marriage-prohibitions of Ezra and 
Nehemiah. But that a tract which owed its origin to party spirit 
should find its way into the Canon is not, he thinks, unintelligible 
if we consider that the collection of the Kethubim was made at 
a time when the danger from Moabite marriages had entirely passed 
away ; and the collectors did not apply the rule of historical criticism 
but were satisfied with an edifying or parenetic tendency. Bertholet 
does not overlook the difficulty which presents itself when the Book 
of Ruth is compared with the law of Deut. xxiii. 4 (Heb.), forbidding 
the entrance of an Ammonite or Moabite into the congregation of 



CRITICAL NOTICES 517 

the Lord, even to the tenth generation. This difficulty is certainly 
not less serious to more conservative critics. Our author cannot 
accept the suggestion of the Rabbins that the law of Deuteronomy 
relates only to males. In his opinion the law itself is, like the Book 
of Ruth, a product of party spirit (cf. Neh. xiii. i, 2). 

We now come to Wildeboer's work on Ecclesiastes. At the present 
time, out of the five Megilloth, Ecclesiastes is the book which excites 
the greatest interest. As to the date Wildeboer assents to the now 
prevailing opinion that Ecclesiastes was written about the year 
200 B. c. With this date it is of course not difficult to allow that 
the book shows at least some trace of Greek influence in both its 
language and its thought. The whole intellectual atmosphere was 
so pervaded by the spirit of scepticism — to which Greek influence 
contributed — as to impel the author to write his book with the 
freedom which he displays. Moreover, he has studied the world 
and his own heart, and a disquieting struggle has arisen in his soul. 
He cannot content himself with conventional explanations. All 
things move in an endless circuit, from which man is powerless to 
release himself, his life and conduct being absolutely determined 
by invincible power. He acts as he must act. The author of Eccle- 
siastes is far from coming to the conclusion that there is no God, 
nor does he accept the pantheistic alternative. Dr. Wildeboer, 
however, considers that chap. xii. 7 speaks merely of the dust return- 
ing to the earth, and of God drawing back to himself the vital 
principle. The verse says nothing of a personal immortality. Indeed, 
if the author had believed in such immortality he could not have 
written his book. 

Though apparently not admitting the substantial integrity of the 
text. Dr. Wildeboer is not disposed to reject the so-called epilogue ; 
indeed to reject xii. 13, 14 is to misconstrue the very aim of the 
book. At the same time he does not take the last verse of chap, xii 
as speaking of a judgment beyond the grave, but only of such judg- 
ment as is to take effect during this life. This, however, is not an 
interpretation likely to gain wide acceptance. 

The book as a whole is to be taken as an honest and candid con- 
fession ; a view which, while it cannot be said to be novel, does not 
afford an adequate explanation of the facts. There is unity pervading 
the book from i. 2 to xii. 8, which, throughout, must be taken as the 
discourse of Koheleth. It is in accordance with the grammatical 
form of the word Koheleth to regard it as denoting a personified 
assembly of sages or philosophers ; a view which, while it accounts 
for the unity just spoken of, is entirely in accordance with a diversity 
of sentiment, or even with manifest contradictions. It is scarcely 

N n 2 



5l8 THE JEWISH QUABTERLY BEVIEW 

possible to find any satisfactory explanation of the sharp opposition 
in so close propinquity as that of iii. 17 and iii. 18 other than that 
■we have the utterances of two members of the assembly holding 
contradictory opinions. Each begins with the formula ''3153 '3K *ri"jlpN ; 
and the 'JN of viii. 2 may be understood of a new speaker rising up 
to speak on a fresh subject. Indications somewhat less marked and 
conspicuous need not be mentioned. 

In his note on iii. 8 Dr. Wildeboer speaks of the writer of this 
review as believing that Eccl. iii. 1-8 expresses the Stoic thought 
of a repeated cyclical revolution. This is certainly not in accordance 
with fact. The position of the writer was, and is, that the verses 
were intended as a sort of summary of human life, teaching that, 
in agreement with the law of nature, there are times and seasons for 
man's actions and pursuits, observing which, he may fulfil the great 
Stoic ethical principle of acting conformably to nature. 

It is remarkable that in his note on ii. 25 Dr. Wildeboer has 
placed after V^n " Sn. Xey.," seeing that the word is of by no means 
infrequent occurrence. He expresses a high opinion of a work on 
Ecclesiastes, published in 1861, by the Dutch scholar P. de Jong, 
which, however, he speaks of as entirely unknown in Germany. 
Such, I suppose, is the case also in this country. But some specimens 
of De Jong's exegesis, which Dr. Wildeboer gives, are scarcely con- 
sistent with his high estimate of the work. With regard to the 
difficult expression of v. 19 "13^ nriDB'S niJJO D''n'!'Nn '•3 we are 
recommended to understand, with De Jong, da Gott [ihn\ hesdhSftigt mit 
der Freude seines Herzens. To say nothing of the supplied object, 
it is sufficient to refer to i Kings viii. 35 ; 2 Chron. vi. 26, to show 
how unsuitable in this place would be the Hiph. of '^^V in any such 
sense as De Jong suggests. For the probably true interpretation 
the reader must be referred to the Introduction to the present 
writer's Commentary on Ecclesiastes, of which a new edition is in 
the hands of the printer. Then with regard to the words of xii. 4 
"tlBVn 71p7 DlpM Wildeboer commends De Jong's alteration 70\>\ 
^iSSn bip. But though 7Dp (which occurs twice in Isaiah only, 
xix. 6 ; xxxiii. 9) is used of the withering of plants, the word could 
scarcely be employed with any congruity of a bird's voice. Taking 
into account Ps. cvii. 29 nDDH? myo Dp^ "he causes the storm to 

' T T ;• ■'T J '"T 

become a calm," the difficulty in Ecclesiastes disappears ; and we 
may translate, "and it becomes the voice of a bird," alluding to the 
change in the voice of old age described in Shakespeare's well-known 
words : « j^ig j^jg manly voice, 

Turning again toward childish treble, pipes 

And whistles in his sound." 



CEITICAL NOTICES 519 

In relation to Wildeboer'a work on Esther, considerations of space 
compel me to limit my observations to a remarkable theory communi- 
cated by Prof. Jensen, the Assyriologist, and not unlikely to excite 
a good deal of discussion. The assertion that some things in Genesis 
were derived from Babylonian sources has become familiar. But it 
is somewhat startling to be told that the history of Mordecai and 
Esther, and their opponents Hainan and Vashti, really represents the 
hostility of certain Babylonian and Elamite deities, to whom is 
attributed the mutual animosities of the Babylonian and Elamite 
peoples. With regard to Esther and Mordecai, that the names are 
related to those of the deities Istar and Marduk or Merodach is 
sufficiently obvious. "Mordecai," Mr. Pinches tells me, is a name 
not very infrequent on Babylonian contract-tablets, the name of 
the god being converted by its termination into a human personal 
name. "Haman'' seems to have previously defied the etymologists 
and interpreters. Jensen's suggestion that this name is connected 
with that of the Elamite national deity " Humman " is certainly 
striking. The Elamites were the ancient foes of the Babylonians ; 
Humman is the foe of Marduk, as Haman is of Mordecai. The 
history lying at the basis of the Esther-legend must have treated 
of a conquest of the Elamites, or of an Elamite king. " Vashti " 
brings into view the name of a female deity whose name " Wasti " or 
" Masti " is found in the Elamite inscriptions. She was probably the 
consort of Humman. 

Jensen, it appears, like Zimmern, regards the original feast of 
t'urim as identical with the Babylonian feast of Fate or Destiny 
(Schicksakfest) celebrated at the beginning of the year. With respect 
to the name " Purim " Jensen makes an assertion which, possibly, 
may be verifiable, though the present writer has failed to verify it. 
It is asserted that, in Assyrian, puni or bum has the meaning " stone." 
Then 1^3 with the sense of "lot," may be regarded as a word 
borrowed from Babylonian. It may thus be compared with ?")i3 
and t^^(^oc, both the latter words having the signification " small 
stone " or " pebble," and so " lot." If this etymology of "lliS can be 
demonstrated, a result of some importance will have been attained. 

It is scarcely possible to treat otherwise than incompletely in 
a notice such as this a volume containing five commentaries by three 
eminent scholars. But enough has probably been said to attract the 
serious attention of those students who wish to become acquainted 
with the latest suggestions and results in the domain of Biblical 
science. 

Thomas Tyleb.