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THE BEARING OF CRITICISM ON EDIFICATION: 
Illustrated by a Study of i Sam. xxii. 22-23. 



By The Rev. Professor T. K. Cheyne, D.D., 
Oxford. 



The practical value of the newer criticism of the Old Testa- 
ment has not yet perhaps been sufficiently dwelt upon by those 
who are at the same time students and ministers of Christ. And 
yet it requires but a very slight acquaintance with thoughtful 
artisans to be aware that objections to the Old Testament may 
to a large extent be made by supplying the deficiencies in their 
early education, so far as it relates to the Old Testament. I am 
entirely ignorant of attacks directed against this part of the Bible 
by American objectors (except an able but, as it seems to me, 
uncritical pamphlet by Colonel Ingersoll), but I venture to 
assume that there is a family likeness brought forward by sincere 
sceptics of the Anglo-Saxon race, whether on one side of the 
Atlantic or the other. 1 One way of meeting these attacks, as I 
have remarked, is to give intelligent artisans, or at least their lead- 
ers, some acquaintance with that critical view which is, as many 
think, slowly but surely revolutionizing the study of the Old 
Testament. And it seems best to begin with communicating the 
elements of such a view to those who, though not of the artisan 
class themselves, are yet connected by nearness of residence or 
otherwise with those excellent and at present somewhat danger- 
ous persons to whom I have referred. Scholars have, it is true, 
enough to do in their own workshops and lecture-rooms, but if 
they are also ministers, or at least ardent adherents of some 
branch of the Christian church, it may perhaps befit them to 

1 It may be best to refer to a layman's evidence on the relation of the English arti- 
sans to the official teachers of the Bible. Mr. W. Rossiter (a well-known popular lec- 
turer, kindled to the " Enthusiasm of Humanity" by the famous F. D. Maurice) con- 
tributed, about 1885, an important article on the subject to the Contemporary Review. 

281 



282 THE BIBLICAL WORLD. 

come out of their comparative seclusion and do their best, how- 
ever inadequate this may be, to relieve the present distress. This 
has not, at least in my own country, been often attempted ; per- 
haps we in England are lacking in that spirit of unquenchable 
hope, which nevertheless we admire, and which my Anglican 
brethren specially noticed in the lamented Bishop Phillips 
Brooks. I have before me two brightly written and much eulo- 
gized volumes, one relating to the Book of Genesis, the other to 
narratives and to prophetical portions of the Old Testament, and 
with all their brilliance and popularity of manner, I notice with 
surprise how unfaithful the respected writers are to the critical 
principles with which they are supposed to be, at least to some 
extent, identified. And while fully appreciating the terse, some- 
times poetic, and always sympathetic style, I marvel at the indis- 
criminate praise lavished on writers, who through timidity have 
folded their hands in the presence of a difficulty which has year 
by year increased till, except to faith and hope, it may well 
appear insurmountable, viz., the repugnance to what is thought 
the barbarous and outgrown narratives and teachings of the Old 
Testament. Now it may well be thought that first attempts to 
supply a practical need are of necessity poor or inadequate, 
but no one need hesitate to receive a stimulus from them on 
that ground. And so I will venture to refer to a work pub- 
lished last year, and entitled "Aids to the Devout Study of 
Criticism," which has, of course, the faults of all first attempts, 
added to the pardonable weakness of offering some old and 
some half-buried new matter to the more aspiring class of 
students. 

In the first part of this book the Book of Samuel is presented 
as a subject of study for laymen who are not themselves arti- 
sans, but more or less interested in that important class of the 
community. It being assumed that analytic criticism must pre- 
cede a genuinely historical study of the Old Testament narratives, 
the results of Kittel's analysis, as given in Professor Kautzsch's 
admirable new translation of the Old Testament, are quoted in 
full, since beyond them it would have been difficult to go when 
the book was written. Then the character of David as affected 



THE BEARING OF CRITICISM ON EDIFICATION. 283 

by these results and by the historical study of the Eastern races 
is considered at length, and lastly the typical narrative of David 
and Goliath is presented, first with a view to the enjoyment of 
the story, and then, so far as seemed possible or at least expedi- 
ent, with an eye to edification. An unfriendly reviewer has 
remarked that the story of Odysseus could be treated in the 
same way. So it could, provided that the preachers or lecturers 
believed that there was a genuine, however small, kernel of fact 
in the story, and also that Odysseus held a prominent place in 
the period of preparation for the coming of Jesus Christ. In 
this case, the story of Odysseus can, it is clear, only have 
been omitted by accident from the volume of Christian Scrip- 
tures. 

The object of the doubtless feeble first attempts which I am 
making, under difficulties peculiar to the services in a provincial 
cathedral, is "to apply modern methods of study to the Old Tes- 
tament with just sufficient precision to bring out the gradualness 
of divine revelation, to emphasize and illustrate the essential facts 
and truths of the Scriptures, and to solve the difficulties and cor- 
rect the misapprehensions of infidel objectors," and this work has 
to be done in sections of at most half an hour's duration. The 
following pages are extracted from one of these sections (or 
sermons), which forms a supplement to those already printed in 
the "Aids" on parts of the Books of Samuel. 

It has been pointed out in the "Aids" (pp. 7-13) that there 
existed side by side in parts of Samuel different accounts of one 
and the same fact, which may either be variants of the same tra- 
dition or represent almost or entirely different views of what 
actually took place. Among these different accounts, some have 
reference to the regal career of Saul ; we have what may be 
called a secular view, and we have also what must undoubtedly 
be described as the religious view current three centuries after 
the facts. The following pages are concerned with this religious 
view, which is evidently different from, though more or less 
plausibly harmonizable with, the secular view. The religious 
view will be found in 1 Sam. 8; \o:\']-2']z.; 12; 13:7b-! 5a (cf. 
10 : 8), and chap. 15, and it is more particularly of chap. 15 that I 



284 THE BIBLICAL WORLD. 

am speaking. The secular view is clearly traceable in I Sam. 9 : 1- 
10: 16, 27b (following the LXX. with Revised Version margin), 
1 1 : 1-1 1 , 15. This is in accordance with Kittel's analysis, though 
it is for critics to consider whether L. A. Bahler's suggestion is 
not worthy of adoption, according to which 10:26b and 27a 
ought to stand where we now read 1 1 : 7b and 8. 1 

Let us start from 1 Sam. 15:22-23: "And Samuel said, 
Hath Jehovah as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as 
in obeying the voice of Jehovah ? Behold, to obey is better 
than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams. For rebel- 
lion is as the sin of divination, and stubbornness is as idolatry 
and teraphim. Because thou hast rejected the word of Jehovah, 
he hath also rejected thee from being king." The words of 
verse 22 are a very early attestation of the truth that God is 
spirit [i. e. of a spiritual nature), and that those who worship 
him must worship him in spirit and in truth. It is impossible, 
however, for anyone who has absorbed the idea of historical 
development to believe that these words were actually spoken in 
the semi -barbarous age to which Saul belongs. All who open 
their eyes to facts must be well aware that the religion of David, 
though it had in it some germs of progress, was widely different 
from that of Isaiah, not to say of the Book of Psalms, and will 
admit that, even taking the narratives as they stand, the religion 
of Saul was at any rate not superior to that of David. And if 
the critical facts on which the best scholars are agreed be 

1 To show the effect of this critical change I will give here the verses which are 
affected by it. Saul, it will be remembered, was a plain citizen when Nahash, king of 
Ammon, threatened a grievous insult to the men of Jabesh-Gilead. 

" And, behold, Saul came following the oxen out of the field ; and Saul said, 
What aileth the people that they weep ? And they told him the words of the men of 
Jabesh. And the Spirit of God (1. e. a martial enthusiasm) came mightily upon Saul 
when he heard these words, and his anger was kindled greatly. And he took a yoke 
of oxen, and cut them in pieces, and sent them throughout all the borders of Israel by 
the hand of messengers, saying, Whosoever cometh not forth after Saul (and after 
Samuel), so shall it be done unto his oxen. And there went with him the men of valor 
whose hearts God had touched. But certain base fellows said, How shall this man 
save us ? And they (i. e. Saul's valiant followers) said unto the messengers that came, 
Thus shall ye say unto the men of Jabesh-Gilead, Tomorrow, by the time the sun is 

hot, ye shall have deliverance And the people said unto Saul, Who is he 

that said, Shall Saul reign over us ? bring the men that we may put them to death." 



THE BEARING OF CRITICISM ON EDIFICATION. 285 

accepted, it will be clear that neither Saul nor Samuel can have 
held the views expressed in the above passage. Tradition tells 
us that the God whom the Israelites of Saul's time worshiped 
had such great delight in sacrifices that when the people had 
forsaken Jehovah, and consequently, as we are told, were subju- 
gated by the Philistines, Samuel had to offer up a lamb in order 
to appease Jehovah (1 Sam. 7:9), and bring victory to the 
Israelites. Samuel, too, as tradition said, was in the habit of 
going about in the land and blessing the periodical sacrifices of 
the different civic communities (1 Sam. 9:2-5), and though no 
doubt he delivered oracles to the people, yet there is no evi- 
dence that the people regarded these oracles as in the least 
degree more sacred than their sacrificial rites. Religiously, 
then, it is incredible that Samuel should have uttered the words 
of the text. Nor are they, from a moral point of view, at all 
more credible. It is impossible that Samuel the prophet should 
in moral influence have been behind the rude warrior Saul. The 
savage custom, prevalent among barbarous races, of devoting 
both human beings and dumb animals taken in war to the 
national god by slaying them, was, it would appear, beginning to 
go out among the Israelites. Saul, therefore, and the people 
" spared Agag and the best of the sheep and of the oxen and of 
the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would 
not utterly destroy them." This is what we find in 1 Sam. 
15:9; the statement of Saul in vss. 15 and 21, that Saul and the 
people took a part of the spoil to sacrifice to Jehovah, seems to 
be a mere fiction, put suitably enough into the mouth of the ter- 
rified Saul by the narrator. Or, if this supposition be rejected, 
Saul had at any rate no intention of slaying Agag, whereas Sam- 
uel "hewed Agag in pieces before Jehovah" (vs. 33). Never- 
theless, though elements in the narrative may not be historical, 
it is difficult to accept it as a whole. It is even difficult to see 
where the impiety of Saul consisted, even from the point of view 
of the narrator. There seems to have been no intentional diso- 
bedience on Saul's part, and Jehovah, as we learn from the next 
chapter, "looketh not on the outward appearance, but on the 
heart" (16:7). 



286 THE BIBLICAL WORLD. 

If I were to stop here, I should be like those who would feed 
the hungry with stones instead of bread. Mere negative criti- 
cism is always unsatisfactory ; nor is it charitable to pull down 
if you cannot re-build the edifice better. Criticism tells us that 
chapter 15 belongs to an independent account of Samuel and 
Saul, composed probably in northern Israel and at earliest con- 
temporary with Hosea. The account doubtless embodies valu- 
able traditional elements, but these have been combined and 
modified in accordance with the religious ideas of the noblest 
and best Israelites of the time of that prophet. The picture of 
Saul and Samuel which it gives is, therefore, not completely 
accurate, and chapter 1 5 in part is rather a sermon addressed to 
the contemporaries of Hosea than an historical description of a 
long past age. It may be and probably is an historical fact that 
Saul fought with and overcame the Amalekites, also that he was 
less ruthless in the hour of victory than the Judges, his prede- 
cessors, also that he quarreled with the seer Samuel ; but more 
than this must be left entirely uncertain. The narrator had no 
thought of us his modern readers ; his mind was concentrated 
on the work of extracting edification for his own times from 
some of the many traditions current respecting the dim heroic 
age. 

The writer of whom I speak was probably, as we have seen, 
a northern Israelite. There is nothing to indicate a connection 
with Judah, and he presents affinities in language and in ideas to 
two great writers, one of whom certainly and the other almost 
certainly belonged to the northern kingdom. The best known 
of these two writers is Hosea, who confined his ministry almost 
entirely to the northern kingdom. Hosea is a tender-hearted 
prophet. He has some great ideas, but they are suffused with 
emotion, and though he is faithful to his message it costs him 
repeated struggles to be so. In this he is not so very unlike the 
prophetically-minded writer whom criticism reveals to us in 
1 Samuel 15, and the other passages which describe the pro- 
phetic view of the career of Saul. For there cannot be the 
shadow of a doubt that he paints Samuel after his own likeness, 
and that those two finely contrasted passages, 1 Samuel 10:24 



THE BEARING OF CRITICISM ON EDIFICATION. 287 

and 15 :3s, 1 were dictated by his own sympathies. The motto, 
" Look in thine heart and write," was by none more fully carried 
out than by the prophetic narrators of the history of Israel. 
Here is another point of resemblance between Hosea and our 
narrator. Hosea is no great lover of the institution of kingship ; 
his experience of royalty in northern Israel was so unfavorable 
that it would seem as if he almost doubted the possibility of a 
good king, and this may be the reason why this book contains no 
prophecy of the Messiah. In 13:11 he even says, "I give thee 
a king in mine anger, and take him away in my wrath ; " which 
is exactly parallel to what our unknown narrator says with refer- 
ence to Saul in the eighth and fifteenth chapters of 1 Samuel. 

There are some other important respects in which our nar- 
rator is akin not only to Hosea but to Isaiah. Isaiah is loud in 
his complaint of those who in the management of the state 
neglect the prophetic counsel. "Woe to the rebellious children," 
he says in chapter 30, "that take counsel, but not of me, and 
make a league, but without my spirit, that they may add sin to 
sin." And the unknown narrator of the life of Saul seeks to 
enforce the same lesson by the supposed banishment of that 
ancient king who ventured to deviate from the letter of the com- 
mand of Samuel. 

Again, Isaiah addressing the rulers of Jerusalem exclaims 
indignantly in the name of Jehovah, "To what purpose is the 
multitude of your sacrifices unto me ? I am full of the burnt 
offerings of rams and the fat of fed-beasts ; and I delight not in 
blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of he-goats" (Isaiah 1: 11). 
And Hosea declaims in similar language speaking for his God, 
" I delight in mercy, and not in sacrifice, and in the knowledge 
of God more than in burnt offering" (Hosea 6:6). 

These three passages and these alone fully explain the mean- 
ing of the text. Such words could not have been uttered in the 
days of Saul and Samuel, for they presupposed a conception of 

1 1 Samuel 10:24, "And Samuel said, See ye him whom Jehovah hath chosen, 
that there is none like him among all the people i And all the people shouted and 
said, Long live the king." 

I Samuel IS : 35, "And Samuel came no more to see Saul until the day of his 
death, for Samuel inwardly mourned for Saul." 



288 THE BIBLICAL WORLD. 

prophecy and a respect on the part of kings for the prophetic 
order, also a view of the spiritual nature of God, and of the 
immense relative insignificance of sacrifice such as neither Samuel 
or Saul possessed. 

And now consider how important the disciples of Hosea and 
Isaiah must have regarded these ideas, that one of them actually 
transformed an episode in the heroic age of Israel in order to 
throw them into bolder relief. He spoke of Saul and Samuel, 
but he thought of Jeroboam II. and Hosea. We need not, there- 
fore, trouble ourselves about the psychological or historical 
impossibilities of the story. The essential point to remember is 
that whereas in the eleventh century B.C. the Israelites were still 
in morality and religion semi-barbarous, only three centuries later 
they produced a few such men as Hosea and Isaiah, men who 
were as clear sighted on the fundamentally moral character of 
true religion and on the all-importance of sound religious 
principle to the the rulers of a people as any Christian thinker 
can be. 

To me, I confess, this appears a marvel of the first order, and 
one of the greatest proofs of the supreme position of the biblical 
religion that in the eighth and seventh centuries B.C., when non- 
conformity was vastly more difficult and more dangerous than it is 
now, men could be found to say that from the highest point of 
view sacrifices were of little or no moment. The most striking 
passage in which this truth is affirmed is in the Book of Jeremiah, 
where we read in unconscious opposition to the later belief of the 
Mosaic origin of the Levitical Law, " Thus saith Jehovah (God) 
of Hosts, the God of Israel : Add your burnt offerings unto your 
sacrifices and eat the flesh {i. e., go on offering sacrifices ; they 
are no better than so much unconsecrated flesh meat). For I 
spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day 
that I brought them out of the Land of Egypt, concerning burnt 
offerings or sacrifices : But this thing I commanded them, saying, 
Hearken unto my voice, and I will be your God, and ye shall be 
my people : and walk ye in all the way that I command you, that 
it may be well with you " (Jeremiah 7 : 21-23). 1° the Psalms 
we find the same idea expressed in a more positive form. "Offer 



THE BEARING OF CRITICISM ON EDIFICATION. 289 

right sacrifices," we read in Psalm 4 : 5, "and put your trust in 
Jehovah." The best sacrifice is obedience in those matters which 
formalists are tempted to omit, or if there be a second sacrifice 
it is like unto the first. Open lips are the necessary adjuncts of 
open hearts. Obedience and thanksgiving are the true divine 
service. 

I said that such words as those of Hosea, Isaiah, and Jeremiah 
are marvellous in the eighth and seventh centuries ; they are still 
more so when repeated in the fifth and sixth centuries after the 
return of the Jews from Babylon, from which period our present 
Psalter comes to us. How, we ask in perplexity, could such 
words have been written, or at any rate sung, in the age of those 
founders of legalism — Ezra and Nehemiah ? The true answer 
probably is that there were already different schools of thought 
in the same church. There were those who inclined toward a 
purely spiritual religion and those who preferred a religion of 
elaborate forms ; both sorts of churchmen lived together in peace. 
Let us follow their example and suffer schools of thought to 
exist undisturbed in our midst. We have all of us at least one 
point in common in addition to our Christian character and our 
reverence for the past history of our church, namely, that we 
believe in the essential spirituality of religion. In forms as forms 
none of my readers I hope believes. Some of us may value 
symbols more, some less ; but for symbols apart from the thing 
symbolized, no member of any of the reformation churches can 
have the least reverence. Let us be content with this agreement, 
and let us bear to have different views respecting the symbols 
(whether these symbols be the sacrament, or the written forms 
of prayer, or the Bible) expressed from time to time. And if, 
when the natural tendency to over-value symbols threatens to 
become dangerous, a reformer should arise, calling us back to the 
spirituality of the prophets, let us not be impatient with him, but 
remember the attitude of the Master himself toward the law. 
" The Sabbath was made for man," he said, " not man for the 
Sabbath," i. e., there are times when seeming irreverence is 
according to the will of God. And when denounced for trans- 
gressing the law for holding intercourse with publicans and 



290 THE BIBLICAL WORLD. 

sinners, he replied, referring to the prophet Hosea, " Go ye and 
learn what that meaneth, I will have mercy and not sacrifice ; for 
I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners" (Matthew 

9- 13)- 

Thus the great saying of I Samuel 15 : 22 was in substance 

reaffirmed by Christ eight hundred years after it was first uttered. 
Our Lord did not mean precisely the same thing as either Hosea 
or Hosea's disciple. All three agreed in preferring moral to 
material sacrifices, but while Hosea specified as an example of 
such sacrifice the civic virtues of brotherly love or helpfulness, 
and Hosea's disciple the royal virtue of obedience to the pro- 
phetic counsels, our Lord put forward the necessity (which we 
ourselves are just beginning to feel more strongly) of personal 
friendly intercourse with those whom we desire to raise in the 
moral scale. The varieties of moral sacrifice are indeed too 
numerous to catalogue, and one person cannot be a rule for 
another. The all-important thing is to maintain the spirit from 
which all true sacrifice flows. That spirit is a spirit of universal 
love — a spirit which, among the Israelites, could only arise when 
the old intense but narrow class-policy had given place to a 
common feeling of nationality, and when to this feeling had been 
added the consciousness that the privileges of Israel were not 
merely for herself but for the good of humanity. The saying in 
Hosea 6 : 6 may be great, but that in Isaiah 19 : 24-25 is greater. 
And now may I ask, in conclusion, does not this latter saying 
presuppose the great prophecy of the servant of Jehovah in 
Isaiah 42 : 1-4 ? Much more might be urged in behalf of this 
view than the ordinary commentators have yet said.