Sidor som bilder

which antiently obtained, and was adopted by Athanasius, Epiphanius, Chrysostom, and other eminent fathers of the church, that Ezra was the author of this book. In the modern Hebrew Bibles it has the name of Nehemiah prefixed to it, which is also retained in our English Bibles. The author of this book was not the Nehemiah who returned to Jerusalem from Babylon with Zerubbabel.

That Nehemiah, whose name this book bears, and who was cupbearer to Artaxerxes Longimanus, was the author of it, there cannot be any reasonable doubt : the whole of it being written in his name, and, what is very unusual when compared with the preceding sacred historians, being written in the first person. The insertion of the greater part of the register in chap. xii

. 1--26. (which is supposed to militate against this generally received opinion,) may be accounted for by either to have been added by some subsequent author, or perhaps by the authority of the great synagogue : for it seems to be unconnected with the narrative of Nehemiah, and if genuine, must ascribe to him a degree of longevity which appears scarcely credible.

II. Nehemiah, according to some writers, was of the tribe of Levi, but, in the opinion of others, of the royal house of Judah : as the office he held in the Persian court (that of cup-bearer) was a post of great honour and influence, it is certain that he was a man of illustrious family, and of his integrity, prudence, and piety, the whole of this book presents abundant evidence. He arrived at Jerusalem thirteen years after Ezra, with the rank of governor of the province, and vested with full power and authority to encourage the rebuilding, of the walls of that city, and to promote the welfare of his countrymen in every possible way.

Having governed Judæa for twelve years (Neh. xiii. 6.), Nehemiah returned to his royal patron (ii

. 6.), and after a short time he obtained permission to return to his country, where he is supposed to have spent the remainder of his life.

His book may be conveniently divided into four parts, viz. PART I. The departure of Nehemiah from Shushan, with a royal

commission to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem, and his first arrival

there. (ch. i. ii. 1--11.) Part II. 'Account of the building of the walls, notwithstanding the obstacles interposed by Sanballat. (ii. 12—20. iii.-vii

. 4.) Part II. The first reformation accomplished by Nehemiah, containing, Sect. 1. A register of the persons who had first returned from

Babylon, and an account of the oblations at the temple. (vii. 5.

–72.) Sect. 2. Account of the reading of the law, and the celebration

of the feast of tabernacles. (viii.)

vi. 19–22., probably between the 20th and 21st verses. Dr. Grabe, Dr. Thirlby, and after them, Dr. Magee, (Disc. on Atonement, vol. i. p. 306., note) doubt its genuineness. Dr. A. Clarke is disposed to believe it authentic. (Disc. on Eucha rist, p. 83.)

Prideaux, Connection, sub anno 458, vol. i. p. 296. et. seq. 8th edition.

Sect. 3. A solemn fast and humiliation kept ; and the renewal of

the covenant of the Israelites with Jehovah. (ix. x.) Sect. 4. Lists of those who dwelt at Jerusalem, and of other cities

occupied by the Jews that returned ; register and succession of the high priests, chief Levites, and principal singers (xi. xii. 1 -26.) The completion and dedication of the wall. (xii. 27

47.) Part IV. The second reformation accomplished by Nehemiah on his

second return to Jerusalem, and his correction of the abuses which had crept in during his absence. (xiii.)

The administration of this pious man and excellent governor lasted about thirty-six years, to the year of the world 3574 according to some chronologers, but Dr. Prideaux has with more probability fixed it to the year 3595. The Scripture history closes with the book of Nehemiah.




I. Title.-II. Author. — III. Argument. - IV. Synopsis of its

contents. 1. THIS book, which derives its name from the person whose history it chiefly relates, is by the Jews termed Megilloth Esther, or the volume of Esther. The history it contains comes in between the sixth and seventh chapters of Ezra : its authenticity was questioned by some of the fathers, in consequence of the name of God being omitted throughout, but it has always been received as canonical by the Jews, who hold this book in the highest estimation, placing it on the same level with the law of Moses. They believe that whatever destruction may attend the other sacred writings, the Pentateuch and the book of Esther will always be preserved by a special providence.

II. Concerning the author of this book, the opinions of biblical critics are so greatly divided, that it is difficult to determine by whom it was written. Some ascribe it to the joint labours of the great synagogue, who, from the time of Ezra to Simon the Just, superintended the edition and canon of Scripture. Philo the Jew assigns it to Joachin, the son of Joshua the high priest, who returned with Zerubbabel : others think it was composed by Mordecai ; and others, again, attribute it to Esther and Mordecai jointly. The two latter conjectures are grounded on the following declaration in Esther ix. 20. 23. : And Mordecai wrote these things, and sent letters unto all the Jews that were in all the provinces of king Ahasuerus; and the Jews undertook to do as they had begun, and as Mordecai had written unto them. But the context of the passage clearly shows that these words do not relate to the book itself, but to the circular letters which Mordecai sent to the Jews in all the provinces of the Persian empire, announcing the mighty deliverance from their enemies which had been vouchsafed to them, and instituting a perpetual anniversary in commemoration of such deliverance. The institution of this festival, and its continued observance to the present time, is a convincing evidence of the reality of the history of Esther, and of the genuineness of the book which bears her name : since it is impossible, and in fact inconceivable, that a nation should institute, and afterwards continue to celebrate, through a long succession of ages, this solemn annual festival, merely because a certain man among them had written an agreeable fable or romance. The transactions here recorded relate to the time of Artaxerxes Longimanus,the same who reigned during the time of Ezra and Nehemiah; whence Augustine’ is of opinion that this book was written by Ezra; which conjecture is perhaps inore probable than any that have been offered respecting the author of Esther.

III. The history contained in this book commences about the year of the world 3544, and it continues through a period not exceeding eighteen or twenty years: it relates the elevation of a Jewish captive to the throne of Persia, and the providential deliverance of herself and people from the machinations of the cruel Haman and his confederates, whose designed mischief returned upon themselves : thus affording a practical comment on the declaration of the royal psalmist :- “Verily, there is a reward for the righteous : verily, he

a is a God that judgeth in the earth.” (Psal. lviii. 11.)

IV. The book consists of two parts, detailing, Part I. The promotion of Esther; and the essential service render

ed to the king by Mordecai, in detecting a plot against his life.

(ch. i. ji.) Part II. The advancement of Haman ; his designs against the Jews,

and their frustration. Sect. 1. The promotion of Haman, and the occasion of which he

availed himself to obtain an edict for massacreing the Jews. (iii.) 1 For an account of this festival, called the feast of Purim, see Vol. III. Chap. IV. ♡ X.

2 Chronologers are greatly divided in opinion who was the Ahasuerus of the sacred historian. Scaliger, who has been followed by Jahn, has advanced many ingenious arguments to show that it was Xerxes who was intended ; Archbishop Usher supposes it to have been Darius the son of Hystaspes. The most probable opinion is that of Dr. Prideaux, (Connection, sub anno 458, vol. i. pp. 270. et seq.); who, after a very minute discussion, maintains that the Ahasuerus of Esther was Artaxerxes Longimanus, agreeably to the account of Josephus, (Antiq. Jud. lib. xi. c. 6.) of the Septuagint version, and of the apocryphal additions to the book of Esther. The opinion of Prideaux is adopted by Bishop Tomline, Dr. Gray, and the very accurate chronologer Dr. Hales. (See Gray's Key, p. 227. Bishop Tomline's Elements, vol. i. p. 93. Dr. Hales's Analysis, vol. ii. book i. pp. 524. et seq.) We may therefore conclude, that the permission given to Nehemiah to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem was owing to the influence of Esther and Mordecai, and that the emancipation of the Jews from the Persian yoke was gradually, though silently, effected by the same influence. It is not improbable that the pious reason, assigned by Artaxerxes (Ezra, vii. 23.) for the regulations given to Ezra, originated in the correct views of Jehovah which were communicated to him by his quoen Es ther.

3 De Civitate Dei, lib. xvii. c. 36.

[ocr errors]

Sect. 2. The consequent affliction of the Jews, and the measures

pursued by them. (iv.) Sect. 3. The defeat of Haman's particular plot against the life of

Mordecai. (v. vi. vii.) Sect. 4. The defeat of his general plot against the Jews (viii. ix.

1-15.) Sect. 5. The institution of the festival of Purim, to commemorate

their deliverance (ix. 16–32.); and the advancement of Mor

decai. (x.) In our copies the book of Esther terminates with the third verse of the tenth chapter : but in the Greek and Vulgate Bibles, there are ten more verses annexed to it, together with six additional chapters which the Greek and Romish churches account to be canonical. As, however, they are not extant in Hebrew, they are expunged from the sacred canon by Protestants, and are supposed to have been compiled by some Hellenistic Jew.


ON THE POETICAL BOOKS. THOUGH some of the Sacred Writings, which present themselves to our notice in the present chapter, are anterior in point of date to the Historical Books, yet they are usually classed by themselves under the title of the Poetical Books; because they are almost wholly composed in Hebrew verse. This appellation is of considerable antiquity. Gregory Nazianzen calls them the Five Metrical Books ; Amphilochius, bishop of Iconium, in his iambic poem addressed to Seleucus, enumerates them, and gives them a similar denomination ; as also do Epiphanius and Cyril of Jerusalem. The Poetical Books are five in number, viz. Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Canticles or Song of Solomon : in the Jewish canon of Scripture they are classed among the Hagiographa, or Holy Writings ; and in our Bibles they are placed between the Historical and Prophetical Books.



[ocr errors]

I. Title of the book. - II. Reality of Job's person. - III. Age in

which he lived. - IV. Scene of the poem of Job. - V. Author and

-V canonical authority. - VI. Structure of the poem. - VII. Argument and scope. - VIII. Rules for studying this book to advantage. — IX. Synopsis. - X. Idea of the patriarchal theology, as

contained in the book of Job. 1. THIS book has derived its title from the venerable patriarch Job, whose prosperity, afflictions, and restoration from the deepest adversity, are here recorded, together with his exemplary and unequalled patience under all his calamities. No book perhaps has more exercised the ingenuity of critics and commentators than this of Job; and though the limits necessarily assigned to this article prevent us from detailing all the various and discordant hypotheses which have been offered concerning it, yet a brief retrospect of the principal opinions that have been entertained respecting this portion of Scripture can at no time be either uninteresting or unimportant.

II. Although this book professes to treat of a real person, yet the actual existence of the patriarch has been questioned by many eminent critics, who have endeavoured to prove that the whole poem is a mere fictitious narration, intended to instruct through the medium of parable. This opinion was first announced by the celebrated Jewish Rabbi Maimonides, and has since been adopted by Leclerc, Michaelis, Semler, Bishop Stock, and others. The reality of Joh's

1 Greg. Naz. Carm. 33. v. 16. op. tom. ii. p. 98. Paris, 1611. Epiphanius de Pond. et Mens. p. 533. Suicer's Thesaurus, tom. ii. roce oxnpa.

2 Moreh Nevochim, part ii. sect. 22.


« FöregåendeFortsätt »