Moulton: The Literary Study of the Bible














                                    AN ACCOUNT OF THE


                             IN THE SACRED WRITINGS





                      INTENDED FOR ENGLISH READERS





                                  RICHARD G. MOULTON.










                         BOSTON, U.S.A.: D. C. HEATH & CO.

                         LONDON : ISBISTER & CO., LIMITED



        Public Domain: Scanned and edited by Ted Hildebrandt 3/2005

















                                    COPYRIGHT, 1895,

                                 By Richard G. Moulton


                           ENTERED AT STATIONERS' HALL
















                                        Norwood Press:

                    J. S. Cushing & Co. -- Berwick & Smith

                                    Boston, Mass., U.S.A.







            AN author falls naturally into an apologetic tone if he is pro-

posing to add yet one more to the number of books on the Bible.

Yet I believe the number is few of those to whom the Bible appeals

as literature. In part, no doubt, this is clue to the forbidding

form in which we allow the Bible to be presented to us. Let the

reader imagine the poems of Wordsworth, the plays of Shake-

speare, the essays of Bacon, and the histories of Motley to be

bound together in a single volume; let him suppose the titles of

the poems and essays cut out and the names of speakers and divi-

sions of speeches removed, the whole divided up into sentences

of a convenient length for parsing, and again into lessons contain-

ing a larger or smaller number of these sentences. If the reader

can carry his imagination through these processes he will have

before him a fair parallel to the literary form in which the Bible

has come to the modern reader; it is true that the purpose for

which it has been split into chapters and verses is something

higher than instruction in parsing, but the injury to literary form

remains the same.

            Of course earnest students of Scripture get below the surface of

isolated verses. Yet even in the case of deep students the literary

element is in danger of being overpowered by other interests.

The devout reader, following the Bible as the divine authority for

his spiritual life, feels it a distraction to notice literary questions.

And thereby he often impedes his own purpose: poring over a

passage of Job to discover the message it has for him, and for-

getting all the while the dramatic form of the book, as a result of

which the speaker of the very passage he is studying is in the end




iv                                             PREFACE


pronounced by God himself to have said the thing that is "not

right." Another has been led by his studies to cast off the

authority of the Bible, and he will not look for literary pleasure to

that which has for him associations with a yoke from which he has

been delivered. A third approaches Scripture with equal rever-

ence and scholarship. Yet even for him there is a danger at the

present moment, when the very bulk of the discussion tends to

crowd out the thing discussed, and but one person is willing to

read the Bible for every ten who are ready to read about it.

            Now for all these types of readers the literary study of the

Bible is a common meeting-ground. One who recognises that

God has been pleased to put his revelation of himself in the form

of literature, must surely go on to see that literary form is a thing

worthy of study. The agnostic will not deny that, if every particle

of authority and supernatural character be taken from the Bible,

it will remain one of the world's great literatures, second to none.

And the most polemic of all investigators must admit that appre-

ciation is the end, and polemics only the means.

            The term ‘literary study of the Bible’ describes a wide field

of which the present work attempts to cover only a limited part.

In particular, the term will include the most prominent of all

types of Bible study, that which is now universally called the

‘Higher Criticism.’ There is no longer any need to speak of the

splendid processes of modern Biblical Criticism, nor of the mag-

nitude even of its undisputed results. I mention the Higher

Criticism only to say that its province is distinct from that which

I lay down for myself in this book. The Higher Criticism is

mainly an historical analysis; I confine myself to literary investi-

gation. By the literary treatment I understand the discussion of

what we have in the books of Scripture; the historical analysis goes

behind this to the further question how these books have reached

their present form. I think the distinction of the two treatments

is of considerable practical importance; since the historical analy-

sis must, in the nature of things, divide students into hostile camps,


                                                PREFACE                                          v


while, as it appears to me, the literary appreciation of Scripture is

a common ground upon which opposing schools may meet. The

conservative thinker maintains that Deuteronomy is the personal

composition of Moses; the opposite school regard the book as a

pious fiction of the age of Josiah. But I do not see how either

of these opinions, if true, or a third intermediate opinion, can pos-

sibly affect the question with which I desire to interest the reader,

— namely, the structure of Deuteronomy as it stands, whoever may

be responsible for that structure. And yet the structural analysis

of our Deuteronomy, and the connection of its successive parts, are

by no means clearly understood by the ordinary reader of the Bible.

            The historical and the literary treatments are then distinct: yet

sometimes they seem to clash. There are two points in particular

as to which I find myself at variance with the accepted Higher

Criticism. Historic analysis, investigating dates, sometimes finds

itself obliged to discriminate between different parts of the same

literary composition, and to assign to them different periods; hav-

ing accomplished this upon sound evidence, it then often proceeds,

no longer upon evidence, but by tacit assumption, by unconscious

insinuations rather than by distinct statement, to treat the earlier

parts of such a composition as ‘genuine’ or ‘original,’ while the

portions of later date are made ‘interpolations,’ or ‘accretions,’ —

in fact, are alluded to as something illegitimate. Thus, in the case

of Job, few will hesitate to accept the theory that there is an earlier

nucleus (to speak roughly) in the dialogue, while the speeches of

Elihu and the Divine Intervention have come from another source.

But nearly all commentators who hold this view seem to treat these

later portions as if they were on a lower literary plane, and — so

sensitive is taste to external considerations — they soon find them

in a literary sense inferior. This whole attitude of mind seems to

me unscientific: it is the intrusion of the modern conception of a

fixed book and an individual author into a totally different liter-

ary age. The phenomena of floating poetry, with community of

authorship and the perpetual revision that goes with oral tradition,

are not only accepted but insisted upon by biblical scholars. But


vi                                             PREFACE


in such floating literature our modern idea of  'originality' has no

place; the earliest presentation has no advantage of authenticity

over the latest; nor have the later versions necessarily any superi-

ority to the earlier. Processes of floating poetry produced the

Homeric poems, and in this case it is the last form, not the first,

that makes our supreme Iliad. My contention is that, whatever

may be the truth as to dates, all the sections of such a poem as

Job are equally ‘genuine.’ And as a matter of literary analysis, I

find the Speeches of Elihu and the Divine Intervention, from what-

ever sources they may have come, carrying forward the previous

movement of the poem to a natural dramatic climax, and in liter-

ary effect as striking as any part of the book.

            My second objection to the characteristic methods of the Higher

Criticism has to do with the divisions of the text. In analysing

the contents of a book of Scripture many even of the best critics

betray an almost exclusive preoccupation with subject matter, to

the neglect of literary form; a powerful search-light is thrown upon

minute historic allusions, while even broad indications of literary

unity or diversity are passed by. I will take a typical example.

In the latter part of our Book of Micah a group of verses (vii.

7–10) must strike even a casual reader by their buoyancy of tone,

so sharply contrasting with what has gone before. Accordingly

Wellhausen sees in this changed tone evidence of a new composi-

tion, product of an age long distant from the age of the prophet:

"between v. 6 and v. 7 there yawns a century."1 What really

yawns between the verses is simply a change of speakers. The

latter part of Micah is admittedly dramatic, and a reader attentive

to literary form cannot fail to note a distinct dramatic composition

introduced by the title-verse (vi. 9): "The voice of the LORD

crieth unto the city, and the man of wisdom will fear thy name„"

The latter part of the title --"and the man of wisdom will fear

thy name "—prepares us to expect an addition in the ‘Man of

Wisdom’ to the usual dramatis personae of prophetic dramas, which

are confined to God, the Prophet, and the ruined Nation. All


                        1 Quoted in Driver's Introduction, in loc.


                                                PREFACE                                          vii


that follows the title-verse bears out the description. Verses 10–16

are the words of denunciation and threatening put into the mouth

of God. Then the first six verses of chapter seven voice the woe

of the guilty city. Then the Man of Wisdom speaks, and the dis-

puted verses change the tone to convey the happy confidence of

one on whose side the divine intervention is to take place:


            But as for me, I will look unto the LORD; I will wait for the God of

            my salvation: my God will hear me. Rejoice not against me, 0 mine

            enemy: when I fall, I shall arise, etc.


The sequence of verses follows quite naturally the dramatic form

indicated by the title, and no break in the text is required. I have

no objection in the abstract to the hypothesis of defects in textual

transmission; but in judging of any alleged example it is reason-

able to give to indications of literary form a weight not inferior to

that of suggestions drawn from subject matter.

            Besides this historic analysis other obvious lines of literary treat-

ment are omitted from this book. I have scarcely touched such

poetic criticism as was admirably illustrated by the digest of

Hebrew imagery which Mr. Montefiore contributed some time

since to the Jewish Quarterly Review. I have little or nothing

to say about the style of biblical writers, although I welcome Pro-

fessor Cook's introduction of the Bible as a model in the teaching

of Rhetoric. I have even felt compelled to drop the survey of

subject matter which was at first a part of my plan. The more I

have studied the Bible from a literary standpoint, and considered

also the conditions for making such a standpoint generally acces-

sible, the more one single aspect of the subject has come into

prominence — the treatment of literary morphology: how to dis-

tinguish one literary composition from another, to say exactly

where each begins and ends; to recognise Epic, Lyric, and other

forms as they appear in their biblical dress, as well as to distin-

guish literary forms special to the Sacred writers. Hence the

book is "An account of the leading Forms of Literature repre-

sented in the Sacred Writings." The whole works up to what I


viii                                           PREFACE


have called a " Literary Index of the Bible." This ranges from

Genesis to Revelation, including the apocryphal books of Wisdom

and Ecclesiasticus; it marks off exactly each separate composition

(or integral parts of the longer compositions), indicates the liter-

ary form of each, and, where suitable (as in the case of an essay

or sonnet), suggests an appropriate title. My idea is that a stu-

dent might mark these divisions and titles in the margin of his

Revised Version, and so do for his Bible what the printer would

do for all other literature. I believe it is almost impossible to

overestimate the difference made to our power of appreciation when

the literary form of what we are reading is indicated to the eye,

instead of our having to collect it laboriously from what we read.

The underlying axiom of my work is that a clear grasp of the outer

literary form is an essential guide to the inner matter and spirit.

            I am of course not so sanguine as to suppose that the arrange-

ment of the Sacred Writings in this Index — involving, as it must,

critical questions in relation to every book of the Bible — will be

accepted. I desire nothing better than to set every student to

make such an arrangement for himself, getting help from every

source that is open to him and so to tide over the period before

public opinion permits the Bible to be issued with such aids to

intelligent reading from the printed page as are taken for granted

in all other literature.

            I have spoken so far from the point of view of the general or

the religious reader. But a consideration of a different kind has

had weight with me in the production of this book: the place in

liberal education of the Bible treated as literature. It has come

by now to be generally recognised that the Classics of Greece and

Rome stand to us in the position of an ancestral literature, — the

inspiration of our great masters, and bond of common associations

between our poets and their readers. But does not such a posi-

tion belong equally to the literature of the Bible? if our intellect

and imagination have been formed by the Greeks, have we not in

similar fashion drawn our moral and emotional training from


                                                PREFACE                                          ix


Hebrew thought? Whence then the neglect of the Bible in our

higher schools and colleges? It is one of the curiosities of our

civilisation that we are content to go for our liberal education to

literatures which, morally, are at an opposite pole from ourselves:

literatures in which the most exalted tone is often an apotheosis

of the sensuous, which degrade divinity, not only to the human

level, but to the lowest level of humanity. Our hardest social

problem being temperance, we study in Greek the glorification of

intoxication; while in mature life we are occupied in tracing law

to the remotest corner of the universe, we go at school for literary

impulse to the poetry that dramatises the burden of hopeless fate.

Our highest politics aim at conserving the arts of peace, our first

poetic lessons are in an Iliad that cannot be appreciated without a

bloodthirsty joy in killing. We seek to form a character in which

delicacy and reserve shall be supreme, and at the same time are

training our taste in literatures which, if published as English

books, would be seized by the police. I recall these paradoxes,

not to make objection, but to suggest the reasonableness of the

claim that the one side of our liberal education should have

another side to balance it. Prudish fears may be unwise, but

there is no need to put an embargo upon decency. It is surely

good that our youth, during the formative period, should have

displayed to them, in a literary dress as brilliant as that of Greek

literature — in lyrics which Pindar cannot surpass, in rhetoric as

forcible as that of Demosthenes, or contemplative prose not in-

ferior to Plato's — a people dominated by an utter passion for

righteousness, a people whom ideas of purity, of infinite good, of

universal order, of faith in the irresistible downfall of all moral

evil, moved to a poetic passion as fervid, and speech as musical,

as when Sappho sang of love or AEschylus thundered his deep

notes of destiny. When it is added that the familiarity of the

English Bible renders all this possible without the demand upon

the time-table that would be involved in the learning of another

language, it seems clear that our school and college curricula will

not have shaken off their medieval narrowness and renaissance


x                                              PREFACE


paganism until Classical and Biblical literatures stand side by side

as sources of our highest culture.

            My obligations will be obvious to the main representative works

of Biblical Criticism, more especially to the works of Cheyne,

Briggs, George Adam Smith, and the late Professor Milligan; to

the lectures of President Harper; above all to Canon Driver's

Introduction to Old Testament Literature, which has placed the

best results of modern investigation within easy reach of the ordi-

nary reader. I have made copious citations from the Revised

Version of the Bible and Apocrypha, for the use of which I am

under obligations to the University Presses of Oxford and Cam-

bridge. I am indebted for assistance of various kinds to personal

friends, amongst whom I ought to mention my brother, Dr. Moulton,

of the Leys School, and—here as always—Mr. Joseph Jacobs,

who has become to his large circle of friends a universal referee

for all departments of study. I have other obligations in my

memory, which it is not so easy to specify; obligations to public

institutions and private individuals whose encouragement has

assisted me at every step. For the last four years I have been

lecturing on Biblical literature in churches of various denomina-

tions, in theological schools and universities, and in popular lecture

rooms; my audiences in England and America have included

clergy and laity, Christian and Jewish, not without a representa-

tion of that other public which never reads the Bible and hears

with surprise its most notable passages. Though I have taken

pains to inquire, I have never found examples of the difficulties

which it was feared by some the handling of this topic on the

lecture platform might create. On the contrary, my experience

has uniformly confirmed what I have called above the foundation

axiom of my work — that an increased apprehension of outer

literary form is a sure way of deepening spiritual effect.

            I think it right to state that the issue of this work — announced

more than a year ago--has been delayed by circumstances for

which neither author nor publishers are responsible.


                                                                        RICHARD G. MOULTON.

August, 1895.










            ILLUSTRATED BY IT                                                                                  3


                                                       BOOK FIRST


                                            SACRED SCRIPTURES





            TATION                                                                                                          68




IV. CLASSIFICATION OF LITERARY FORMS                                        105



                                                 BOOK SECOND

                                  LYRIC POETRY OF THE BIBLE


V.  THE BIBLICAL ODE                                                                                          127






VIII.     LYRIC IDYL:  ‘SOLOMON'S SONG’                                                        194



                                                   BOOK THIRD

                                    BIBLICAL HISTORY AND EPIC


IX. EPIC POETRY OF THE BIBLE                                                                        221





xii                                            CONTENTS


                                              BOOK FOURTH



CHAPTER                                                                                                                  PAGE

XI.  FORMS OF WISDOM LITERATURE                                                 255


XII. THE SACRED BOOKS OF WISDOM                                                            284


XIII. ‘THE WISDOM OF SOLOMON’                                                                   305                


                                               BOOK FIFTH



XIV. FORMS OF PROPHETIC LITERATURE                                                      327






XVII. THE RHAPSODY OF ‘ZION REDEEMED’ [Isaiah xl-lxvi]                       395


XVIII.  THE WORKS OF THE PROPHETS                                                           417



                                                  BOOK SIXTH

                         THE BIBLICAL LITERATURE OF RHETORIC              


XX.  THE EPISTLES: OR WRITTEN RHETORIC                                                439






1.  LITERARY INDEX TO THE BIBLE                                                                  465


II.  TABLES OF LITERARY FORMS                                                                      499


III. ON THE STRUCTURAL PRINTING OF SCRIPTURE                                   512


IV.  USE OF THE DIGRESSION IN ‘WISDOM’                                       521


GENERAL INDEX                                                                                                   527














                        THE BOOK OF JOB: AND THE VARIOUS KINDS OF

                                LITERARY INTEREST ILLUSTRATED BY IT












            THE story in the Book of Job opens by telling how there was a

man in the land of Uz whose name was Job; how he was perfect

and upright, a man that feared God and eschewed                       Book of Job:

evil. It tells of his great substance in sheep and                          The Story Opens

camels and oxen, and how he was the greatest of                                  1, ii

all the children of the east. Then it speaks of his seven sons

and three daughters, and describes their joyous family life. And so

scrupulous was the piety of Job that, when his sons and daughters

had concluded a round of feastings at one another's houses, Job

rose early and sanctified them, lest perchance in their gaiety they

had offended God.

            Then the story passes to a Council in Heaven, at which the

sons of God came, each from his several province, to present

themselves before the Lord; and amongst them came the Adver-

sary from his sphere of inspection, the Earth. He in his turn

was questioned as to his charge, and Job was instanced by the

Lord as a type of human perfection. But the Adversary, as his

office was, began to raise doubts as to this perfection. God had

made a hedge of prosperity about the man: if he were to put

forth his hand, and destroy all at a stroke, Job might yet renounce

his worship.

            The Lord gave consent for this experiment to be made. So it

came about that in the midst of Job's prosperity there came a

messenger to him and said:



4                      LITERARY STUDY OF THE BIBLE


                                    The oxen were plowing,

                           and the asses feeding beside them;

                               and the Sabeans fell upon them

                                          and took them away;

                                yea, they have slain the servants

                                    with the edge of the sword;

                         and I only am escaped alone to tell thee!


While he was yet speaking there came also another, and said:


                              The fire of God is fallen from heaven,

                        and hath burned up the sheep, and the servants,

                                            and consumed them;

                             and I only am escaped alone to tell thee!


While he was yet speaking there came also another, and said:


                                   The Chaldeans made three bands,

                                             and fell upon the camels,

                                           and have taken them away,

                      yea, and slain the servants with the edge of the sword;

                                  and I only am escaped alone to tell thee!


While he was yet speaking there came also another, and said:


                                          Thy sons and thy daughters

                     were eating and drinking wine in their eldest brother's house;

                                                       and behold,

                               there came a great hind from the wilderness,

                                    and smote the four corners of the house,

                                         and it fell upon the young men,

                                                 and they are dead;

                                  and I only am escaped alone to tell thee!


Then Job arose, and rent his mantle, and shaved his head, and

fell down upon the ground, and worshipped; and he said:


                        Naked came I out of my mother's womb,

                              and naked shall I return thither!

                                              The Lord gave,

                               and the Lord hath taken away:

                             Blessed be the Name of the Lord!

                                    INTRODUCTION                                          5


So the experiment of the Adversary was over, and Job had not

fallen into sin.

            A second Council in Heaven followed, and a second time came

the sons of God, and the Adversary among them, and made their

reports. When the Lord triumphed in the matter of Job, that he

still retained his integrity notwithstanding the destruction done to

him, the Adversary did honour to the goodness of the man by

suggesting a yet severer test:


            Skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life. But

            put forth thine hand now, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he

            will renounce thee to thy face.


Even in this case the Almighty had no fear for his servant. So

the Adversary went forth, and smote Job with sore boils from the

sole of his foot unto his crown. And Job silently passed out, as

one unclean, and crept up the ash-mound, and there he sat and

suffered; until his good wife — who had uttered no word of com-

plaint when all the substance was swallowed up and her children

perished — broke down in the presence of this helpless pain:


            Dost thou still hold fast thine integrity? renounce God, and die!


But Job rebuked this momentary lapse from her wisdom:


            What? shall we receive good at the hand of God, and shall we not

            receive evil?


So the second experiment was over, and still Job sinned not with

his lips.

            But a third trial awaited Job, which needed no Council in

Heaven to decree it,—the trial of time. Day followed day, but

no relief came; and Job sat patiently on the ash-mound, an out-

cast and unclean. And gradually a reverence grew about the

silent sufferer: the children no longer jostled him as they sported

to and fro, and groups of sympathising spectators would gather

about the mound to gaze for a while on the fallen child of the

east. And the travellers as they passed by the way smote on

6                      LITERARY STUDY OF THE BIBLE


their breasts at the sight; and they made a token of it, and

carried the news into distant countries, until it reached the ears

of Job's three Friends, all of them great chieftains like himself:

the stately Eliphaz the Temanite, and Bildad the sturdy Shuhite,

and Zophar the Naamathite, with his venerable grey hairs. These

three made an appointment together to visit Job; and, when they

came in sight of him, with one accord they lifted up their voices

and wept. And the crowd of spectators made way for the great

men to ascend the mound; and they sat down upon the ground

opposite Job. Day after day they took their station there, yet

they could only weep with their friend; for, though they longed

to speak, their utter courtesy forbade them to disturb the majesty

of that silent suffering.

            At last it was Job himself who broke the long silence, in order

to curse, not God, but his own life. And at this point the intro-

ductory story in which the poem is framed begins to give place to

dialogue; but not before the introduction has made its contribu-

(Problem of the          tion to the general argument. The topic of the

poem and First          whole book is the Mystery of Human Suffering:

Solution)                   the introduction has suggested a First Solution of

the Mystery: Suffering presented as Heaven's test of goodness;

the test being made the severer where the goodness is strong

enough to stand it.

            Job opened his mouth, and cursed the day of his birth. Would

that it might be blotted from among the days of the year, that the

cloud, and the thick darkness, and the shadow of

Jobs curse             death, and all the degrees of blackness might seize

iii                      for their own! If the best of all gifts — never to

have existed—must be denied him, why might not that day of

his birth have also brought to him the Grave, and the long quiet

sleep with the stately dead, and with the wicked and the weary,

the prisoner and his task-master, the small and the great, all at

their ease together? Why should life be forced upon the bitter

in soul?

                                    INTRODUCTION                                          7


            In these later thoughts Job seems to reflect upon the order of

God's providence: he must be checked, and yet gently; and

Eliphaz takes this task upon himself. He dreads                 The Dramatic

to give pain to his friend, yet how can he refrain               Dialogue

from speaking, and laying down to Job the foun-               First cycle

dations of hope and fear with which Job himself                           iv-xiv

has so often comforted the afflicted?


            Now a thing was secretly brought to me,

            And mine ear received a whisper thereof:

                        In thoughts from the visions of the night,

                        When deep sleep falleth on men,

                        Fear came upon me, and trembling,

                        Which made all my bones to shake.

                        Then a spirit passed before my face;

                        The hair of my flesh stood up.

                        It stood still, but I could not discern the appearance thereof,

                        A form was before mine eyes:

                        There was silence, and I heard a voice, saying,

            "Shall mortal man be more just than God?

            Shall a man be more pure than his Maker?"


With the awful solemnity of this vision Eliphaz enforces the view

which the three Friends maintain throughout the discussion, and

which is put forward as a Second Solution of the Problem: The

very righteousness of God (they think) is involved in the doctrine

that all Suffering is a judgment upon Sin. Affliction, Says Eliphaz,

does not spring up of itself like the grass, but it is they who have

sown trouble that reap the same. But he puts the doctrine gently,

as constituting so much hope for Job: when the sinner has once

sought unto God he will find what great and unsearchable

wonders God doeth. Then happy will have been the chastening

of the Almighty, for if he maketh sore he bindeth up.


                        He shall deliver thee in six troubles;

                        Yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee.

                                    In famine he shall redeem thee from death;

                                    And in war from the power of the sword.

                                    Thou shalt be hid from the scourge of the tongue;

8                      LITERARY STUDY OF THE BIBLE


                        Neither shalt thou be afraid of destruction when it cometh.

                        At destruction and dearth thou shalt laugh:

                        Neither shalt thou be afraid of the beasts of the earth.

                        For thou shalt be in league with the stones of the field;

                        And the beasts of the field shall be at peace with thee.

                        And thou shalt know that thy tent is in peace;

                        And thou shalt visit thy fold and shalt miss nothing.

                        Thou shalt know also that thy seed shall be great,

                        And thine offspring as the grass of the earth.

                        Thou shalt come to thy grave in a full age,

                        Like as a shock of corn cometh in in its season.

            Lo this, we have searched it, so it is;

            Hear it, and know thou it for thy good.


            Job is bitterly disappointed at thus meeting reproof where he

had looked for consolation.


                        My brethren have dealt deceitfully as a brook,

                        As the channel of brooks that pass away;

                                    Which are black by reason of the ice,

                                    And wherein the snow hideth itself:

                                    What time they wax warm, they vanish:

                                    When it is hot they are consumed out of their place.

                                    The paths of their way are turned aside,

                                    They go up into the waste and perish.

                                    The caravans of Tema looked,

                                    The companies of Sheba waited for them.

                        They were ashamed because they had hoped;

                        They came thither and were confounded.


The comfort Job longs for is the crushing pain that would cut

him off altogether. And has he not a right to look for it? Is not

man's life a warfare for a limited time?


            As a servant that earnestly desireth the shadow,

            And as an hireling that looketh for his wages,


so Job passes his wearisome nights and months of vanity.


            If I have sinned, what can I do unto thee,

                        0 thou watcher of men?

            Why hast thou set me as a mark for thee,

                        So that I am a burden to myself?

                                    INTRODUCTION                                          9


                        And why dost thou not pardon my transgression,

                                    And take away mine iniquity?

                        For now shall I lie down in the dust;

                                    And thou shalt seek me diligently,

                        But I shall not be!


            Job never claims to be sinless, but he knows that no sin of his

can be proportionate to the total ruin that has fallen upon him.

But this does not satisfy the second speaker.


                        Doth God pervert judgement?

                        Or doth the Almighty pervert justice?


Will not Job disentangle himself from the transgression which has

already found victims in his children? For so surely as the flag

cannot grow without water: though it be green and spreading

above, with roots wrapped round and round its solid bed, yet it

perishes as if it had never been seen: so surely God will not

uphold the evil-doer. But neither will God cast away a perfect


                        He will yet fill thy mouth with laughter,

                                    And thy lips with shouting.

                        They that hate thee shall be clothed with shame,

                                    And the tent of the wicked shall be no more.


            Job knows of a truth that it is so. Yet how can a man be just

with God:


                        Which removeth the mountains, and they know it not,

                                    When he overturneth them in his anger.

                        Which shaketh the earth out of her place,

                                    And the pillars thereof tremble.

                        Which commandeth the sun, and it riseth not;

                                    And sealeth up the stars.


What answer but supplication is possible before that overpower-

ing Strength? a Strength that can destroy both the perfect and

the wicked alike: for if it be not God who does this, who is it?

Certain it is that the earth is given into the hand of the wicked.

However innocent the accused may be, before that Strength his

own mouth would condemn him.

10                    LITERARY STUDY OF THE BIBLE


                        If I wash myself with snow water,

                        And make my hands never so clean:

                                    Yet wilt thou plunge me in the ditch,

                                    And mine own clothes shall abhor me.

                        For he is not a man, as I am, that I should answer him,

                        That we should come together in judgement;

                        There is no daysman betwixt us,

                        That might lay his hand upon us both.


And Job appeals to God himself against this oppression of his

own handiwork.

                        Thine hands have framed me

                        And fashioned me together round about;

                                    Yet thou dost destroy me.

                        Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast fashioned me as clay;

                                    And wilt thou bring me into dust again?

                        Hast thou not poured me out as milk,

                        And curdled me like cheese?

                        Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh,

                        And knit me together with bones and sinews.


It is but a small boon that the creature asks of his Creator: that

he may be let alone for a brief space —

                        Before I go whence I shall not return:

                        Even to the land of darkness

                                    And of the shadow of death:

                        A land of thick darkness,

                        As darkness itself;

                                    A land of the shadow of death,

                                    Without any order,

                        And where the light is as darkness.


            Zophar is deeply shocked at a spectacle he has never beheld in

all his long life, — a good man questioning a visible judgment of


                        Canst thou by searching find out God?

                        Canst thou find out the Almighty unto perfection?

                                    It is high as heaven; what canst thou do?

                                    Deeper than Sheol; what canst thou know?

                                    The measure thereof is longer than the earth,

                                    And broader than the sea.

                                    INTRODUCTION                                          11


There is no course for Job but to set his heart aright, and put

iniquity far away; then shall he again lift up a spotless countenance

before God.

                        For thou shalt forget thy misery;

                                    Thou shalt remember it as waters that are passed away:

                        And thy life shall be clearer than the noonday;

                                    Though there he darkness, it shall be as the morning.


            Before the persistent dogmatism of the three Friends Job loses

more and more the patience which had stood the shocks of the


                                    No doubt but ye are the people,

                                    And wisdom shall die with you.

                        But I have understanding as well as you;

                        I am not inferior to you:

                        Yea, who knoweth not such things as these?


The just man is made a laughing-stock, and the tents of robbers

prosper : and yet the very beasts of the field can tell the inquirer

that the hand of the Lord is responsible for every breath of every

living thing. What, do the Friends stand forth as representatives

of Wisdom? Nay,

                        With HIM is wisdom and might;

                        He hath counsel and understanding.


Priests and counsellors spoiled, kings bound and unbound, the

mighty overthrown, speech reft from the trusty, and understanding

from the elders, contempt poured upon princes, and the belt of

the strong loosed: these declare the Wisdom to which alone Job

will appeal. Will the Friends lie on God's behalf? Will they be

partial advocates in his cause?

            Though he slay me, yet will I wait for him:

            Nevertheless I will maintain my ways before him.


Job appeals to God against God's own dealings, and never doubts

the issue of his appeal. And yet he is so feeble to plead his cause:

a driven leaf, a fettered prisoner, a moth-eaten rag! And the

time left for his vindication is so short!

12                    LITERARY STUDY OF THE BIBLE


                        Man that is born of a woman

                                    Is of few days, and full of trouble;

                                    He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down,

                                    He fleeth also as a shadow and continueth not.


                        For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down,

                                    That it will sprout again,

                                    And that the tender branch thereof will not cease;

                        Though the root thereof wax old in the earth

                        And the stock thereof die in the ground,

                                    Yet through the scent of water it will bud,

                                    And put forth boughs like a plant.

                        But man dieth, and wasteth away:

                        Yea, man giveth up the ghost, and where is he?

                                    As the waters fail from the sea,

                                    And the river decayeth and drieth up,

                        So man lieth down and riseth not;

                                    Till the heavens be no more,

                        They shall not awake,

                        Nor be roused out of their sleep.


A strange fancy plays for a moment with the emotions of the

sufferer,—the fancy that the Grave itself might be sweet, if only

there might come the vindication beyond it.


                        Oh that thou wouldest hide me in Sheol,

                        That thou wouldest keep me secret, until thy wrath be past,

                        That thou wouldest appoint me a set time, and remember me!

                                    —If a man die, shall he live again?

                        All the days of my warfare would I wait,

                                    Till my release should come;

                                    Thou shouldest call,

                        And I would answer thee:

                        Thou wouldest have a desire to the work of thine hands.


But Job dismisses the thought as vain.

                        Surely the mountain falling cometh to nought,

                        And the rock is removed out of its place,

                        The waters wear the stones,

                        The overflowings thereof wash away the dust of the earth:

                                    And thou destroyest the hope of man:

                                    INTRODUCTION                                          13


                                    Thou prevailest for ever against him, and he passeth;

                                    Thou changest his countenance, and sendest him away;

                        His sons come to honour,

                                    And he knoweth it not;

                        And they are brought low,

                                    But he perceiveth it not of them;

                                    Only for himself his flesh hath pain

                                    And for himself his soul mourneth.


            It has come to the turn of Eliphaz again to speak: he is

shocked that Job should resist the united appeals                 Second cycle

of his Friends.                                                                                          xv-xxi

                        Art thou the first man that was born?

                                    Or wast thou brought forth before the hills?

                        Hast thou heard the secret counsel of God?

                                    And dost thou restrain wisdom to thyself?


On his side, Eliphaz says, and perhaps as he speaks he lays his

hand upon the shoulder of Zophar, are the aged and greyheaded,

men much older than Job's father. Then he proceeds to formu-

late again the doctrine of the unfailing judgment upon sin, a judg-

ment never so certain as when it appears for the time to be delayed.


                        The wicked man travaileth with pain all his days,

                        Even the number of years that are laid up for the oppressor.

                                    A sound of terrors is in his ears;

                                    In prosperity the spoiler shall come upon him:

                                    He believeth not that he shall return out of darkness,

                                    And he is waited for of the sword.


Job cries out against such miserable consolation as this: for his

comfort he will go to a very different source.


                                    O earth, cover not thou my blood,

                                    And let my cry have no resting-place.

                                    Even now, behold, my Witness is in heaven,

                                    And He that voucheth for me is on high.


But once more the certainty of an ultimate vindication is over-

shadowed by the thought of the rapidly flitting life.

14                    LITERARY STUDY OF THE BIBLE


                        If I look for Sheol as mine house;

                        If I have spread my couch in the darkness;

                        If I have said to corruption, Thou art my father;

                        To the worm, Thou art my mother, and my sister;

                        Where then is my hope?


            Bildad rebukes Job's discomposure of manner.

                        Thou that tearest thyself in thine anger,

                        Shall the earth be forsaken for thee?

                        Or shall the rock be removed out of its place?


He sternly reiterates the doctrine of judgment, and images of

doom flow freely. Nets and toils are under the feet of the sinner,

gins and snares are all about him; his strength is hungerbitten and

the firstborn of death devours his members; brimstone is scattered

upon his habitation ; he is driven from light into darkness and

chased out of the world.

            Such reiteration simply drives Job to stronger and stronger self-

assertion: in set terms he declares that God subverteth him in his

cause, and denies him the judgment for which he calls. And

God has removed all other succour from him: his kinsfolk have

failed him, his acquaintance are estranged, his very household

look upon him as an alien.

                        Have pity upon me, have pity upon me,

                                    0 ye my friends,

                        For the hand of God hath touched me!


But the weakness of a moment is transformed into a burst of

strength, as he proceeds to lay his hopes upon a help from above.


                        Oh that my words were now written!

                        Oh that they were inscribed in a book!

                        That with an iron pen and lead

                        They were graven in the rock for ever!

            For I know that MY VINDICATOR LIVETH,

            And that he shall stand up at the last upon the earth;

            And after my-skin bath been thus destroyed,

            Yet without my flesh shall I see God!

            Whom I shall see on my side,

            And mine eyes shall behold, and not another!

                                    INTRODUCTION                                          15


With the overpowering emotions called up by this thought Job

almost faints :

                        — My reins are consumed within me —


but after a pause he recovers himself, and is able to bring his

speech to a conclusion.

            Zophar can scarcely wait his opportunity for speaking; his

thoughts anticipate his words on the favourite topic.

                                    Knowest thou not this of old time,

                                    Since man was placed upon earth,

                        That the triumphing of the wicked is short,

                        And the joy of the godless but for a moment?


And many wise saws are poured forth by Zophar, testifying to this

mockery of the sinner.

                        His children shall seek the favour of the poor,

                        And his hands shall give back his wealth.

                        His bones are full of his youth,

                        But it shall lie down with him in the dust.

                        The heavens shall reveal his iniquity

                        And the earth shall rise up against him.


            The doctrine thus thrust upon him again and again Job at last

begins to look fairly in the face; and the more he considers it the

more he trembles at the doubts that come crowding into his mind.


                        How oft is it that the lamp of the wicked is put out?

                        That their calamity cometh upon them?

                        That God distributeth sorrows in his anger?

                        That they are as stubble before the wind,

                        And as chaff that the storm carrieth away?

                        One dieth in his full strength,

                        Being wholly at ease and quiet:

                        His breasts are full of milk,

                        And the marrow of his bones is moistened.

                                    And another dieth in bitterness of soul,

                                    And never tasteth of good.

                        They lie down alike in the dust,

                        And the worm covereth them.

16                    LITERARY STUDY OF THE BIBLE


Eliphaz will not notice these doubts of Job; his righteous

                                    indignation with his friend has reached a climax,

Third Cycle                     and casting restraint aside he openly accuses Job

xxii-xxx                           of sin.


                        Thou hast taken pledges of thy brother for nought,

                        And stripped the naked of their clothing.

                        Thou hast not given water to the weary to drink,

                        And thou hast withholden bread from the hungry.


Therefore has trouble come upon him: but there is yet a place

for repentance. If Job will acquaint himself with God and put

unrighteousness away, he may still delight himself again in the


            Job makes no reply as yet to the cruel accusations: his thoughts

are upon the heavenly Vindicator.

                        Oh that I knew where I might find him:

                        That I might come even to his seat!


There he would have a judge that would not use his greatness to

confound him.

                        Behold I go forward,

                                    But he is not there;

                        And backward,

                                    But I cannot perceive him:

                        On the left hand, when he doth work,

                                    But I cannot behold him;

                        He hideth himself on the right hand,

                                    That I cannot see him.

                        But he knoweth the way that I take;

                                    When he hath tried me,

                                    I shall come forth as gold.


His spirit purified by this meditation, Job is able with calm delib-

erateness to lay before his Friends the new thoughts which are

troubling him: the doubt whether his own is after all an excep-

tional case, whether it be not rather the truth that in life taken as

a whole the times of the Almighty are not plainly to be seen. He

                                                INTRODUCTION                                          17


speaks of the violence in the world, and the poverty that violence

brings in its train: how men remove the ancient landmarks and

drive the needy out of the way, until they have to seek precarious

subsistence from the inclement wilderness, or labour in the fields

of which they may never eat. He tells of violence in the city,

and cries rising to a regardless God; of the thief, the adulterer,

the murderer, — men who rebel altogether against the light, and

the dawn comes upon them like a shadow of death. Yet all these

fare just like the rest of mankind.

            They are exalted; yet a little while, and they are gone;

            Yea, they are brought low, they are gathered in, as all other!


            Bildad cannot meet these questionings of Job: his thoughts

are filled with the overpowering greatness of God. He rises on

the wave of a great theme, as he pictures the Ruler                                   xxv. 1-6

of the Universe engaged in matters of high celestial

policy, or discovering blemishes in the brightness of the stars;

before him the Shades beneath the sea tremble;1  Destruction

and the Abyss reveal their secrets; his work is to hang

the earth upon nothing, to support the mighty waters in                xxvi. 5-14

the flimsy clouds, to divide light and darkness by a boundary circle.


                        Lo, these are but the outskirts of his ways;

                        And how small a whisper do we hear of him!

                        But the thunder of his power who can understand?


            The Friends have persisted in ignoring the arguments that Job

has offered, and Job can only fall back into self-assertion.                      xxvi. 1-4


                        As God liveth, who hath taken away my right;                    xxvii. 1-6

                        And the Almighty, who hath vexed my soul;

                                    All the while my breath is in me,

                                    And the spirit of God is in my nostrils:

                        Surely my lips shall not speak unrighteousness,

                        Neither shall my tongue utter deceit.



l In reference to the rearrangement of the speeches at this point see Job in

Literary Index (Appendix I).

18                    LITERARY STUDY OF THE BIBLE


Once more, and for the last time, the doctrine of unfailing

xxvii. 7- judgment on sin is to be asserted, and Zophar com-

xxviii. 28             menses:


                        Let mine enemy be as the wicked—


His long experience has filled him with instances of the godless

frustrated in their hopes: their children multiplied for the sword,

their heaped-up silver divided amongst the innocent, and them-

selves swept by the tempest out of their place. To Zophar this

confidence in the unerring stroke of doom seems the very founda-

tion of Wisdom. There are mines out of which may be dug gold

and silver and precious stones, but where is the place of Wisdom?


                        The deep saith, It is not in me:

                        And the sea saith, It is not with me:

                        It cannot be gotten for gold,

                        Neither shall silver be weighed for the price thereof.


God only is the source of it, and when he laid the foundations of

the universe he inwrought this into the structure of his world:

that the fear of the Lord and his judgments on evil — this should

be Wisdom and Understanding.

            Job is gathering himself together for his final vindication. But

first, softly to himself, he meditates upon the contrast between

then and now.

                        Oh that I were as in the months of old,

                        As in the days when God watched over me;

                        When his lamp shined upon my head,

                        And by his light I walked through darkness.


In the rich imagery of the East he paints a prosperity that washed

his steps in butter; he describes the hush that fell upon the

assembly of the great when he advanced to join them; how among

the people every ear that heard him blessed him, and every eye

that saw him was a witness to the deeds of kindness by which he

spread happiness around him. But now! He is derided by

those whose fathers were not to be ranked with the dogs of his

                                    INTRODUCTION                                          19


flock; the very rabble thrust him aside as he walks. And — worse

than all —

                        Thou art turned to be cruel to me:

                        With the might of thy hand thou persecutest me.


But before friend and foe, and in the presence of God himself,

Job stands forth to make solemn vindication. Towering above

the seated accusers, he waves his arm in the full

ritual of the Oath of Clearing. Article by article                            Job's vindication

he repudiates the lust of the eye, oppression of the                           xxxi

weak, failure in charity to the poor or hospitality to the stranger,

secret trust in gold or secret worship of the heavenly host; if there

be any other transgression — and Job passionately longs to see the

indictment of an adversary — he makes the very concealment of

it a fresh sin. Once more he breaks out:


                        If my land cry out against me,

                        And the furrows thereof weep together;

                        If I have eaten the fruits thereof without money,

                        Or have caused the owners thereof to lose their life:

                                    Let thistles grow instead of wheat,

                                    And cockle instead of barley!


Then, with a wave of dismissal — "The words of Job are ended"

—he seats himself and covers his face with his robe; and the

Friends understand that the discussion is closed.


            Religious tradition, embodied in the speeches of the three

Friends, has spent its energies and failed. But there is youth-

ful enthusiasm represented among the crowd of                            Interposition of

spectators round the ash-mound, in the person of                         Elihu

Elihu, of the great family of Ram. He has stood                            xxxii

listening with indignation in his heart; indignation against Job

because he justified himself and not God, and indignation against

the Friends because they had been unable to si-                             xxxii. 6-xxxiii

lence such presumption. Elihu now breaks through

the circle and ascends the ash-mound, standing respectful but

20                    LITERARY STUDY OF THE BIBLE


passionate before the seated elders. He had said that days must

speak and multitude of years show wisdom: but he has an under-

standing as well as they; yea, his spirit feels like wine that can find

no vent but by bursting its bottle. Thus, with juvenile profuse-

ness, he pours forth some fifty lines in saying that he is about to

speak, before he confronts Job — who had longed to meet God

face to face — with the words:


                        Behold, I am according to thy wish, in God's stead.


He thus reaches the point which makes his contribution to the

discussion, — a facet of the truth which his generation was seeing

a little more clearly than the generation before him. It may be

(Third Solution)               made a Third Solution of the Mystery: Suffering

                                    is one of the voices by which God warns and

restores men. He describes a man chastened with pain upon his

bed until his life abhorreth bread, and his soul the daintiest meat:


                        If there be with him an angel,

                        An interpreter, one among a thousand,

                        To skew unto man what is right for him;

                        Then he is gracious unto him, and saith,

                        "Deliver him from going down to the pit,

                        I have found a ransom."


An idyllic picture follows of restored purity and happy penitence;

and Elihu urges this view upon Job, and pauses for Job's reply.

            But Job vouchsafes no reply; and receives the new light with

contemptuous indifference.

            Disappointed at this reception, Elihu turns to the three Friends

— as wise men with an ear to try words — and hopes to take

                        them with him, and all men of understanding, in his

xxxiv                  protest against this Job, who drinketh up scorning like

                        water, who addeth rebellion unto sin, and clappeth his hands

against God. He enlarges upon the presumption of mankind

and the judgments with which it is overwhelmed, and looks to

the three Friends for assent.


                                    INTRODUCTION                                          21


            But the three Friends make no sign; they meet their youthful

champion with chilling silence.

            Slighted on both sides, Elihu, like Job, is driven to look up-

wards: as his glance sweeps the sky, another flood

of inspiration comes upon him.                                                       XXXV-XXXVII


                        Look unto the Heavens, and see:


he cries, alike to Job and to his companions. Is the God of those

heavens, he asks, a God to be harmed by a man's sin, or benefited

by his righteousness? Thus, "fetching his knowledge from afar,"

he makes the heavens a starting-point for a fresh vindication of

the providence that brings low and builds up again mighty kings,

or cuts off whole peoples in a night. A rumble of                    Rise of the Whirl-

distant thunder recalls him to his text; and, when                           wind

he looks up a second time, the brilliant sky of the                                     xxxvi. 22-

land of Uz has begun to show signs of change.                                           xxxvii. 24

Now his whole discussion of providential might is bound up with

the manifestations of power that are being exhibited at the moment

in the changing heavens. His words bring before us the small

drops of water and the spreading clouds, the play of lightning and

the noise that tells of God, down to the very cattle standing expect-

ant of the coming storm. When a nearer burst of thunder makes

his heart tremble and move out of its place, Elihu still keeps his

eyes fastened upon the sky: he finds fresh texts in the roaring voice

of the heavens, and the lightning that lightens to the ends of the

earth, in the snow intermingled with mighty rain as the icy breath

of the north encounters the storm out of the chambers of the

south, in the thick clouds wearied with waterings, and their delicate

balancings as they descend, and descend, until they have wrapped

in their folds speaker and hearers, and they cannot order their

speech by reason of the darkness, and the impetuous eloquence of

Elihu has died down into dread:


            If a man speak, surely he shall be swallowed up!


Now the whirlwind is upon them: in marvellous wise its blasts


22                    LITERARY STUDY OF THE BIBLE


seem to cleanse the mirky darkness into order; flashes of un-

earthly bright out of the dark make them cast their eyes down-

ward; until the flashes at last grow together into one terrible

majesty of golden splendour in the northern heart of the storm,

and the whirlwind has become the


                                    VOICE OF GOD


Divine Interven-              Who is this that darkeneth counsel

tion                                           By words without knowledge?

xxxviii-xlii.6                         Gird up now thy loins like a man;

                                                For I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me.


            As the Voice comes out of the storm a new aspect of the dis-

cussion unfolds itself. The perplexities of Job and his Friends

rested upon a one-sided view that confined its survey to Evil, as

if it alone were exceptional and unintelligible; the speech attrib-

uted to the Divine Being comes to restore the balance by taking

a more comprehensive survey. It may be reckoned as a Fourth

(Fourth Solution)             Solution of the Problem: That the whole universe

                                    is an unfathomed Mystery, in which the Evil is not

more mysterious than the Good and the Great. The idea of the

whirlwind is maintained throughout: the tone of overmastering

might— so often mistaken for the meaning of this Theophany —

is no more than the outward form in which the words of God are

embodied; the traditional association of thunder with the voice

of God leading our poet to convey the speech of Deity in the

form of short sharp interrogatories, like explosions of thunder,

each outburst putting some startling mystery of nature.


            Who shut up the sea with doors,

                        When it brake forth and issued out of the womb;

                        When I made the cloud the garment thereof,

                        And thick darkness a swaddling band for it,

                        And prescribed for it my decree,

                        And set bars and doors,

                        And said, "Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further;

                        And here shall thy proud waves be stayed"?


                                    INTRODUCTION                                          23


                        Have the gates of death been revealed unto thee,

                                    Or hast thou seen the gates of the shadow of Death?


                        Where is the way to the dwelling of light,

                                    And as for darkness, where is the place thereof?


                        Hath the rain a father?

                                    Or who bath begotten the drops of dew?

                        Out of whose womb came the ice?

                                    And the hoary frost of heaven, who bath gendered it?


There is no pause in the succession of wonders: the wonder of

the lioness hunting her prey; of the young ravens crying to God

for their food; the wonder of the wild goats bringing forth their

young; the wonder of the wild ass ranging loose in the wilderness,

and the ox abiding patiently by his crib; the wonder of the

ostrich, foolish over her young because God has deprived her of

wisdom, glorious in flight, putting to scorn the horse and his

rider; the wonder of the war-horse pawing in the valley and

rejoicing in his strength, swallowing the ground in fierceness and

rage amid the thunder of the captains and the shouting. There

is a momentary lull in the storm, when Job's voice is heard in

awe-struck humility:

                        Once have I spoken, and I will not answer:

                        Yea twice, but I will proceed no further.


Then again the swirl of mystery rages around: the Voice tells of

Behemoth, with bones of brass and limbs of iron, his larder a

mountain and a jungle his bower, watching unconcernedly the

swelling of the boisterous waterfloods; or of Leviathan himself,

panoplied against the hook of the fisher or snare of the fowler,

and scorning even the hunter's spear and the arrows of the war-

rior, flashing light and breathing smoke as he goes, terror dancing

before him, and ocean turning hoary in his wake.

            At last the storm begins to abate, and Job is able to make his

submission. He knows that God is all-powerful, and that no

purpose of his can be restrained.

24                    LITERARY STUDY OF THE BIBLE


            —"Who is this that hideth counsel without knowledge?"—


comes like an echoing rumble of the retiring storm. Job admits

the charge: he has uttered that which he understood not, and

meddled in things too high for him.


            —"I will demand of thee, and declare thou unto me "


again sounds forth, like a more distant echo of the tempest. Job

comprehends his whole submission in one utterance.


                        I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear;

                        But now mine eye seeth thee,

                        Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent

                        In dust and ashes.


Then the storm has entirely cleared away. And with it the

dramatic poem has given place to the frame of story: which

                                    resumes to relate how, when Job had thus spoken,

The story closes              the anger of the Lord was kindled against the

                                    three Friends, because they had not said of Him

the thing that was right as His servant Job had. Thus the Epi-

logue furnishes a Fifth Solution: the proper attitude of mind

(Fifth Solution)                towards the Mystery of Human Suffering: that

                                    the strong faith of Job, which could even reproach

God as a friend reproaches a friend, was more acceptable to Him

than the servile adoration which sought to twist the truth in order

to magnify God. It only remains to tell how the Lord turned the

captivity of Job, and his wealth and prosperity returned in greater

measure than before; and he begat sons and daughters, and saw

his sons' sons to the fourth generation. So Job died, being old

and full of years.

                                    INTRODUCTION                              25




            Such is the Book of Job presented as a piece of literature.

The questions of Theology or historic criticism that it suggests

are outside the scope of the present work. Our                                          Literary Interest

immediate concern is with the various kinds of                                         in the Book of

literary interest which have touched us as we                                             Job

have traversed this monument of ancient literature.

            The dominant impression is that of a magnificent drama. No

element of dramatic effect is wanting; and that which we might

least have expected, the scenic effect, is especially                                  Dramatic

impressive. The great ash-mound outside an an-                            Interest

cient village or town makes a stage just suited for                                    of Background

the single scene — and that an open-air scene — to which a Greek

tragedy would be confined. And resemblance to a Greek drama

is further maintained by the crowd of spectators who stand round

this ash-mound like a silent Chorus; — unless, indeed, we are to

consider that their sentiments are conveyed by Elihu as Chorus-

Leader. When we reach the crisis of the poem we are able to

see what advantage a drama addressed purely to the imagination

may have over plays intended for the theatre. No stage machin-

ery could possibly realise the changes of sky and atmosphere

which in Job make a dramatic background for the approach of

Deity. It is true that the original poem does not describe these

changes, as I have done, in straightforward narrative. But every

scholar is aware that the ‘stage directions’ of modern plays are

wanting in the dramas of antiquity: whatever variations of move-

ment and surroundings these involve have to be collected from the

words of the personages who take part in the dialogue. And in

the transformation traced above, from a day of brilliant sunshine

to a thunderstorm, and yet further to a supernatural apparition,

every detail of change is implied in the words of Ehhu. We

watch the changing scene through the eyes of those who are in

the midst of it.

26                    LITERARY STUDY OF THE BIBLE


            Interest of character abounds in the poem. I must confess I

cannot follow the subtle differences which some commentators see

                                    between the characters of the three Friends. It

of Character                    is easy to recognise in Eliphaz a stately personage

with a wider range of thought than his colleagues. But Bildad

and Zophar leave different impressions on different readers. To

me Bildad seems a touch more blunt in his manner than the rest.

Of Zophar I would only say that the speeches assigned him fit

well with the suggestion of his being a generation older than the

                        other personages of the poem; though of course the

xv. 10                 words of Eliphaz which claim such a personage as on

his side need not necessarily refer to anyone present. But what-

ever may be thought about the individualities of the Friends, no

one can miss the contrast between the whole group and Job;

between the interest of static character in various modifications

of conformity to current ideals, and the interest of a dynamic per-

sonality like that of Job, which can look back to a realisation of

the perfection his friends describe, and can yet at the call of cir-

cumstances fling his former beliefs to the winds, and probe pas-

sionately among the mysteries of providence for new conceptions

of divine rule. And the welcome addition to the poem of Elihu

adds the ever fresh interest of youth in contrast with age. In the

impetuous self-confidence of this personage, his flowing yet jejune

eloquence, and in the chilling reception it meets alike from Job

and Job's adversaries, we have youth presented from the one side.

But, on the other hand, youth has dramatic justice done to it

when we find Elihu's heart beating responsive to every change

of the changing heavens, and eagerly drinking in the accumulat-

ing terrors of the storm, until his wild speech stops only before

the voice of God.

            But scenery and character might almost be called secondary

elements of drama: its essence lies in action. The whole world

                                    of literature hardly contains a more remarkable

and of Movement                        piece of dramatic movement than the changes of

position taken up by Job in the course of his dialogue with the

                                    INTRODUCTION                                          27


Friends. Before it commenced Job had met his ruin with that

ideal patience which has forever been associated with his name.

At last we find just a shadow of resistance in his plaintive enquiry,

why life should be forced upon the miserable. His friends fasten

upon this, and make it a starting-point for the discussion in which

they urge that the sufferer is a sinner. Almost in an instant the

patient Job is transformed into an angry rebel, tearing to shreds

optimist views of righteous providence, and, with the passion of a

Titan, painting God as an Irresponsible Omnipotence that delights

to put righteousness and wickedness on an equality of helplessness

to resist Him. The Friends continue their pressure, and Job is

driven to appeal to God against their misconstruction; more and

more as the action advances Job is led to rest his hopes of vindi-

cation on the Being he began by maligning. At last he is found

to have traversed a circle: and the same God whom, in the ninth

chapter, he had accused of exercising judgment only to show his

omnipotence, he contrasts with the Friends in the twenty-third

chapter as a judge who would not contend with him in the great-

ness of his power. When the climax of the Theophany comes,

this movement of the drama is carried forward into a double sur-

prise. Job had felt that if only he could find his way into the

presence of God his cause would be secure. His prayer is strangely

granted, and with what result?

                        I had heard of thee by the hearing of the ear;

                        But now mine eye seeth thee,

                        Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent

                        In dust and ashes.

Yet was Job's first thought a mistake ? The answer is a second

surprise. While the tempest lasts the Theophany appears wholly

directed against Job. But when the storm has cleared it is found

to be the adversaries who have incurred the wrath of God, and his

servant Job has said of him the thing that is right. The deep

moral significance of these various presentations of Deity need

not make us overlook the dramatic beauty in the transition from

one to another.

28                    LITERARY STUDY OF THE BIBLE


            The dialogue in Job is introduced and concluded by a narrative

story, and to dramatic effect must be added epic: I use this word

                                    without meaning to convey any judgment: on the

Epic Interest                      question whether the incidents of the book are to

be regarded as imaginary or as historically true. The narrative is

one of grand simplicity, like the epics of antiquity. A few touches

create for us a whole picture of life and scheme of society. The

first note struck is that of perfection; and the life of which Job

is declared the perfect type is that of a simple pastoral age. His

substance of cattle is given in ideal figures; and he is called the

greatest of all the children of the east. It is an age in which the

‘state’ is not yet born, but family life is pictured on the highest

scale. The great seasons which break the monotony of such

patriarchal existence are rounds of festal gatherings among the

seven sons of Job, each receiving on his day with a regularity

never broken; the sons moreover invite their sisters, and so

women's society raises a revel into a dignified ceremonial. Such

interchange of festivity would represent the highest ordinary ideals

of the age. But behind this, Job, who lives in a wider world, has

his high day of religious devotion, rising early in the morning to

sanctify his children against possible sin.

            In an instant, without any connecting link or wordy preparation,

after the fashion of the old epics which have the doings of gods

and men alike in their grasp, we are transported to the heavenly

counterpart of such earthly festivities. Heaven too has its high

day on which the sons of God gather together from their several

provinces; in the description of two such assemblies the recur-

rence of identical phrases conveys the notion of ritual and cere-

monial observance. We reach a point in the story at which the

utmost care is needed to guard against a misconception of the

                                    whole incident. Among the sons of God, it is

(The Satan of                    said, comes ‘The Satan.’ It is best to use the article

Job)                              and speak of  ‘The Satan,’ or as the margin gives

it, ‘The Adversary: that is, the Adversary of the Saints. Else-

where in Scripture the title of this office has become the name of


                                    INTRODUCTION                                          29


a personage — the Adversary of God, or ‘Satan.’1 But here (as

in a similar passage of Zechariah) the Satan is an official

of the Court of Heaven. There is nothing in his recep-                             Zecha-

tion to distinguish him from the other sons of God; as                             riah iii.1

they may come from sun or moon or other parts of the Uni-

verse, so the Satan is the Inspector of Earth, and describes his

occupation as " going to and fro in the earth, and walking up and

down in it." When once the associations with the other ‘Satan’

are laid aside, it is easy to see that in the dealings of this per-

sonage with Job there is no malignity; he simply questions where

others accept, and in an inspector such distrust is a virtue. The

Roman Church has exactly caught this conception in its ‘Advoca-

tus Diaboli’: such an advocate may be in fact a pious and kindly

ecclesiastic, but he has the function assigned him of searching out

all possible evil that can be alleged against a candidate for canoni-

sation, lest the honours of the Church might be given without due

enquiry. In the present case the Satan merely points out possible

weaknesses in Job, and a means of testing them. The Court of

Heaven sanctions the ‘experiment’: — the word ‘experiment’ has

only to be changed into its equivalent ‘probation’ for the whole

proceeding to be brought within accepted notions of divine gov-


            Epic power is again exhibited in the description of the mode in

which this experiment is carried out. Slow history brings about

results by what means are in its power, with much of makeshift,

and accidents which mar the symmetry of events. But epic

poetry can make its action harmonious; and it seems to be a

conspiracy of heaven and earth that compasses Job's destruction.

The Sabeans take his oxen, the sky rains fire upon the sheep, the


                1 Bishop Bickersteth in his epic poem Yesterday, To-day, and Forever ingeniously

harmonises these two conceptions of Satan. He makes his Lucifer Guardian Spirit

of Earth and Man: as part of his office he tempts Adam then flies to Heaven to be

fallen Man's accuser: gradually the spirit in which he has executed his office

intensifies and makes more and more pronounced his own fall, until he at last sinks

into an open Adversary of God. See the poem, books iv—vi, and the bishop's de-

fence of this view in the St. James's Sermons.

30                    LITERARY STUDY OF THE BIBLE


Chaldeans carry away the camels, and the winds of the wilderness

overwhelm Job's children: while the separate destructions are

worked into a concerto of ruin by the recurrence of the mes-

senger's wail —


                        I only am escaped alone to tell thee.


It is an ideally grand shock. But at this stage Job's character is

epic, and the shock is met by an ideal grandeur of acceptance.

One by one the customary gestures of distress are exhibited, and

then slowly succeed the words which have become the world's

formulary for the emotion of bereavement. They are sublime

words, that first proclaim simply the essential manhood to which

the whole of life is but an accessory, and then throw over pious

submission a grace of oriental courtesy that would make the

resumption of a gift an occasion for remembering the giver.


                        Naked came I out of my mother's womb,

                                    And naked shall I return thither!

                                                The Lord gave,

                                    And the Lord hath taken away:

                        Blessed be the Name of the Lord!


            Our epic plot intensifies, and when the second assembly in

heaven is held, God and the Satan concur in honouring Job's con-

stancy by severer tests. In what follows there is no realistic

description; epic poetry can act by reticence, and a word or two

are sufficient to convey the picture of Job shrinking away silent

and unclean from among his fellows, with a patience terrible to

look upon; until the silence is broken by a second of those

utterances of his which are so colossal in their simplicity.  The

oriental nomad life has two ideals specially its own. One is the

solemn giving and receiving of gifts. The other is an instinct of

authority that knows no bounds to its submission: an oriental

seems to feel a pride in self-prostration before his natural lord.

Both ideals are united in Job's answer to his wife's murmur


                        What? shall we receive good at the hands of God and

                        shall we not receive evil?

                                    INTRODUCTION                                          31


            The simple power of epic poetry has raised us to a high plane

of thought and feeling: upon that plane the action of the poem is

to move with a passionateness that is proper to

drama. But there is a transition stage between                               The Curse a Lyric

the one and the other in that portion of the book                           Poem

entitled ‘Job's Curse.’ This is not narrative, and so cannot be

epic; it is clearly distinct from the dramatic poetry to which it is

a starting-point. Examination of it shows at once the musical

elaboration and accumulation of musings on a situation or thought

which we associate with lyric poetry. The Curse is a counterpart

to such English lyrics as Wordsworth's Intimations of Immortality

or Gray's Bard. I subjoin the whole here, that it may be read

in this connection as a separate lyric: — an Elegy of a Broken



                        Let the clay perish wherein I was born;

                        And the night which said, There is a man child conceived


                                    Let that day be darkness;

                                    Let not God regard it from above,

                                    Neither let the light shine upon it!

                                    Let darkness and the shadow of death claim it for their own;

                                    Let a cloud dwell upon it;

                                    Let all that maketh black the day terrify it!


                                    As for that night, let thick darkness seize upon it;

                                    Let it not rejoice among the days of the year;

                                    Let it not come into the number of the months!

                                    Lo, let that night be barren;

                                    Let no joyful voice come therein!

                                    Let them curse it that curse the day,

                                    Who are ready to rouse up leviathan!

                                    Let the stars of the twilight thereof be dark!

                                    Let it look for light, but have none;

                                    Neither let it behold the eyelids of the morning:


                        Because it shut not up the doors of my mother's womb,

                        Nor hid trouble from mine eyes!

32                    LITERARY STUDY OF THE BIBLE




                        Why died I not from the womb?

                                    Why did I not give up the ghost when I came out of the belly?

                        Why did the knees receive me?

                                    Or why the breasts, that I should suck?

                        For now should I have lien down and been quiet;

                        I should have slept; then had I been at rest,

                                    With kings and counsellors of the earth,

                                    Which built solitary piles for themselves;

                                    Or with princes that had gold,

                                    Who filled their houses with silver;

                        Or as an hidden untimely birth I had not been;

                        As infants which never saw light.

                                    There the wicked cease from troubling;

                                    And there the weary be at rest.

                                    There the prisoners are at ease together;

                                    They hear not the voice of the taskmaster.

                                    The small and great are there;

                                    And the servant is free from his master.


                        Wherefore is light given to him that is in misery,

                        And life unto the bitter in soul?

                                    Which long for death, but it cometh not;

                                    And dig for it more than for hid treasures;

                                    Which rejoice exceedingly,

                                    And are glad when they can find the grave.

                        Why is light given to a man whose way is hid,

                        And whom God bath hedged in?

                                    For my sighing cometh before I eat,

                                    And my roarings are poured out like water.

                                    For the thing which I fear cometh upon me,

                                    And that which I am afraid of cometh unto me.

                                    I am not at ease,

                                    Neither am I quiet,

                                    Neither have I rest;

                                    But trouble cometh.


            Our result then so far is that the Book of Job contains specimens

of epic, lyric, and dramatic composition; all the three main

elements of poetry find a representation in it, and a representation

                                    INTRODUCTION                                          33


of the most impressive kind. I pass now to those departments

of literature which are usually considered to be

furthest removed from poetry,--philosophy and                                        Interest of

science: philosophy that seeks to find a meaning                                      Philosophy

underlying life as a whole, and science that observes in detail and

arranges its observations.

            The whole work is a philosophical discussion dramatised. The

subject discussed is the mystery of human suffering,                               Various Attitudes

and its bearing upon the righteous government of                                     to the problem

the world: this is one of the stock questions of                                         discussed

philosophy. Each section of the book is the representation of a

different philosophical attitude to this question.

            The three Friends present a cut and dried theory of suffering --

that it is always penal. They are brought before

us as behaving in the usual fashion of persons                                           The Friends: A

finally committed to a theory: they pour out                                              Theory

stores of facts that make for their view, they ignore and refuse to

examine facts that tell against it, and they hint moral obliquity as

the real explanation of refusal to concur in their

doctrine. Elihu introduces the same theory modi-                         Elihu: Theory

fled and corrected to date; with him suffering is                                       modified

punishment for sin, but that special kind of punishment which is

corrective in character. He accordingly stands for a philosophic

school of the second generation; and we are not surprised to find

him maintaining his position with as much inflexibility as the

Friends have shown, and at the same time magnifying his slight

difference from them, and appearing no less an adversary to the

Friends than to Job himself.


                        Beware lest ye say, "We have found wisdom;

                        God may vanquish him, not man":

                        For he hath not directed his words against me;

                        Neither will I answer him with your speeches.


            At the furthest remove from these is found Job, who takes a

negative attitude, shattering other theories but providing none of

34                    LITERARY STUDY OF THE BIBLE


his own. Of course no one will understand Job really to accept

                        what some of his words imply, as where he sees in

Job's Negative      God an omnipotence that judges only to display

Attitude             power. But these wild words are not out of place

as a poetically strong representation of the perplexities that en-

counter one who would explain providential action. Job simply

cannot solve these perplexities; he trusts in a divine vindication

at some time, but meanwhile can only pronounce the problem of

life insoluble. This is distinctly a philosophic attitude: it is noth-

ing but the famous epoche, or suspension of mind, which from the

time of Socrates has been recognised as a natural tone of mind

for an enquirer. Of course there is a vast difference between

the cold brightness of Plato's dialogues and the heated debate in

Job; the Hebrew poem is not the discussion in the Porch or

Garden, but represents philosophy as it is talked in the school

of affliction. Job represents the epoche in a passion.

            Yet another' philosophical position is embodied in the Divine

Intervention. As I have suggested above, this portion of the

Divine Interven-              poem has been often misunderstood. It has been

tion: Reference to             assumed, not unnaturally, that the Divine Inter-

a wider category              vention — like the Deus ex machina of the Greek

drama—must be a final settlement of the questions in dispute.

When the speeches attributed to God are examined in this light

they are found to be no settlement at all, or, what were worse

than any settlement, an indignant denial of man's right to ques-

tion. But such interpretations overlook one important considera-

tion: that in the epilogue Job is pronounced by the Lord to have

said of him the thing that is right, while Job's Friends, who main-

tained the wickedness of questioning, are declared to have incurred

the Divine anger. The interpretation involves a double mistake.

On the one hand the Divine Intervention is not a settlement of

the matter in dispute; at the end of the poem the problem of

human suffering remains a mystery. But this section of the work,

like others, is a distinct contribution towards a solution. In esti-

mating what that contribution is a second mistake must be avoided,


                                    INTRODUCTION                                          35


by which form and substance have been confused. The tone of

scorn which rings through the sentences of the Divine utterance

must, as I have said above, be considered part of the dramatic

form thrown over the discussion; the poet has conceived the

thunder tone to be the proper embodiment for the Divine voice,

and the explosive interrogatories of which the speeches are com-

posed are just as much a portion of this dramatic setting as the

signs of a rising tempest which are put into the mouth of Elihu.

The whole is introduced with the explanation: "The Lord

answered Job out of the whirlwind." But when we go below

this outer form, and enquire what is the general drift of the

Divine utterance as a whole, we find, as I have said before, that

its effect is to widen the field of discussion. Job has fastened his

attention simply upon Evil, and successfully maintained its inex-

plicableness against his friends. The Divine Intervention brings

out that the Good and the Great, all that men instinctively

admire in the universe, is just as inexplicable as Evil. Now this

is distinctly a contribution towards the solution of the problem

in philosophic terms, it has included the matter under discussion

in a wider category, and this represents a stage of philosophic

advance. Moreover, it implies consolation to the human sufferer

as well as progress to the discussion. Job had met loss and pain

without a murmur; he broke down when long musing made him

realise the isolation his ruin had brought him, and how he was an

outcast from intelligible law. He recovers his self-control when

he is led to feel that his burden is only part of the world-mystery

of Good and Evil, for the solution of which all time is too short.

            Two sections of the work have yet to be considered in the

present connection, the prologue and the epilogue. From the

side of philosophy no part of Job is more im-                               Epilogue : Prac-

portant than the brief epilogue. Other sections                              tical bearings of

suggest distinct solutions of the problem under                            the question

discussion. But when a question is so wide as to admit of no

final settlement, but only of tentative treatment, philosophy can

have no more important task than to discover a practical attitude

36                    LITERARY STUDY OF THE BIBLE


which we may assume towards it while advancing slowly towards

theoretic knowledge. This is what the epilogue does in its pro-

nouncement that Job has been right and his friends wrong. As

suggested above, this can have no other meaning than to imply

that the bold faith of a Job, which could reproach his God as

friend reproaches friend where the Divine dealings seemed unjust,

was, though founded on ignorance, more acceptable to that God

than the servile adoration which sought to twist facts in order to

magnify His name. The deep significance of such a pronounce-

meat must be welcomed by every school of thought; it for ever

stamps the God of the Bible as a God on the side of enquiry.

            But before this principle has been laid down in the epilogue,

before Job and his friends have commenced to discuss the mys-

Prologue: Specu-             tery of suffering, another explanation of that mys-

lation upon a Tran-           tery has been suggested to our thoughts in the

scendental Expla-             prologue. When we are made to see the Powers

nation                             of Heaven discussing the character of Job as if it

were an item in which the welfare of the universe was concerned,

and contriving visitations of suffering as means of testing whether

the character be really all that it seems to be, it is impossible for

our minds not to generalise, and wonder whether large part of the

visible suffering in the actual world be not a probationary visita-

tion of this nature. Here then there is another solution presented:

how is the treatment to be classified from our immediate point of

view? The thinker has other weapons besides philosophic dis-

cussion. Philosophy deals with that which can be known by its

own methods; but the thinker may recognise a region outside

this, which therefore from the philosophic point of view is the

unknowable, which may nevertheless have influences operating

upon the region of what is known. In reference to such a region

he will not employ the method of discussion, but rather the form

of philosophic suggestion that has come to be called ‘speculation.’

The prologue to Job may be regarded as giving the authority of

Holy Writ to reverent speculation upon the higher mysteries.

No doubt here difference of interpretation comes in. Those who

                                    INTRODUCTION                                          37


consider that the first two chapters of Job represent an historic

fact — incidents which actually happened — will not use the word

speculation: to them this prologue will be the final settlement

of the whole question. But the great majority of readers will

take these chapters to be part of the parable into which the his-

tory of Job has been worked up; the incidents in heaven, like the

incidents of the Prodigal Son, they will understand to be spirit-

ually imagined, not historically narrated. And these will recognise

that the prologue gives completeness to the Book of Job viewed

from the standpoint of philosophy; the problem of human suffer-

ing, which has in other parts of the book been treated by theory

and theory modified, by negative positions and reference to a

wider category, and even by pronouncement upon its practical

bearings, has a further illumination cast upon it by a speculation

which refers the origin of suffering to the mysteries of the super-

natural world.

            I have spoken of science as well as philosophy. Science ob-

serves nature and life; observation of nature is the                                    Interest of

special work of modern science, antiquity turned                                     science:

its reflection chiefly on human life. It is hardly                                         The Land Ques-

necessary to point out that proverb-like reflec-                                         tion

tions on society and life form large part of the material out of

which the dialogue in Job is constructed. I will be content with

a single one of the more extended illustrations. It is remarkable

that the whole course of what the most modern thought calls

‘the land question’ is sketched in a single chapter of                                xxiv

Job. The patriarch is describing what seems to him

the misgovernment of the world. He commences with the en-

croachments of private ownership upon the common land:


                        There are that remove the landmarks. .  . .               2,  4

                        They turn the needy out of the way.


There is consequently the formation of a class of the poor, who

are either driven to the barren regions, or become a mere labour-

ing class without rights in the land of the community.

38                    LITERARY STUDY OF THE BIBLE


4, 5                  The poor of the earth hide themselves together:

                        Behold, as wild asses in the desert

                        They go forth to their work, seeking diligently for meat;

                        The wilderness yieldeth them food for their children.

7, 8                  They lie all night naked without clothing,

                        And have no covering in the cold.

                        They are wet with the showers of the mountains,

                        And embrace the rock for want of a shelter.


Poverty, Job sees, necessitates borrowing, and the fresh distress

that is its natural sequel.


2, 3                  They violently take away flocks and feed them,

                        They drive away the ass of the fatherless,

                        They take the widow's ox for a pledge.


Poverty is seen side by side with wealth, forced into close relation-

ship with it that increases the distress of want.


6                      They cut his provender in the field;

                        And they glean the vintage of the wicked.

10, 11             And being an-hungered they carry the sheaves;

                        They make oil within the walls of these men;

                        They tread their winepresses, and suffer thirst.


As a next stage we get the crowding of population in cities, with

hints of fresh distress and turbulence.


12                    From out of the populous city men groan,

                        And the soul of the wounded crieth out,

                        Yet God imputeth it not for folly.


The climax comes in the formation of a purely criminal class.


13-17              These are of them that rebel against the light;

                                    They know not the ways thereof,

                                    NOT abide in the paths thereof.

                        The murderer riseth with the light,

                                    He killeth the poor and needy;

                                    And in the night he is as a thief.

                        The eye also of the adulterer waiteth for the twilight;

                                    Saying, No eye shall see me;

                                    And he putteth a covering on his face.

                                                INTRODUCTION                              39


                        In the dark they dig through houses:

                                    They shut themselves up in the daytime.

                                    They know not the light.

                        For the morning is to all of them

                                    As the shadow of death;

                                    For they know the terrors of the shadow of death.


It is noteworthy that when Job makes his general vindication he

finds a climax in disowning sins against the rights                                    xxxi. 38

and duties of land.

            It appears then that both philosophy and science have their

representation in this ancient book of the Bible. Yet every reader

will feel that these words are an imperfect descrip-         

tion of the matter which makes up the poem of                                         Interest of

Job. Philosophy is based upon reason; but in the                                       Prophecy

present case there is a section of the poem which represents God

himself as entering into the discussion, and holding up a view

of the truth from which no one appeals. It is clear that in the

Book of Job yet another element of Revelation mingles side by

side with Philosophy; and the new element implies a new divi-

sion of literature. The student who comes to the Bible from

other literatures must be prepared to recognise a special literary

type, that of Prophecy: a department which is distinguished from

others not by form — for Prophecy may take any form   but by

spirit, its differentia being that it presents itself as an authoritative

Divine message. The literary study of the Bible has no more

important task than that of describing Prophecy from the literary

point of view.

            The varieties of literary form illustrated in the work we are

considering are not yet exhausted. We have called the Book of

Job a drama and a philosophic discussion; yet                                           Interest of

neither of these descriptions will account for the                                     Rhetoric

strange character of the individual speeches which

strikes every reader. Their length, if nothing else, would dis-

tinguish them from the speeches of other dramas; and their tone

is equally far removed from the tone of philosophic disquisition.

40                    LITERARY STUDY OF THE BIBLE


They have in them plenty of dramatic force, and also clear and

effective strokes of argument. But they do not stop with these;

the dramatic thrust gives place to ornate moralising which, from

the dramatic point of view, seems so much waste; and the point

of the argument is again and again lost in an accumulation of

beautiful irrelevancy. He would be a very perverse reader who

should cry out against these characteristics of Job as literary faults:

on the contrary, they are evidence that the character of the work

is insufficiently described by the terms drama and discussion. A

further element comes in of Rhetoric: not in the debased sense

which the word is coming to bear to modern ears, but the Rhetoric

of antiquity which was the delight in speech for its own sake.

Each delivery of a speaker in the poem of Job is to be looked

upon as a work of art in itself. If Job in the course of the dis-

cussion interjects the parenthetic thought, "What is the good of

                        arguing?" this parenthesis is found to be a finished

xvi. 6-17 meditation of twenty-eight lines. The speech in which

it occurs is answered by Bildad, and he meets Job's eloquence by

a tour-de-force of imagery painting the whole universe watch-

                        ing to destroy the sinner, and this piece of word-beauty

xviii. 5-21            runs to thirty-four lines. Zophar in the same round of

discussion varies the beauty by a string of wise saws on the same

topic, and these extend to sixty lines. All this is over and above

                        the portions of the speeches which are strictly argument-

xx. 4-29               ative. It is clear then that the personages of the poem

answer one another, not only with argument and dramatic passion,

but also with counterpoises of rhetoric weight. The whole be-

comes like a controversy carried on in sonnets, a discussion waged

in perorations. Once more the many-sidedness of the Bible is

apparent; and the student who would fully appreciate it must

train himself in the literary interest of Rhetoric.

            One word more has yet to be said. The literary varieties men-

tioned so far are such as appeal chiefly to the mind. But there

is one main distinction in literature that appeals to the eye and

the ear also the distinction between the ‘straight-forward’ speech

                                    INTRODUCTION                                          41


called ‘prose,’ and that kind of speech which ‘measures’ itself

into metres and verses. A glance at the Book of

Job in any properly printed version shows that                                          Interest of

this work, like the plays of Shakespeare or the                                          Versification

later stories of William Morris, presents an interchange between

the two fundamental forms of language, being a dialogue in verse

enclosed in a frame of prose story. When however the English

reader calls in his ear to supplement his eye, he finds that the

verse passages of Job differ essentially from what he is accustomed

to find in English verse. There is no rhyme, nor do the lines

correspond in meters or syllables. The Book of Job, then, in

addition to its other literary suggestiveness, raises the elementary

questions of Biblical versification.

            The purpose of this Introduction is now accomplished. I have

engaged the reader's attention with a single book of the Bible;

we have seen that, over and above what it yields to

the theological faculty or the religious sense, the work                           Plan of the whole

Book of Job is a piece of literature, the analysis of                                  work

which brings us into contact with all the leading varieties of

literary form. What the Introduction has done in reference to a

single book, the work as a whole is to do in reference to the

whole Bible, proceeding however by a method more regular than

has been necessary so far. The work will be divided into six

books. The first book will start with the point last reached --

Biblical Versification--and widening from this will search out

other distinctions which may serve as a basis for the Classification

of Literature under such heads as Lyric, Epic, Philosophic, Pro-

phetic, Rhetoric. The subsequent books will take up these depart-

ments one by one, illustrating each, with the subdivisions of each,

from the most notable examples in the Sacred Writings. The

reader who has thus given his attention to the general literary

aspects of the Bible will then find, in an Appendix, Tabular

arrangements into which the whole of the Bible enters, intended

to assist him when he desires to read the Sacred Writings from the

literary point of view.










                                    BOOK FIRST






                               SACRED SCRIPTURES



CHAPTER                                                                                                                  PAGE




            PRETATION                                                                                      68




IV. CLASSIFICATION OF LITERARY FORMS                                        105





                                                CHAPTER I






            THE Bible is the worst-printed book in the world. No other

monument of ancient or modern literature suffers the fate of being

put before us in a form that makes it impossible,                                      Literary form of

without strong effort and considerable training, to                                    Scripture ob-

take in elements of literary structure which in all                                     scured by ordi-

other books are conveyed directly to the eye in a                                      nary modes of

manner impossible to mistake.                                                                    printing.

            By universal consent the authors of the Sacred Scriptures

included men who, over and above qualifications of a more

sacred nature, possessed literary power of the highest order. But

between their time and ours the Bible has passed through what

may be called an Age of Commentary, extending over fifteen

centuries and more. During this long period form, which should

be the handmaid of matter, was more and more overlooked;

reverent, keen, minute analysis and exegesis, with interminable

verbal discussion, gradually swallowed up the sense of literary

beauty. When the Bible emerged from this Age of Commentary,

its artistic form was lost; rabbinical commentators had divided

it into ‘chapters,’ and medieval translators into ‘verses,’ which

not only did not agree with, but often ran counter to, the origi-

nal structure. The force of this unliterary tradition proved too

strong even for the literary instincts of King James's translators.

Accordingly, one who reads only the ‘Authorized Version’ incurs

a double danger: if he reads his Bible by chapters he will, with-

out knowing it, be often commencing in the middle of one com-





position and leaving off in the middle of another; while, in

in particular:                    whatever way he may read it, he will know no dis-

verse printed as               tinction between prose and verse. It is only in

prose                             our own day that a better state of things has

arisen. The Church of England led the way by issuing its ‘New

Lectionary’; the new lessons will be found to differ from the old

chiefly in the fact that the passages marked out for public reading

are no longer limited by the beginnings and endings of chapters.

Later still the ‘Revised Version’ of the Bible, whatever it may

have left undone, has at all events made an attempt to rescue

Biblical poetry from the reproach of being printed as prose.

            It is to the latter of these two points — the distinction between

verse and prose — that I address myself in the present chapter.

Biblical Versifi-                No doubt the confusion of the two would have

cation based on               been impossible, were it not that the versification

parallelism of                     of the Bible is of a kind totally unlike that which

clauses                          prevails in English literature.  Biblical verse is

made neither by rhyme nor by numbering of syllables; its long-

lost secret was discovered by Bishop Lowth more than a cen-

tury after King James's time. Its underlying principle is found

to be the symmetry of clauses in a verse, which has come to be

called ‘Parallelism.’


                        Hast thou given the horse his might?

                        Hast thou clothed his neck with the quivering mane?

                        Hast thou made him to leap as a locust?

                                    The glory of his snorting is terrible.

                                    He paweth in the valley, and rejoiceth in his strength:

                                    He goeth out to meet the armed men.

                                    He mocketh at fear, and is not dismayed;

                                    Neither turneth he back from the sword.

                                    The quiver rattleth against him,

                                    The flashing spear and the javelin.

                                    He swalloweth the ground with fierceness and rage;

                                    Neither standeth he still at the voice of the trumpet.

                                    As oft as the trumpet soundeth he saith, Aha

                                    And he smelleth the battle afar off,

                                    The thunder of the captains, and the shouting.

                        RHYTHMIC PARALLELISM                                 47


It is abundantly clear, first, that this is a passage of the highest

rhythmic beauty; secondly, that the effect depends neither on

rhyme nor metre. Like the swing of a pendulum to and fro, like

the tramp of an army marching in step, the versification of the

Bible moves with a rhythm of parallel lines.

            How closely the effect of this versification is bound up with the

parallelism of the clauses, the reader may satisfy himself by a

simple experiment. Let him take such a psalm as the one hun-

dred and fifth; and, commencing (say) with the eighth verse,

let him read on, omitting the second line of each couplet: what

he reads will then make excellent historic prose.


            He hath remembered his covenant for ever: the covenant which he

            made with Abraham, and confirmed the same unto Jacob for a

            statute, saying, "Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan," when

            they were but a few men in number, and they went about from

            nation to nation. He suffered no man to do them wrong, saying,

            "Touch not mine anointed ones."


Let him now read again, putting in the lines omitted: the prose

becomes transformed into verse full of the rhythm and lilt of a



                        He hath remembered his covenant for ever,

                                    The word which he commanded to a thousand generations;

                        The covenant which he made with Abraham,

                                    And his oath unto Isaac;

                        And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a statute,

                                    To Israel for an everlasting covenant:

                        Saying, "Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan,

                                    The lot of your inheritance":

                        When they were but a few men in number;

                                    Yea, very few, and sojourners in it;

                        And they went about from nation to nation,

                                    From one kingdom to another people

                        He suffered no man to do them wrong;

                                    Yea, he reproved kings for their sakes;

                        Saying, "Touch not mine anointed ones,

                                    And do my prophets no harm."



            The alphabet, then, of Scriptural versification will be the figures

The Couplet and              of Parallelism. Of these figures the simplest and

Triplet                            most fundamental are the Couplet and Triplet. A

Couplet consists of two parallel clauses, a Triplet of three.


                                    The LORD of Hosts is with us;

                                    The God of Jacob is our refuge.

                        He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth;

                        He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder;

                        He burneth the chariots in the fire.


It is remarkable that the musical rendering of the psalms by

chants, which in some points is carried to such a degree of nicety,

entirely ignores this foundation difference of Couplet and Triplet,

the same chant being sung to both. To take a typical case.


            The LORD of Hosts  is         with us


            The God of     Ja - cob           is         our refuge.


This is correct, because a piece of music which is two-fold in

its structure is sung to a couplet verse. But presently the same

music will be sung to the triplet verse.


            He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth :

            He breaketh the bow and CUTTETH the       spear in sunder.



            He BURNeth the                       char - iots   in         the fire.


                        RHYTHMIC PARALLELISM                                  49


Every ear must detect that this is a clumsy makeshift: it runs

counter to a rhythmic distinction as fundamental as the distinction

of common time and triple time in music. The remedy is very

simple. Chants of this nature are made up of two parts.



As such they are only fitted to couplet verses. For the triplet

verse a variant is needed to the first part, sufficiently like it to be

recognised, yet differing in a note or two. For




a simple variant would be




The couplet verse would be sung as before; for the triplet the

variant would be inserted between the first and second parts.


(first part)



He maketh wars to CEASE unto the                        end      of the earth.





He breaketh the bow and CUTTETH the                spear    in         sunder.


(second part)



              He BURNeth the                       char – iots   in      the       fire.



            I am loth to delay the reader with what may seem to be merely

technical matters. But attention to just a few of the elementary

                                    forms of Hebrew verse will richly repay itself in

Quatrains and                 increased susceptibility to the rhythmic cadence of

Double Triplets               Biblical poetry. Passing then to other figures, it is

natural to mention first the Quatrain, which has four lines. The

four lines may be related to one another in various ways, of which

the commonest is Alternation, the first line being parallel with the

third, and the second with the fourth.

                        With the merciful

                                    Thou wilt show thyself merciful:

                        With the perfect man

                                    Thou wilt show thyself perfect.1


In the Quatrain Reversed, or Introverted, the first line corresponds

with the fourth, and the two middle lines with one another.

                        Have mercy upon me, 0 God,

                                    According to thy loving kindness:

                                    According to the multitude of Thy tender mercies

                        Blot out my transgressions.2


Usually such introversion is merely a matter of form, but some-

times it is found to be closely bound up with the sense.


                        Give not that which is holy unto the dogs,

                                    Neither cast your pearls before the swine:

                                    Lest haply they [the swine] trample them under their feet,

                        And [the dogs] turn and rend you.3


                1 Psalm xviii. 25. The following verse is another example, and this figure is

very common.

                2 Psalm li. I. Compare the metre of In Memoriam. Other examples are Psalm

ciii. i ; ix. 15.

                3 Matthew vii. 6. It will be observed that Hebrew parallelism strongly influ-

ences the language of the New Testament, and of Apocryphal books originally

Greek. It is therefore technically correct to treat Biblical literature as a depart-

ment by itself.

                        RHYTHMIC PARALLELISM                                  51


Very rarely the couplets of a Quatrain are not only parallel but

interwoven, so that the sense of the first line is carried on by the

third, and the sense of the second by the fourth.


                        I will make mine arrows drunk with blood,

                                    And my sword shall devour flesh:

                        With the blood of the slain and the captives,

                                    [Flesh] From the head of the leaders of the enemy.1


As we have Quatrain and Quatrain Reversed, so we have the

Double Triplet and the Triplet Reversed.


                        Ask, and it shall be given you;

                                    Seek, and ye shall find;

                                                Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.

                        For every one that asketh receiveth,

                                    And he that seeketh findeth,

                                                And to him that knocketh it shall be opened.2


The eye catches what the ear confirms in this arrangement: how

the first line of the second triplet balances the first line of the

first triplet, the second the second, and the third the third. But

in what follows the order of the second triplet is reversed, so

that the beginning of the whole corresponds with the end, and

the middle lines with one another:


                        No servant can serve two masters:

                                    For either he will hate the one,

                                                And love the other;

                                                Or else he will hold to one,

                                    And despise the other.

                        Ye cannot serve God and mammon.3


            It is to be observed that such figures occur either             Recitative addi-

pure or intermixed with a sequence of words that                         tions to Figures


            1 Deut. xxxii. 42.

            2 Matthew vii. 7, 8. Other examples are Matthew xii. 35; Isaiah xxxv. 5.

            3  Luke xvi. 13. Other examples are Proverbs xxx. 8, 9; Ezekiel i. 27.



remains outside the rhythm, like the ‘recitative’ of a chant. Such

a recitative may occur at the beginning:


                        And in that day thou shalt say

                                    I will give thanks unto thee, 0 Lord,

                                                For though thou vast angry with me,

                                                Thine anger is turned away,

                                    And thou comfortest me.


or at the end:


                        Make the heart of this people fat,

                                    And make their ears heavy,

                                                And shut their eyes:

                                                Lest they see with their eyes,

                                    And hear with their ears,

                        And understand with their heart:

            and turn again and be healed.


Or the recitative may even occur by interruption in the middle of

the figure: a passage in St. Matthew has two Reversed Quatrains

in succession thus interrupted.


      Whosoever shall swear by the Temple, it is nothing,

            But whosoever shall swear by the Gold of the Temple, he is a debtor:

                        (Ye fools and blind)

            For whether is greater, the Gold?

     Or the Temple that hath sanctified the Gold?


     And, Whosoever shall swear by the Altar, it is nothing,

            But whosoever shall swear by the Gift that is upon it, he is a debtor:

                        (Ye fools and blind)

            For whether is greater, the Gift?

      Or the Altar that sanctifieth the Gift?


There is no limit to the length or variety of such figures in

                                    Biblical versification. Of the more elaborate it

The Chain Figure             will be enough to instance two. The Chain Fig-

ure is made up of a succession of clauses so linked that the goal

of one clause becomes the starting-point of the next.

                        RHYTHMIC PARALLELISM                                  53


                        That which the palmerworm hath left

                                    hath the locust eaten;

                                    and that which the locust hath left

                                                hath the cankerworm eaten;

                                                and that which the cankerworm hath left

                                                            hath the caterpillar eaten.l


The figure is all the more impressive when an additional line

comes to complete the chain of ideas by connecting the end with

the beginning.


                        For her true beginning is

                                    desire of discipline;

                                    And the care for discipline is

                                                love of her;

                                                And love of her is

                                                            observance of her laws;

                                                            And to give heed to her laws

                                                                  confirmeth incorruption;

                                                                 And incorruption bringeth near unto God;

                        So then desire of wisdom promoteth to a kingdom.


But perhaps the most important figure, and the one most attrac-

tive to the genius of Hebrew poetry, is the Envel-                                     The Envelope

ope Figure, by which a series of parallel lines                                           Figure

running to any length are enclosed between an identical (or

equivalent) opening and close.


                        By their fruits ye shall know them.

                                    Do men gather grapes of thorns?

                                    Or figs of thistles?

                                    Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit,

                                    But the corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit:

                                    A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit,

                                    Neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

                                    Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit

                                    Is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

                        Therefore by their fruits ye shall know them.


            1 Joel i. 4. Other examples are in Hosea ii. 21, 22; Romans x. 14, 15; II Peter i.

5-7. The passage next cited is from Wisdom vi. 17-20.

            2 Compare Psalm viii: or, in English poetry, the opening stanza of Southey's




The same artistic effect of envelopment is produced when in such

a figure the close is not a repetition of the opening, but completes

it, so that the opening and the close make a unity which the

parallel clauses develop,


                        Consider the ravens:

                                    that they sow not,

                                    neither reap:

                                    which have no store-chamber nor barn;

                                    and God feedeth them:

                        Of how much more value are ye than the birds!1


            The general subject of versification includes not only these

Figures of Parallelism, the ultimate form by which Biblical verse

                        separates itself from prose, but also those larger

Stanzas              aggregations of lines and verses making integral

parts of a poem, which may be called ‘Stanzas.’ Four points

may be noted in regard to the position of the stanzas in the

structure of Hebrew verse.

            First, a poem may be, composed of similar figures through-

out: this is the treatment most familiar to the reader of English

1. Stanzas of Sim-             literature. The hundred and twenty-first psalm

ilar Figures                     is made up of four similar quatrains.


Psalm cxxi     I will lift up mine eyes unto the mountains:

                                    From whence shall my help come?

                                    My help cometh from the LORD,

                                    Which made heaven and earth.


                        He will not suffer thy foot to be moved:

                                    He that keepeth thee will not slumber;

                                    Behold, he that keepeth Israel

                                    Shall neither slumber nor sleep.


                        The LORD is thy keeper:

                                    The LORD is thy shade upon thy right hand;

                                    The sun shall not smite thee by day,

                                    Nor the moon by night.


            1 Luke xii. 24.-The figure made by a Question and its Answer comes under

this head; e.g. Psalm xv, or Psalm xxiv. 3-6.

                                    RHYTHMIC PARALLELISM                                  55


                        The LORD shall keep thee from all evil:

                                    He shall keep thy soul;

                                    The LORD shall keep thy going out and thy coming in,

                                    From this time forth and for evermore.


            Here may be mentioned a device of versification which applies

to this as to all varieties of structure. It is the Refrain: the recur-

rence of a verse (or part of a verse) the repetition                                    The Refrain as a

of which, besides being an artistic effect in itself,                                    structural device

assists also in marking off such divisions as stanzas. A refrain in

stanzas of this first kind will be given by the familiar hundred and

thirty-sixth psalm; the poem is wholly composed of couplets,

and the second line of each couplet is the refrain,


                                    For his mercy endureth for ever.


            A second treatment of stanzas is seen where a psalm is found

to be composed of different figures. The analysis of the first

psalm yields a result of this nature. First we                                              2. Stanzas of

have a triple triplet preceded by a recitative.                                              Varying Figures


                        Blessed is the man                            Psalm i


                                    that walketh not

                                                in the counsel

                                                            of the wicked,

                                    Nor standeth

                                                in the way

                                                            of sinners,

                                    Nor sitteth

                                                in the seat

                                                            of the scornful.


This is followed by a quatrain reversed.

                        But his delight

                                    is in the law of the LORD :

                                    And in his law

                        Doth he meditate day and night.



The next verse is a good example of the closeness with which

form reflects matter. Its form is found to be a double quatrain

with an introduction. On examination this recitative introduction

will be seen to put forward the general thought — the comparison

of the devout life to a tree; while the figure works this thought

out into particulars, on the plan of the left-hand members of the

figure suggesting elements of vegetable life—the planting, the

fruitage, the foliage—and the right-hand members predicating

perfection of each.


                        And he shall be like a Tree


                                                by the streams of water,

                                    That bringeth forth its fruit

                                                in its season;

                                    Whose leaf also

                                                cloth not wither,

                                    And whatsoever he doeth

                                                shall prosper.


Next, we have a single couplet, sharply contrasting with what has

gone before the mere worldly life.


                        The wicked are not so,

                        But are like the Chaff which the wind driveth away.


A simple quatrain and a quatrain reversed bring the poem to a


                        Therefore the wicked shall not stand

                                    in the judgement,

                        Nor sinners

                                    in the congregation of the righteous.


                        For the LORD knoweth

                                    the way of the righteous,

                                    But the way of the wicked

                        shall perish.


As much lyric beauty is here produced by the avoidance of similar

figures in successive verses as in the former case by the repetition

of them.

                        RHYTHMIC PARALLELISM                                  57


            Where lyrics are constructed on this second plan the refrain

may still come to emphasise the divisions. The forty-sixth psalm

is arranged in the Revised Version in two stanzas of six lines and

one of seven: the refrain — a shout of triumph brings each to

a climax. It has, however, dropped out by accident from the first

stanza in the received text, and must be restored.1


                        God is our refuge and strength,                                Psalm xlvi

                        A very present help in trouble.

                                    Therefore will we not fear, though the earth do change,

                                    And though the mountains be moved in the heart of the seas;

                                    Though the waters thereof roar and be troubled,

                                    Though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof.




            There is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God,

            The holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High.

                        God is in the midst of her; she shall not be moved:

                        God shall help her, and that right early.

                        The nations raged, the kingdoms were moved:

                        He uttered his voice, the earth melted.




            Come, behold the works of the LORD,

            What desolations he hath made in the earth.

                        He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth;

                        He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder;

                        He burneth the chariots in the fire.

                        “Be still, and know that I am God:

                        I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."




            1 On the general subject of textual emendation, I would lay down the principle

that, where the sense is affected by a proposed change, it is prudent to be con-

servative and chary of admitting it. But where (as with a repetition) it is only a

question of form, the long period of tradition mentioned above, during which the

literary form of Scripture was overlooked, justifies us in expecting many omissions

and misplacements.



            We have a more elaborate symmetry of parallelism when we

come to Antistrophic stanzas. The word is Greek, and the spirit

3. Antistrophic                of this beautiful form of structure is best caught

structure of                     from the complete realisation of it in Greek lyrics.

stanzas                          A Greek ode was performed by a body of singers

whose evolutions as they sang a stanza carried them from the altar

towards the right: then turning round they performed an answer-

ing stanza, repeating their movements, until its close brought them

to the altar from which they had started. Then a stanza would

take them to the left of the altar, and its answering stanza would

bring them back to the starting-point: and of such pairs of stanzas

an ode was normally made up. From a Greek word meaning 'a

turning' the first stanza of a pair was called a strophe, its answering

stanza an antistrophe: and the metrical rhythms of the antistrophe

reproduced those of the corresponding strophe line by line, though

the rhythm might be wholly changed between one pair of stanzas

and another. Hebrew lyrics contain examples of this disposition

of stanzas in pairs; and the two stanzas of a pair agree, not of

course in metre, but in number of parallel lines. Though somewhat

rare in the Bible, this structure is worthy of close study wherever it

occurs. The simplest 'case is where each antistrophe immediately

follows its strophe, and of this the thirtieth psalm is an example.


                                                Strophe 1

Psalm xxx            I will extol thee, 0 LORD; for thou bast raised me up,

                        And hast not made my foes to rejoice over me.

                        O LORD My God,

                        I cried unto thee, and thou hast healed me.

                        O LORD, thou hast brought up my soul from Sheol:

                        Thou has kept me alive, that I should not go down to the pit.



                        Sing praise unto the LORD, 0 ye saints of his,

                        And give thanks to his holy name.

                        For his anger is but for a moment;

                        In his favour is life:

                        Weeping may tarry for the night,

                        But joy cometh in the morning.

                        RHYTHMIC PARALLELISM                                  59


                                                Strophe 2

                        As for me, I said in my prosperity,

                        I shall never be moved.

                        Thou, LORD, of thy favour hadst made my mountain to stand strong



                        Thou didst hide thy face; I was troubled.

                        I cried to thee, 0 LORD;

                        And unto the LORD I made supplication:


                                                Strophe 3

                        "What profit is there in my blood when I go down to the pit?

                        Shall the dust praise thee? Shall it declare thy truth?

                        Hear, 0 LORD, and have mercy upon me:

                        LORD, be thou my helper."



                        Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing;

                        Thou hast loosed my sackcloth, and girded me with gladness:

                        To the end that my glory may sing praise to thee, and not be silent.

                        0 LORD My God, I will give thanks unto thee for ever.


            But in the parallelism of stanzas, as well as the parallelism of

lines in a figure, the device of introversion is found,

by which, it will be recollected, beginning corre-                                     Antistrophic

sponds with end, and middle part with middle part.                                    Introversion

An example of such antistrophic introversion is found in the hun-

dred and fourteenth psalm, which thought and form                                  Psalm cxiv

combine to make one of the most striking of Hebrew

lyrics. It is a song inspired, not only by the deliverance from

Egypt, but also by the new conception of Deity which that deliver-

ance exhibited to the world. In the age of the exodus the prevail-

ing conception of a god was that of a being sacred to a particular

territory, out of the bounds of which territory the god's power did

not extend. But the Israelites in the wilderness presented to the

world the spectacle of a nation moving from country to country

and carrying the presence of their God with them; it was no




longer the land of Goshen, but the nation of Israel itself that con-

stituted the sanctuary and dominion of Jehovah. The wonder of

this conception the psalm expresses by the favourite Hebrew image

of nature in convulsion; and the effect of introversion in giving

shape (so to speak) to the whole thought of the poem may be

conveyed to the eye by the following scheme:


                        A new conception of Deity!

                                    Nature convulsed!

                                    Why Nature convulsed?

                        At the new conception of Deity.


Those phrases sum up the thought of the successive stanzas, which

are so related to one another that the first strophe is followed by

a second, and the antistrophe to the second strophe precedes the

antistrophe to the first.


                                                Strophe 1

                        When Israel went forth out of Egypt,

                                    The house of Jacob from a people of strange language;

                        Judah became his sanctuary,

                                    Israel his dominion.


                                                Strophe 2

                                    The sea saw it and fled;

                                    Jordan was driven back.

                                    The mountains skipped like rams,

                                    The little hills like young sheep.


                                                Antistrophe 2

                                    What aileth thee, 0 sea, that thou fleest?

                                    Thou Jordan, that thou turnest back?

                                    Ye mountains, that ye skip like rams?

                                    Ye little hills, like young sheep?


                                                Antistrophe 1

                        Tremble, thou earth, at THE PRESENCE OF THE LORD,

                                    At the presence of the God of Jacob;

                        Which turned the rock into a pool of water,

                                    The flint into a fountain of waters!



                        RHYTHMIC PARALLELISM                                  61


            Again, we find as a rare effect in Hebrew poetry what is com-

mon in Greek, an interweaving of stanzas similar to the inter-

weaving of couplets in a quatrain noted above;

the first strophe is followed by a second of different                               Antistrophic

length, then succeed the antistrophe to the first                                        Interweaving

and the antistrophe to the second. The ninety-ninth psalm has

this structure; and the effect is assisted by a double refrain: the

longer strophe of five lines has a short refrain, while the shorter

strophe of three lines has a longer refrain.1


                                                Strophe I

                        The LORD reigneth: let the peoples tremble:                    Psalm xcix

                        He sitteth upon the cherubim; let the earth be moved.

                        The LORD is great in Zion;

                        And he is high above all the peoples.

                        Let them praise thy great and terrible name.

                        Holy is He!


                                                Strophe 2

                        The king's strength also loveth judgement;

                        Thou dost establish equity,

                        Thou executest judgement and righteousness in Jacob.

                        EXALT YE THE LORD OUR GOD

                        AND WORSHIP AT HIS FOOTSTOOL.

                        HOLY IS HE!


                                                Antistrophe 1

                        Moses and Aaron among his priests,

                        And Samuel among them that call upon his name;

                        They called upon the LORD, and he answered them.

                        He spare unto them in the pillar of cloud:

                        They kept his testimonies and the statute that he gave them.

                        Holy is He!


                                                Antistrophe 2

                        Thou answeredst them, 0 LORD our God,

                        Thou wast a God that forgavest them,

                        Though thou tookest vengeance of their doings.

                        EXALT YE THE LORD OUR GOD,

                        AND WORSHIP AT IIIS HOLY HILL;

                        FOR THE LORD OUR GOD IS HOLY!



            1 The short refrain has dropped out of Antistrophe I, and must be restored (at

the end of verse 7).



            But the commonest treatment of stanzas in Biblical poetry is

that which is also the freest: where a poem is allowed to fall

                                    into well-marked divisions, which have, however,

4. Strophic strut-              no distinct relations with one another as regards

ture of stanzas                 length or parallelism. By an awkwardness of

nomenclature, such irregular divisions have come to be called

'strophes': it is too late to change the usage, but the reader

must be on the watch to distinguish the ‘strophic structure,’

where the stanzas may be unequal, from the ‘antistrophic struc-

ture,’ in which the two stanzas of a pair are exact counterparts.

A simple example of such division by natural cleavage only will

be afforded by the twentieth psalm.


                                    Strophe 1—The People

Psalm xx The LORD answer thee in the day of trouble;

                        The name of the God of Jacob set thee up on high;

                        Send thee help from the sanctuary,

                        And strengthen thee out of Zion;

                        Remember all thy offerings,

                        And accept thy burnt sacrifice;

                        Grant thee thy heart's desire,

                        And fulfil all thy counsel.

                        We will triumph in thy salvation,

                        And in the name of our God we will set up our banners:

                        The LORD fulfil all thy petitions.


                                    Strophe 2--The King

                        Now know I that the LORD saveth his anointed;

                        He will answer him from his holy heaven

                        With the saving strength of his right hand.


                                    Strophe 3—The People

                        Some trust in chariots, and some in horses:

                        But we will make mention of the name of the LORD our God.

                        They are bowed down and fallen:

                        But we are risen, and stand upright.

                        O LORD, save the king;

                        And answer us when we call.

                        RHYTHMIC PARALLELISM                                  63


            In this strophic structure the refrain has a special value for

marking out the stanzas which have no other rhythmic distinction.

A splendid example of such treatment is given by

the poem which opens the second book of Psalms.                                   Psalms xlii-xlii

The allusion of one of its verses seems to associate it with some

high ground — mountains of Hermon, or hill Mizar — which was

the last point from which the Holy Land could be seen by an

exile carried eastwards; in any case, it is appropriately named

‘The Exile's Lament.’ The spirit of the whole lyric is summed

up in its refrain, which is a struggle between despair and hope.


                        Why art thou cast down, 0 mv soul?

                        And why art thou disquieted within me?

                                    Hope thou in God:

                        For I shall yet praise him,

                        Who is the health of my countenance

                                    And my God!


This refrain is found to unify into a single poem the psalms num-

bered forty-two and forty-three; and the whole falls into three

strophes. Though the refrain does not change, yet its repetition

is made to suggest advance. The first strophe has nothing but

longing memories: how the poet was wont to mingle with the

throng, or perhaps lead them in procession to the house of God,

with the voice of joy and praise, a multitude keeping holyday.

Its struggle towards hopefulness is so unsuccessful that, after the

refrain, the second strophe opens with the deepest note of de-

spondency. A single ray of light, however, is cast into the future,

and there is just a mention of loving-kindness by day and songs

in the night, after which thoughts of mourning and oppression

resume their sway. But the third stanza begins with a more

resolute appeal to God as the judge, or righter of the oppressed;

the turn has been taken, and we advance through ideas of light

and truth to joy and praise of harp, until the third repetition of

the refrain makes us feel that its summons to hope has proved




                                                Strophe 1

                        As the hart panteth after the water brooks,

                        So panteth my soul after thee, 0 God.

                        My soul thirsteth for God, for the living God:

                        When shall I come and appear before God?

                        My tears have been my meat day and night,

                        While they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?

                        These things I remember, and pour out my soul within me,

                        How I went with the throng, and led them to the house of God,

                        With the voice of joy and praise, a multitude keeping holyday.

                                    Why art thou cast down, 0 my soul?

                                    And why art thou disquieted within me?

                                                Hope thou in God:

                                    For I shall yet praise him,

                                    Who is the health of my countenance

                                                And my God!


                                                Strophe 2

                        My soul is cast down within me!

                        Therefore do I remember thee from the land of Jordan,

                        And the Hermons, from the hill Mizar.

                        Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts:

                        All thy waves and thy billows are gone over me!

                        Yet the LORD will command his loving-kindness in the day-time,

                        And in the night his song shall be with me,

                        Even a prayer unto the God of my life.

                        I will say unto God my rock, "Why hast thou forgotten me?

                        Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

                        As with a sword in my bones, mine adversaries reproach me;

                        While they continually say unto me, Where is thy God?"

                                    Why art thou cast down, 0 my soul?

                                    And why art thou disquieted within me?

                                                Hope thou in God:

                                    For I shall yet praise him,

                                    Who is the health of my countenance

                                                And my God!


                                                Strophe 3

                        Judge me, 0 God, and plead my cause against an ungodly nation:

                        0 deliver me from the deceitful and unjust man.

                        For thou art the God of my strength; why hast thou cast me off ?

                        RHTHMIC PARALLELISM                                    65


                        Why go I mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

                        0 send out thy light and thy truth; let them lead me:

                        Let them bring me unto thy holy hill, and to thy tabernacles.

                        Then will I go unto the altar of God,

                        Unto God my exceeding joy:

                        And upon the harp will I praise thee, 0 God, my God.

                                    WHY ART THOU CAST DOWN, 0 MY SOUL?

                                    AND WHY ART THOU DISQUIETED WITHIN ME:

                                                HOPE THOU IN GOD:

                                    FOR I SHALL YET PRAISE HIM,

                                    WHO IS THE HEALTH OF MY COUNTENANCE

                                                AND MY GOD!


            But the maximum of lyric effect drawn from this combination

of the strophic structure and the refrain is found in a portion of

the hundred and seventh psalm. Here there is a                              Psalm cvii. 4-32

double refrain: one puts in each stanza a cry for

help, the other the outburst of praise after the help has come;

each refrain has a sequel verse which appropriately changes with

the subject of each stanza. Thus the form of the strophes is that

which the eye catches in the subjoined mode of printing it; the

body of each stanza consists of short lines putting various forms

of distress; then the stanza lengthens its lines into the first refrain

with its sequel verse, and enlarges again into the second refrain

with its sequel.


                                                   Strophe 1

                                    They wandered in the wilderness

                                    In a desert way;

                                    They found no city of habitation.

                                    Hungry and thirsty,

                                    Their soul fainted in them.

                        Then they cried unto the Lord in their trouble,

                        And he delivered them out of their distresses.

                        He led them also by a straight way,

                        That they might go to a city of habitation.



            For he satisfieth the longing soul,

            And the hungry soul he filleth with good.



                                                Strophe 2

                                    Such as sat in darkness

                                    And in the shadow of death,

                                    Being bound in affliction and iron;

                                    Because they rebelled against the words of God,

                                    And contemned the counsel of the Most High:

                                    Therefore he brought down their heart with labour,

                                    They fell down, and there was none to help.

                        Then they cried unto the lord in their trouble,

                        And he saved them out of their distresses.

                        He brought them out of darkness and the shadow of death,

                        And brake their bands in sunder.



            For he hath broken the gates of brass,

            And cut the bars of iron in sunder.


                                                Strophe 3

                                    Fools because of their transgression,

                                    And because of their iniquities, are afflicted.

                                    Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat;

                                    And they draw near unto the gates of death.

                        Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble,

                        And he saveth them out of their distresses.

                        He sendeth his word, and healeth them,

                        And delivereth them from their destructions.



            And let them offer the sacrifices of thanksgiving,

            And declare his works with singing.


                                                Strophe 4

                                    They that go down to the sea in ships,

                                    That do business in great waters,

                                    These see the works of the LORD,

                                    And his wonders in the deep.

                                    For he commandeth,

                                    And raiseth the stormy wind,

                                    Which lifteth up the waves thereof:

                                    They mount up to the heaven,

                        RHYTHMIC PARALLELISM                                  67


                                    They go down again to the depths;

                                    Their soul melteth away because of trouble:

                                    They reel to and fro,

                                    And stagger like a drunken man;

                                    And are at their wits' end.

                        Then they cry unto the lord in their trouble,

                        And he bringeth them out of their distresses.

                        He maketh the storm a calm,

                        So that the waves thereof are still.

                        Then are they glad because they be quiet:

                        So he bringeth them unto the haven where they would be.



            Let them exalt him also in the assembly of the people,

            And praise him in the seat of the elders.


            It is just such structural variations as these that it is the special

mission of a musical rendering to express.1 In the psalm just

cited the melancholy monotony of men's voices in

unison might be used to bring out the various                                            Musical express-

phases of distress which make the subjects of suc-                                   sion of structure

cessive strophes. Children's voices in harmony and unaccom-

panied would fitly express the cry for help (refrain and sequel

verse), while full choir and organ would give out the thanksgiving.

In the more extended final stanza a monotone of men's voices in

unison would leave more scope for organ accompaniment to bring

out the changes of the sea. Then as before the whole would

resolve into the silvery harmony of children's voices heard alone

while all that full choir and instrument could do would be needed

for the final climax.


            1 Bishop Westcott's Paragraph Psalter(Macmillan) is a step in the direction of

such structural chanting. A musical setting of Psalms lxxviii and civ in illustration

of it has been published by Dr. Naylor, Organist of York Minster (Novello).







                                    CHAPTER II





            THE preceding chapter has sufficiently exhibited Biblical Versi-

fication in its leading forms and devices of structure. In the

Parallelism in                   present chapter I consider further the general

general                          spirit of parallelism which underlies it. I wish to

show that the study of such parallelism is not a mere matter of

technicalities, but that it connects itself directly with the higher

interests of literature.

            In interpreting the meaning of Scripture parallelism plays no

Parallelism a                    unimportant part. I will commence with a very

factor in inter-                 simple example. The Song of the Sword,1 which

pretation                                    gives expression to the excitement attending the

first invention of deadly weapons, contains the following couplet:


                        I have slain a man to my wounding,

                        And a young man to my hurt.


Does this passage imply the slaying of one person or two persons?

This question cannot be called a mere matter of technicalities.

Commentators of the period when the secret of parallelism was

lost understood the words to mean that two men were slain; and

connecting the passage with the succeeding couplet


                        If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold,

                        Truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold


they found an interpretation for the whole by supposing that when


            1 Otherwise called Song of Lamech (Gen. iv. 23-24).



            PARALLELISM OF INTERPRETATION               69


Lamech became advanced in years he carried with him a youth

to show him where to point his arrows; that this youth directing

him to shoot into a certain bush Lamech thereby slew Cain, and

made himself liable to the curse invoked on the slayer of that out-

cast. In his rage Lamech shot a second arrow at his youthful at-

tendant; and thus two slayings are accounted for. But to an ear

accustomed to parallelism it is clear enough that no such violence

of interpretation is required. The second line of a couplet need

not be a separate statement from that of the first line, but may

be, in the spirit of parallelism, a saying over again of what has

been said. Thus the couplet need only imply the death of a

single person, or better, slaying as a general idea. And the sec-

ond couplet merely gives expression to the enlarged possibilities

of destruction that come with the invention of the sword: even

the vengeance for Cain — a thing that had perhaps passed into a

proverbial expression — becomes a small matter in comparison

with the power of vengeance the armed warrior will possess. Thus

the whole meaning of the passage has been changed by attention

to a detail of versification.

            The intrinsic importance of this first example is not great. But

no one will consider the ‘Lord's Prayer’ unim-                                          The Lord's

portant: and yet it would seem that the great                                              Prayer

majority of those who repeat the Lord's Prayer in public fail to

bring out the full thought that underlies it. This prayer is almost

always rendered as a succession of isolated clauses which may be

represented thus:

            Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy king-

            dom come. Thy will be done in earth as it is in heaven.


But the true significance of these words is only seen when they

are arranged so as to make an envelope figure.

                        Our Father which art in heaven:

                                    Hallowed be thy Name,

                                    Thy kingdom come,

                                    Thy will be done,

                        In earth as it is in heaven.



In the former version the words, "In earth as it is in heaven." are

attached only to the petition, "Thy will be done." But it belongs

to the envelope structure that all the parallel clauses are to be

connected with the common opening and close. The meaning

thus becomes: "Hallowed be thy name in earth as it is in

heaven, Thy kingdom come in earth as it is in heaven, Thy will

be done in earth as it is in heaven." It is something more than

literary beauty that is gained by the change.

            One more illustration of the close connection between par-

                                    allelism of structure and interpretation will be

Psalm viii                        afforded by the eighth psalm. The whole of this

poem makes a single envelope figure.


O LORD, our Lord,

How excellent is thy name in all the earth!

            Who hast set thy glory upon the heavens,

            Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou established strength,

            Because of thine adversaries,

            That thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.

            When I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers,

            The moon and the stars which thou hast ordained;

            What is man, that thou art mindful of him?

            And the son of man, that thou visitest him?

            For thou hast made him but little lower than God,

            And crownest him with glory and honour.

            Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands;

            Thou hast put all things under his feet:

            All sheep and oxen,

            Yea, and the beasts of the field;

            The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea,

            Whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.

0 LORD, our Lord,

How excellent is thy name in all the earth!


By neglect of the true structure, three lines instead of two have

been taken into the opening verse:


                        1. 0 LORD, our Lord,

                           How excellent is thy name in all the earth!

                           Who hast set thy glory upon the heavens.

            PARALLELISM OF INTERPRETATION               71


Accordingly, the verse which follows this, and presumably opens

the regular thought of the poem, is made to read:


            2. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou established

                        strength, etc.


So arranged this verse becomes obscure, and the ingenuity of

commentators has been much exercised to determine what is the

allusion its words contain. But the envelope structure conveys at

once to the eye that the first two lines must be isolated as the

enveloping refrain, and then the opening verse becomes this:


            Who hast set thy glory upon the heavens,

            Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou established

                        strength, etc.


That the Artificer of the mighty heavens should have chosen man

— a mere babe and suckling in comparison — to be the repre-

sentative of his might to the rest of the universe: this is the

wonder with which the poem really opens, and the thought of

feeble man as God's Viceroy over the creation is precisely the

idea which is found to bind the whole psalm into a unity.

            These are particular examples: it is possible to generalise. In

Biblical interpretation the question will repeatedly arise, whether

a particular passage is to be understood as a simple                                  Parallelism a

narrative of facts or an idealised description: in                                        criterion for

such a case parallelism of clauses will undoubtedly                                  idealisation

be one factor in the interpretation. I have already suggested that

the extreme symmetry of the clauses which describe Job's misfor-

tunes descending upon him tells in favour of the view that the

narrative is not a history so much as an incident worked up into a

parable. In a more important matter the same principle has been

applied to the opening chapter of Genesis. The                                         Genesis i

account of the Creation which this passage contains

is found, upon examination, to be arranged with the most minute

parallelism of matter and form. Not only are the six days fur-

nished with opening and closing formulae which correspond, but



the whole divides into two symmetrical halves of three days and

three days, and each day of the first three is exactly parallel with

the corresponding day of the second half. A table will illustrate

the structure.


And God said—                                             And God said

            [Creation of Light]                                        [Creation of Lights]

And there was evening and there                  And there was evening and there

was morning, one day.                                   was morning, a fourth day.


And God said—                                             And God said

            [Creation of the Firmament                          [Creation of Life in the Firma-

            dividing waters from waters]                        ment and in the Waters]

And there was evening and there                  And there was evening and there

was morning, a second day.              was morning, a fifth day.


 And God said—                                            And God said--

            [Creation of Land]                                         [Creation of Life on Land]

 And God said—                                            And God said--

            [Creation of Vegetation, cli-                        [Creation of Man, climax

            max of inanimate nature]                              of animate nature]

And there was evening and there                  And there was evening; and there

was morning, a third day.                              was morning, the sixth day.


When this structure and the fulness of its parallelism is grasped, it

will appear reasonable that it should be urged as one argument: in

favour of understanding the chapter to be, not a narration of inci-

dents in their order of succession, but a logical classification of the

elements of the universe, with the emphatic assertion of Divine

creation in reference to each.

            The reader will understand that it is not essential to my argu-

ment that such interpretations as I have been advancing should

Recognition of                seem to him correct. Parallelism is only one factor

Parallelism in                   amongst many in exegesis. I am merely concerned

exegesis                         to show that those who address themselves to deter-

mining the matter and meaning of Scripture nevertheless appeal

to its form and structure. Indeed, the reader unaccustomed to

this subject will be greatly astonished at the extent and minuteness

                        PARALLELISM OF INTERPRETATION               73


to which symmetry of form in Scripture is made to obtain in the

exegesis of competent theologians; when, for example, not a

paragraph but a long poem, or the whole of an epistolary treatise,

is represented as being constructed on a single intricate system.

Such elaborations of parallelism must be considered each on its

own merits; but there is in them nothing inherently improbable.

When the genius of a language rests the whole system of its versi-

fication upon symmetry of clauses, it becomes a safe presumption

that parallelism will penetrate very deeply into its logical processes

of thought.1

            We have been led to see then that there are two points of view

from which parallelism may be considered: that of Rhythm and

that of Interpretation. The musical element of

Biblical language rests on parallels and recurrences,                                The Lower Paral-

and an ear for rhythm is as essential for the ap-                                         lelism of Rhythm

preciation of Scriptural style as an ear for time is                                     and the Higher

essential for the appreciation of music. Put thought                                 Parallelism of

maybe rhythmic as well as language, and the full meaning and

force of Scripture is not grasped by one who does not feel how

thoughts can be emphasised by being differently re-stated, as in

the simplest couplet; or how a general thought may reiterate itself

to enclose its particulars, as in the envelope figure, or, in such

cases as the Lord's Prayer, hold its conclusion in suspense until

all to which it applies has been set forth; or again, as in the

opening of Genesis, how a passage can suggest logical symmetries

while in form it is only narrating. Accordingly the structural

analysis of Biblical language must distinguish a Lower parallelism

of Rhythm and a Higher Parallelism of Interpretation. The two

can never clash, since in Hebrew rhythm largely depends on

recurrence of clauses corresponding in thought; but one or other

parallelism will preponderate in accordance with the nature of a

particular passage or the purpose of a citation. Sometimes the

musical form will be felt to preponderate, and in this case the


            1 Dr. Forbes's Symmetrical Structure of Scripture (Clark, Edinburgh) may be

regarded as a text-book of the general subject.



structural arrangement of the passage will be such as will make

prominent the recurrence of fixed figures. In other cases the

arrangement will bring out how distant sequences of words from

all over a lengthy passage co-ordinate together, and this effect will

throw into the background the parallelisms of couplets and trip-

lets, which nevertheless are to be found when looked for.1

            The matter is best treated by illustrations; and I proceed to

give two arrangements of the same passage, based respectively on

the Lower and the Higher Parallelism.


Job x. 3-13 ar-                  Is it good unto thee that thou shouldest oppress,

ranged for Lower             That thou shouldest despise the work of thine hands,

Parallelism                      And shine upon the counsel of the wicked?


                                    Hast thou eyes of flesh,

                                    Or seest thou as man seeth?


                                    Are thy days as the days of man,

                                    Or thy years as man's days,


                                    That thou inquirest after mine iniquity,

                                    And searchest after my sin,


                                    Although thou knowest that I am not wicked;

                                    And there is none that can deliver out of thine hand?


                                    Thine hands have framed me and fashioned me

                                    Together round about; yet thou dost destroy me.


                                    Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast fashioned me as


                                    And wilt thou bring me into dust again?


                                    Hast thou not poured me out as milk,

                                    And curdled me like cheese?


                                    Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh,

                                    And knit me together with bones and sinews.


            1 On the whole subject compare Appendix III: On the Structural Printing of


            PARALLELISM OF INTERPRETATION               75


                        Thou hast granted me life and favour,

                        And thy visitation hath preserved my spirit.


                        Yet these things thou didst hide in thine heart;

                        I know that this is with thee.


In the above citation I have followed the Revised Version of

the Bible in conveying nothing to the eye beyond the elementary

rhythm of couplets and triplets. Such an arrangement involves

the minimum of interpretation, and therefore the minimum dif-

ference of opinion. Where the higher symmetry is expressed

 individual interpretations will of course differ. In my second

arrangement of the passage figures of mere rhythm are suppressed

in order that parallelisms of thought may stand out.


                        Is it good unto thee that thou shouldest oppress,               Arranged for

                        That thou shouldest despise the work of thine hands,        Higher

                                    And shine upon the counsel of the wicked?            Parallelism

                                    Hast thou eyes of flesh,

                                    Or seest thou as man seeth?

                                    Are thy days as the days of man,

                                    Or thy years as man's days,

                                    That thou inquirest after mine iniquity,

                                    And searchest after my sin,

                                    Although thou knowest that I am not wicked;

                                    And there is none that can deliver out of thine hand?

                        Thine hands have framed me,

                        And fashioned me together round about;

                                    Yet thou dost destroy me.

                        Remember, I beseech thee, that thou hast fashioned me as clay;

                                    And wilt thou bring me into dust again?

                        Host thou not poured me out as milk,

                        And curdled me like cheese?

                        Thou hast clothed me with skin and flesh,

                        And knit me together with bones and sinews;

                        Thou hast granted me life and favour,

                        And thy visitation hath preserved my spirit:

                                    Yet these things thou didst hide in thine heart;

                                    I know that this is with thee.



Two distinct trains of thought are interwoven in this passage: in

one Job makes appeal to God as being God's own handiwork; in

the other he protests against the righteous Lord following the

oppressive ways of unjust judges. In this second arrangement

the two elements of the thought are separated: lines belonging

to the first are indented to the left, lines belonging to the second

are indented to the right. Thus the whole play of thought in the

passage is reflected to the eye, or, in other words, the structural

arrangement has brought out the Parallelism of Interpretation.1

            One more observation must be made on Biblical parallelism

considered as an element in literary style. It is that such sym-

Parallelism im-                 metry of clauses is closely bound up with a liter-

plies its opposite              ary effect of an opposite kind — that of surprise.

effect of surprise              It is just when the ear is being led by the general

form of a passage to expect what is coming that the disappoint-

ment of this expectation, and the substitution of something new,

strikes with most telling force. Here, again, illustrations will

make the best exposition.

            There is no passage in the Bible in which parallelism is carried.

further than in the peroration (if the word may be allowed) of

Matthew vii.                   the Sermon on the Mount, with its comparison of

24.27                             the two kinds of hearers to the builders on the

                                    rock and on the sand. The passage is antistrophic,

and for every clause in the one picture there is a corresponding

clause in the other. Yet here the effect of surprise is produced

by a subtle and delicate variation which has been recovered for

us by the Revised Version. The word which describes the action

of the wind differs in the two strophes; for the blasts labouring

in vain to destroy the one house a word is used which is trans-

lated by the English ‘beat’; for the wind in the other case the

Greek word is changed to something which the Revisers render

‘smote’— the very sound of which, as well as the sense, pictures

a single blow sufficing to bring the structure down.


                1 In my edition of the Book of Job this mode of printing that reflects the Higher

Parallelism is followed throughout. [Macmillan & Co.]

            PARALLELISM OF INTERPRETATION               77



                        Every one therefore which heareth these words of mine,

                                    and doeth them,

                        shall be likened unto a Wise Man,

                        which built his house upon the Rock:

                                    And the rain descended,

                                    and the floods came,

                                    and the winds blew

                                    and beat upon that house;

                        and it fell not:

                        for it was founded upon the Rock.



                        And every one that heareth these words of mine,

                                    and doeth them not,

                        shall be likened unto a Foolish Man,

                        which built his house upon the Sand:

                                    And the rain descended,

                                    and the floods came,

                                    and the winds blew,

                                    and SMOTE upon that house;

                        and it fell:

                        and great was the fall thereof!


            In this example the effect of surprise is produced by a verbal

alteration. It is more pertinent to the subject of the present

chapter to consider cases in which the variation ex-                     Psalm cxxxix

tends to a whole clause. An admirable illustration

is afforded by the hundred and thirty-ninth psalm. This exquisite

lyric is in structure a very extended form of the envelope figure.

But the opening verse, when it appears at the close, has undergone

an important change: for the indicative mood of the opening —


                        0 LORD, thou hast searched me —


we have at the end the imperative mood —


                        Search me, O God —


and the whole movement of the poem is to lead from the one

state of mind to the other. At the outset the thought of Divine



omniscience and omnipresence lies like a weight upon the poet's


                        O LORD, thou hast searched me, and known me!

                                    Thou knowest my downsitting and mine uprising,

                                    Thou understandest my thought afar off.

                                    Thou searchest out my path and my lying down,

                                    And art acquainted with all my ways.

                                    For there is not a word in my tongue,

                                    But, lo, 0 LORD, thou knowest it altogether.

                                    Thou hast beset me behind and before,

                                    And laid thine hand upon me.


The burden becomes intolerable, and the poet would fain throw

it off.

                                    Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

                                    It is high, I cannot attain unto it.

                                    Whither shall I go from thy spirit?

                                    Or whither shall I flee from thy presence?

                                    If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there:

                                    If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, thou art there.

                                    If I take the wings of the morning,

                                    And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;

                                    Even there shall thy hand lead me,

                                    And thy right hand shall hold me.

                                    If I say, Surely the darkness shall overwhelm me,

                                    And the light about me shall be night;

                                    Even the darkness hideth not from thee,

                                    But the night shineth as the day:

                                    The darkness and the light are both alike to thee.


The sense of oppression can intensify yet further, and the next

verse extends it backwards in time, as previous verses had made

it stretch through all space.


                                    For thou hast possessed my reins:

                                    Thou hast covered me in my mother's womb.


It is just here, where the effect is at its height, that the turn comes.

The mysteries of the womb suggest to the poet that this Divine

watchfulness from which he cannot escape is the same watchful-

            PARALLELISM OF INTERPRETATION               79


ness which, in his helplessness, built him up into the being he is.

The current of thought begins to flow back — for the structure of

the psalm is antistrophic as well as enveloped.


            I will give thanks unto thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made:

                        Wonderful are thy works,

                        And that my soul knoweth right well.

                        My frame was not hidden from thee,

                        When I was made in secret,

                        And curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

                        Thine eyes did see mine unperfect substance,

                        And in thy book were all my members written,

                        Which day by day were fashioned,

                        When as yet there was none of them.


The besetting watchfulness now becomes a precious thought to

the psalmist; most precious of all, the incalculableness of its



                        How precious also are thy thoughts1 unto me, 0 God!

                        How great is the sum of them!

                        If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand:

                        When I awake, I am still with thee.


The new thought has gained force, and takes fire in a burst of


                        Surely thou wilt slay the wicked, 0 God:

                        Depart from me therefore, ye bloodthirsty men.

                        For they speak against thee wickedly,

                        And thine enemies take thy name in vain.

                        Do not I hate them, 0 LORD, that hate thee?

                        And am not I grieved with those that rise up against thee?

                        I hate them with perfect hatred:

                        I count them mine enemies.


The new train of thought has reached its goal, and, as the enve-

lope figure completes itself, the refrain reappears changed and

enlarged, so that the burden has become an aspiration.


            1 That is, the thoughts which God bestows on the psalmist.



                        Search me, 0 God, and know my heart:

                        Try me, and know my thoughts:

                        And see if there be any way of wickedness in me,

                        And lead me in the way everlasting.


            The analysis of this psalm is an excellent illustration, both of

the general principle that the most deeply spiritual trains of thought

are reflected in beauty of external literary structure, and also of the

special observation immediately under discussion, that parallelism

carries with it the literary effect of climax or surprise when the

exactness of the parallelism is artistically violated.








                                                CHAPTER III




            LITERARY classification has so far been applied only to the exter-

nal structure of Sacred Scripture, and its distinction of prose and

verse; though it has appeared that here, as always,                                     The Lower unity

structure reacts on spirit, and the parallelism of                                        and the Higher

rhythm generates a parallelism of thought. Before                                    unity

we can proceed to that higher literary classification which recog-

nises structure and spirit alike, another preliminary consideration

needs attention. The bond uniting clauses into a verse and

verses into a stanza may be considered as the Lower Unity in

comparison with a Higher Unity which is the subject of the

present chapter. This Higher Unity is the Unity of Poem: the

bond which unites successive verses and stanzas into a poem com-

plete in itself.1

            Here again are difficulties special to the literary study of the

Bible, arising from the arrangement of our printed bibles and of

the manuscripts on which they are founded, and still                                The Higher

more from the habits of reading which these by    long                             Unity obscured

reading tradition have fostered. In dealing with any other                         by reading the

literature the student would naturally, and as a                                           Bible in verses

matter of course, look for the higher unity in what he reads. He

would not study Virgil merely to get quotable hexameters, nor

Shakespeare to find pithy sentences: he would wish to compre-

hend the drift of a scene, or the plot of a whole play; he would


            1 For convenience of illustration I speak throughout the chapter of poems: but

the argument applies, mutatis mutandis, to prose compositions.





read a whole eclogue at once, or even sustain his attention through

the twelve books of the AEneid.  But the vast majority of those

who read the Bible have never shaken off the mediaeval tendency

to look upon it as a collection of isolated sentences, isolated texts,

isolated verses. Their intention is nothing but reverent; but the

effect of their imperfect reading is to degrade a sacred literature

into a pious scrap-book.

            I have called this tendency mediaeval: it is a relic of the Mid-

dle Ages under the influence of which arose our earliest translations

This tendency a               of the Bible into modern tongues. The thought of

relic of medieval               the Middle Ages is distinguished by disconnected-

influence                        ness. The Schoolmen were not remarkable for

successful investigation or wide reflectiveness, but they surpassed

all men in subtlety of discussion; indeed, it would almost seem

that with them the process of discussing was more important than

the conclusion attained. Accordingly their age gave special

prominence to the isolated proposition. Its thinkers were not

confined to books as a medium for expressing thought; it was

equally open to them to issue a series of propositions, and, setting

these up on some church door or elsewhere, offer discussion with

all corners. To formulate truth into these brief independent

sentences, adapted for attack and defence, made the characteris-

tic literary activity of the period. In modern thought detail

truths are so many bricks to be built into an edifice, each valued

according as it contributes to the common stability; the inde-

pendent propositions of the mediaeval thinker were rather footballs

to be driven to and fro in an exercise of dialectic strength.

Translations of the Bible made amid such surroundings took

shape from the minds of the translators. Hebrew and Greek lit-

erature — poem, dialogue, discourse — all assumed a monotonous

uniformity of numbered sentences, each to be treated as a good

saying in itself, rather than a component part of a literary whole.

            The influence of these earliest translations is still felt. There

are three versions of the Bible in familiar use amongst us: one

is the recent ‘Revised Version’; a second is the ‘Authorised

            THE HIGHER UNITY IN LITERATURE                83


Version,’ executed under King James I; while for a third the

earlier translation of Coverdale is represented in the Psalter of

the Prayer Book. These three versions stand at                              Three popular

three different points of the line separating us                              versions of the

from the Middle Ages: Coverdale's translation was                      Bible

executed wholly amid medieval surroundings;1  the Authorised

Version belongs to the borderland between mediaeval and modern,

while the Revised Version is entirely modern. When these three

translations are compared what is the result? If similar in what

the comparison be made in respect of phraseology concerns the

and single verses there will be little to choose Lower unity

between the three: the earliest will strike our sense of beauty

quite as much as the latest. But when attention is given to the

connection between verse and verse, to the drift of an argument

and the general unity of a whole poem, only the                            The ‘Revised

Revised Version will be found reliable; the reader                        version’ stands

of the Authorised Version, when he wishes to catch                     alone as regards

the teaching of a whole epistle, or the sequence of                       the Higher unity

thought in a minor prophet, must go to the Hebrew and Greek

to find out what his English version means.

            It is most important for the English student of the Bible to

remember that these versions are different in kind, and must

therefore not be discussed as if they represented different degrees

of success in attaining a common object. It will be well to

emphasise this matter by examples.

            Let our first example be taken from the translation of Cover-

dale. The eighteenth psalm will be specially suit-              Prayer Book ver-

able for our purpose, because in the case of this                           sion compared

poem the Authorised and Revised versions sub-                            with the other

stantially agree; moreover the impression they                             two

give of the psalm—that of a thanksgiving for                                 Psalm xviii

recent deliverance — is one not open to dispute, inasmuch as the


                1 Coverdale's version is in actual date (1530 earlier than A. V. by three-quarters

of a century; in spirit it is earlier still, being avowedly not original, but founded

upon previous 'interpretations.' See Dr. W. F. Moulton's History of the English

Bible (Cassell), chapters vii and viii.



poem is cited at full length in the book of Samuel, and is there

expressly connected with the escape of David from the persecution

of Saul. As we read in the Authorised or Revised versions, every

line of the poem carries out this idea. At the commencement

epithets of adoration succeed one another with an exuberance of

diction that is like a flourish of trumpets opening some set piece

of music. With the fourth verse the psalm settles down to its

regular movement, and .in subdued tones describes the perilous

extremity out of which the singer has found deliverance.


            The sorrows of death compassed me, and the floods of ungodly men

                        made me afraid.

            The sorrows of hell compassed me about; the snares of death pre-

                        vented me.

            In my distress I called upon the LORD, and cried unto my God: he

                        heard my voice out of his temple, and my cry came before him,

                        even into his ears.


Then a burst of imagery rushes upon us, sustained through nine

verses, presenting all nature agitated to its centre as the Almighty

descends to the help of the sufferer who has called upon him.

A strain of tenderness comes in with the deliverance itself.


            He sent from above, he took me, he drew me out of many waters.

            He delivered me from my strong enemy, and from them which hated

                        me: for they were too strong for me.

            They prevented me in the day of my calamity: but the LORD was my


            He brought me forth also into a large place; he delivered me, because

                        he delighted in me.


With the last clause the conception has widened. The poet con-

siders that with his personal deliverance the cause of righteous-

ness has triumphed, and so he is led to the generalisation:


            With the merciful thou wilt shew thyself merciful; with an upright

                        man thou wilt shew thyself upright.

            With the pure thou wilt shew thyself pure: and with the froward thou

                        wilt shew thyself froward.

            THE HIGHER UNITY IN LITERATURE                85


The latter half of the psalm no less clearly carries on the concep-

tion of the earlier half; review of past deliverances carries with

it confidence for the future, when whole nations will run in sub-

mission to the conqueror marked out by Divine favour. Towards

the close the rapture of the opening verses reappears:


            The LORD liveth: and blessed be my rock; and let the God of my sal-

                        vation be exalted.


Then in the very last line, like the signature to a document, comes

the name of ‘David,’ at once the singer and the hero of the song.

            Let the reader now study this psalm in the Psalter of the

Prayer Book. Let him remember what is the exact point of the

present argument. If he takes any particular verse, he will find

it just as striking in the translation of Coverdale as in the later

versions; it will be when he proceeds to note the linking of verse

to verse that the difference will appear. At the third verse (in

the numbering of the Prayer Book) the psalm appears, as in

the other version, to start upon the description of a perilous



            The sorrows of death compassed me: and the overflowings of ungod-

                        liness made me afraid.

            The pains of hell came about me: the snares of death overtook me.


But when we pass to the next verse, instead of a continuation of

the description, we find a general statement.


            In my trouble I will call upon the Lord: and complain unto my God.


Of course, if a reader has come to his Bible simply as a store-

house of good words, he may find as great a spiritual stimulus in

the declaration, "I will call upon the Lord," as in the statement,

"I did call upon the Lord." But to the reader of a sacred liter-

ature this substitution in the Prayer Book Version of future tense

for past has destroyed the connection of the verses, and the

unity is gone. Again, at the seventh verse Coverdale's translation

returns to the tense of description: but at verse 16 — just where



in the other case we found the actual deliverance come in — we

are thrown back upon general expressions:

            In verse 18 we read, "They prevented me," but in verse 20, "The

Lord shall reward me": and so throughout the poem past,

present, future tenses are indiscriminately mingled. What does

this mean? That the translator was a bungler? Certainly not:

every verse, with its felicity of diction and beauty of rhythm,

belies such a suggestion. The meaning is that Coverdale formed

a different conception of the literature he was translating from

that which both ourselves and the later versions assume. It did

not belong to Coverdale's age to look upon a psalm as a poem

with a unity running through it; he understood it simply as a col-

lection of pious thoughts, and he used all his skill to make each

thought as beautiful as the English language would permit. He

has succeeded in his attempt, and given us in the eighteenth psalm

a chaplet of very pearls; but it is a chaplet with the string broken.

            It is even more important to compare the Authorised and

the Revised versions as regards this matter of the connection

A. V. compared                between verse and verse. Let the reader study

with R. V.                       in the older translation the twenty-eighth chapter

Job xxviii                        of Job, and set himself, without the aid of com-

mentators who have had the original before them, to think out

from the English alone the unity linking successive verses.


            1. Surely there is a vein for the silver, and a place for gold where they

                fine it.

            2. Iron is taken out of the earth, and brass is molten out of the stone.


[Already the clauses fall sweetly upon the ear, though the point of

what is being said is hardly yet apparent.]


            3. He setteth an end to darkness, and searcheth out all perfection:

                the stones of darkness, and the shadow of death.


[This seems like some very general glorification of God: but the

drift of the whole is still vague.]


            THE HIGHER UNITY IN LITERATURE                87


            4. The flood breaketh out from the inhabitant; even the waters

                 forgotten of the foot: they are dried up, they are gone away from



[Can any clear sense be attached to these words? The only

certainty seems to be that they have no connection with the

preceding verse, as that had none with what went before. Yet

the words which immediately follow seem to announce a new



            5. As for the earth, out of it cometh bread: and under it is turned up

                as it were fire.

            6. The stones of it are the place of sapphires: and it hath dust of



[Various as are the topics presented so far, yet the next words

announce one more.]


            7. There is a path which no fowl knoweth, and which the vulture's

                 eye hath not seen:

            8. The lion's whelps have not trodden it, nor the fierce lion passed

                 by it.

            9. He putteth forth his hand —


[Apparently we have here returned to the general glorification of

God in nature upon which the third verse touched.]


            9. He putteth forth his hand upon the rock; he overturneth the

                mountains by the roots.

            10. He cutteth out rivers among the rocks; and his eye seeth every

                 precious thing.

            11. He bindeth the floods from overflowing; and the thing that is

                 hid bringeth he forth to light.


At this point, in place of a string of distinct topics, we suddenly

come upon a train of connected reasoning. Where, asks the

speaker, shall wisdom be found? and, after searching all possible

sources, and weighing wisdom against every form of wealth, he

comes to the conclusion that only God knows the origin of wis-

dom, and that he who created the universe interwove righteous-

ness into its structure. Is it not strange that within the limits



of the same chapter should be found, first the wandering from

topic to topic, and then the coherent working from question to

answer? Yet more strange that the discordant halves of the

chapter should be linked by the conjunction But?

            Now let the same passage be read in the Revised Version.


                        Surely there is a mine —


[At the very outset has come the key word to the whole.]

                        Surely there is a mine for silver,

                        And a place for gold which they refine.

                        Iron is taken out of the earth,

                        And brass is molten out of the stone.

                        Man setteth an end to darkness,


[What we are reading is not a description of God, but of the


                        And searcheth out to the furthest bound

                        The stones of thick darkness and of the shadow of death,

                        He breaketh open a shaft away from where men sojourn;

                        They are forgotten of the foot that passeth by;

                        They hang afar from men, they swing to and fro.


[We can almost see the miner descending in his cage into the

depths of the earth, far beneath the heedless passers-by on the

surface. And now a relevancy appears for the next verses]


                        As for the earth, out of it cometh bread:

                        And underneath it is turned up as it were by fire.

                        The stones thereof are the place of sapphires,

                        And it hath dust of gold.

                        That path —


[Of course, the path of the miner in the bowels of the earth.]

                        That path no bird of prey knoweth,

                        Neither hath the falcon's eye seen it:

                        The proud beasts have not trodden it,

                        Nor hath the fierce lion passed thereby.

                        He putteth forth his hand upon the flinty rock;


[It is still the miner that is spoken of.]


            THE HIGHER UNITY IN LI TERATURE               89


                        He overturneth the mountains by the roots;

                        He cutteth out channels among the rocks;

                        And his eye seeth every precious thing.

                        He bindeth the streams that they trickle not;

                        And the thing that is hid bringeth he forth to light.


Read in a version which brings the idea of connected literature to

bear upon the Bible, the passage which before seemed a series

of disconnected sayings is seen to resolve itself into a simple unity,

— a brilliant picture of mining operations. Nay, the whole chap-

ter now becomes a unity, for we catch the connection of its two

halves: there are mines out of which men dig gold and silver and

precious stones, but where is the mine out of which we may bring


            It is impossible to insist too strongly upon this difference be-

tween the Revised Version of the Bible and its predecessors, a

difference of kind and not of degree, and one which                     Thus R. V. es-

is as wide as the distinction between the words                             sential for liter-

‘text’ and ‘context.’ The English reader need                                 ary study

not feel any difficulty on the ground of the disfavour with which

the Revised Version has in many quarters been received. Such

reception has been the regular fate of revisions from St. Jerome's

day downwards. The Authorised Version had itself to encounter

the same opposition. It is said to have been a full half century

before this work of King James's translators came into general

use; and in the interval we have on record the opinion of a

scholar and divine, who, asked by the king, declared he would

be torn by wild horses rather than urge so badly executed a ver-

sion upon the churches. The whole discussion of the subject

seems to me to have been conducted on a wrong footing. The

critics will take single verses or expressions, and, as it were, test

them with their mental palate to see whether the literary flavour

of the old or the new be superior. But comparisons of this kind

are a sheer impossibility. No one, least of all a cultured critic,

can separate in his mind between the sense of beauty which comes

from association, and the beauty which is intrinsic; the softening



effect of time and familiarity is needed before any translation can

in word and phrase assume the even harmony of a classic. Mean-

while the consideration here contended for — the unique excel-

lence of the Revised Version in the matter of connectedness and

the Higher Unity—is beyond dispute. The true issue between the

Authorised and the Revised versions is the question whether

the Bible is to be treated as a collection of sayings, each verse an

independent whole, or whether the first duty of an interpreter is

to associate a text with its context. What answer the theologian

will return to this question it is not the province of this book to

determine. But speaking from the literary point of view, I make

bold to say that the reader who confines himself to the Authorised

Version excludes himself from half the beauty of the Bible.


            To vindicate the importance of the Higher Unity in applica-

tion to Biblical literature is our first duty. Our second, is to

The Higher Unity             guard ourselves from forming too limited a con-

assumes variety               ception of it. When we try to think out the

of form                           connectedness of some sacred poem or discourse,

we must be prepared to find its unity assuming forms other than

those with which we are familiar in the literature of the present day.

            The simplest type of unity is where a whole poem is no more

than the working out of a single idea. I have had occasion in a

                                    former chapter to cite the hundred and fourteenth

Simple Unity                   psalm, and have shown how it connects the deliv-

Psalm cxiv                      erance from Egypt with the new conception of a

Deity accompanying with his presence a journeying nation.

Every line of the psalm is filled with this idea; there is no other

thought in the poem. A unity so clear presents no difficulty.

Again, I have in the chapter immediately preceding this ana-

lysed the hundred and thirty-ninth psalm. This is a lyric of fifty-

Unity of Transi-               two lines; its opening and closing thoughts are

tion                               antagonistic to one another, the Divine Omni-

Psalm cxxxix                    presence being dreaded in the one case and in the

other case desired. Yet the poem presents no difficulty in regard

            THE HIGHER UNITY IN LITERATURE                91


to the connection of its thought, for we were able to see the exact

point where the one train of feeling began to change into the

other. The psalm is made one by the Unity of Transition.

            A more difficult case arises where a portion of literature is seen

to commence with one topic, to end with a topic entirely different,

while no part of it can be indicated as conveying                           Unity of contrast

a transition from the one set of ideas to the other.                                    and Antithesis

A notable instance is the much discussed nine-                                         Psalm xix

teenth psalm. The first six verses of this psalm are entirely occu-

pied with the heavens above our heads. Their starry marvels are

conceived as a silent language in which the whole world day by

day may read of a Creator; the extended sky is pictured as the

tent of a hero, and this hero is the Sun, who, forever at his best,

runs his daily course, scattering the mighty heat which no corner

of the earth can escape. Passing to the next verse we find our-

selves without any warning in a totally different set of ideas.

            The law of the LORD is perfect, restoring the soul:

            The testimony of the LORD is sire, making wise the simple:

            The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart:

            The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.

            The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever:

            The judgements of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether.


With topics so different, and no sign of any links to connect them,

what has become of the Higher Unity? The answer is that it is to

be looked for in this very absence of transition: we have here a

literary effect which may be called the Unity of Contrast or Antith-

esis. The point of the poem may be summed up as the equal ado-

ration side by side of the physical and the moral law. No literary

device could make the equality of the two so forcible as this simple

placing of them side by side without a word of explanation.

            No doubt this is a matter in which difference of opinion arises;

and its discussion is of importance as going down

to fundamental principles of literary criticism. It is                                  Disputed unity

urged, by those who speak with the highest author-                                   of Psalm xix

ity, that the disparity between the two parts of this nineteenth



psalm is too great to be covered by any unity of idea; that we are

therefore driven to the supposition that the connection of these

two pieces of literature has been effected by those through

whose hands the Hebrew Scriptures have passed on their way

to us. The contention is further supported by the plea that these

two sections of the nineteenth psalm differ in more than subject-

matter: they represent literary styles that are totally different,

styles moreover that are seen upon a wide survey of Biblical

literature to distinguish respectively an early and a late literary


            I do not dispute these allegations. But in resisting the infer-

ence derived from them I would commence by deprecating the

Questions of au-              confusion so commonly made—if not by the

thorship not an                critics themselves, yet by a large proportion of

essential part of               their readers—between two things which should

literary study                  be kept entirely separate: the confusion between

literary unity and unity of authorship. Indeed, if I may widen

the discussion for a moment, I should like to express the opinion

that the whole study of literature is placed at a disadvantage by

the intrusion into it of quite a distinct thing — the study of authors.

A piece of literature is apt to be put before us as a performance

of some author: we are expected to examine it with a view to

applauding or censuring this author; we are minutely informed as

to the circumstances under which he did his work; one production

of his is associated with companion productions, as if the main

raison d'etre of them all was to enable us to form an estimate of

the man who produced them. All this may be good in itself; but

it is not the study of literature. Authors of books may in them-

selves be as well worthy our attention as statesmen or commercial

magnates; but no one confuses Constitutional History with biogra-

phies of politicians, or Political Economy with the business his-

tories of particular firms. And I believe that the study of literature

will never reach its proper level until it is realised that literature

is an entity in itself, as well as a function of the individuals who

contributed to it; that it has a development and critical principles

            THE HIGHER UNITY LV LITERATURE               93


of its own, to be considered independently of any questions affect-

ing the performance of particular authors.

            To return to the case immediately before us. It might seem a

self-evident contention that the assignment of different ages to

different parts of the nineteenth psalm implied diversity of author-

ship. I would rather say that we are separated                                             Authorship in

from the literature in question by an interval so                                        application to

wide as to raise a doubt whether the term ‘author-                                   Biblical poetry

ship' in application to the lyric poetry of the Bible be not alto-

gether an anachronism.

            We live in the age of books; not only so, but we have travelled

so far into this book age that we have forgotten the times when

literature was affected by anything else than our habits of written

composition. Yet the study of Comparative Literature reveals

everywhere a period of literary activity long preceding the earliest

book; a floating poetry destined to influence periods much later

than its own, yet preserved only by oral tradition without any aid

from writing, while the processes of its composition have been

regulated entirely by the phenomena of spoken literature. How-

ever widely apart we may date the different parts of the Bible, yet

the whole approaches much more closely the influences of this

early spoken poetry than the modern literatures from which we

draw our ideas.

            It is precisely in the matter of this relationship between literature

and ‘authors’ that the difference between early and late poetry is

most apparent. The change which the ages have brought about

in our conception of authorship is not unlike the change that has

come over our conception of land. Our late civilisation takes for

granted the idea of individual ownership of land. But we know

that to primitive society this idea was unthinkable: land belonged

to the community, and all that individuals could have would be

rights over the land. Similarly we associate a book with an individ-

ual author; we sacredly guard the written book as his property;

if the author alters it it becomes a new ‘edition,’ while if the author

be dead the form of the book is fixed forever and no one may



touch it. But for the floating literature of spoken poetry composi-

tion was in the hands of a class of bards and minstrels, or, shall we

say, of priests and sacred singers; what each individual produced

was regarded as common property, which his brethren used with-

out any sense of indebtedness. In using one another's composi-

tions they revised and altered them, until each delivery of a poem

might make a fresh ‘edition’; and thus the composition of any

poem was a growth extending through generation after generation,

and the united product of many minds.

            Now the psalms of the Bible were the product of individual

poets, but of poets living in periods when the influences of floating

literature were largely felt in determining habits of composition.

And this must be borne in mind in every discussion of the subject.

It is common to speak of David's ‘writing’ a psalm: the phrase

is full of misleading associations. We cannot even assume that

writing, though used for many purposes, was in David's time

applied to the preservation of poetical productions; but we may

be quite certain that the early psalmists did not, like nineteenth

century poets, think with pen in hand. Are we again to suppose

that Hebrew poets when they composed a psalm entered it at

some Stationers' Hall, with all rights reserved? We know the

very opposite: the authors of our psalms would send their poems

"to the Chief Musician upon stringed instruments," or to "the

Sons of Korah." That is to say, these Biblical psalms when

composed were committed to the custody of a body of minstrels

or sacred singers, and so may be expected to present the phe-

nomena of oral poetry in addition to the features of individual

authorship. Thus the psalms of the Bible in their composition

unite the advantages that belong to early and to late poetry: the

psalm as it leaves the original poet is not a fixed thing, it is only

just started on a career of life in the hands of living performers,

through whom it can draw to itself the best thoughts of the ages

through which it is to pass. These later modifications may be

merely matters of phraseology or greater fulness of diction; they

may be distinct additions, like the final verses of the fifty-first

            THE HIGHER UNITY IN LITERATURE                95


psalm, which make a poem of personal penitence serve also as an

expression of national humiliation. Or they may even amount to

such a transformation as the nineteenth psalm seems to have

undergone, when the original song of the heavens, touching an

age of enthusiasm for the law, inspired the thought that what the

Sun is to the world without, God's law is to the world within. If

we assume David to be the ‘author’ of the first six verses, then

no one has a better right than David to be considered the ‘author’

of the fresh thoughts his words have inspired. Or the original

song might be considered the ‘author’ of the additions it has

begotten in the minds of those who have used it. But it would

be still better to say that the whole idea of ‘authorship’ is a

conception proper to modern literature, and can do nothing but

mislead when applied to the wider literary phenomena of the


            But I am comparatively indifferent as to whether the reader

does or does not accept this conclusion with reference to the

authorship of the poem. What I am concerned                                           Diversity of

to insist upon is that diversity of authorship — if                          authorship not

such there be — is no bar to the literary unity of                          inconsistent with

the nineteenth psalm. This consideration again                                          literary unity

demands the wider conception of literature that belongs to

antiquity. Let an illustration be permitted. If a man enquires

as to the building of some modern dwelling-house, he will proba-

bly be able to learn the year in which it was built and the name

of the architect. It will be different if he applies his investigation

to some great cathedral. The original architect of the cathedral

himself completed (we will suppose) the choir and transepts, and

built them in the Early English style. Then the work stood still

for several generations; when the nave was added the whole style

of architecture had changed. The west front has been added

later still, and reflects details of a later age. But the original

architect did not think it necessary to pull down the whole of the

church his cathedral was superseding; and hence we find a beau-

tiful Norman doorway in the middle of the Early English portion



of the building. And the sexton takes the visitor down to the

crypt and shows him fragments of a yet earlier Saxon church that

had stood on the same spot. Here, then, we have a building that

displays five different architectural styles, the product of five dif-

ferent ages: do we call such a building five cathedrals or one

cathedral? The psalms have the artistic range of the cathedral,

not of the mere dwelling-house; they reflect the literary archi-

tecture of the many ages down which they have travelled, and are

often seen to have absorbed into themselves oracles yet older

than the date of their first composition. But with the psalm, as

with the cathedral, none of these circumstances need militate

against the artistic unity of the whole.

            The literary unity, then, of this nineteenth psalm becomes a

question of the ideas underlying its two parts, and of the mode

in which these ideas are brought together. For the ideas them-

selves, the union in one thought of the physical and the moral

universe has appealed to many minds. It is as old as Zoroaster:


He who first planned that these skies should be clothed with lights,

He by his wisdom is creator of Righteousness, wherewith to support the best



The philosopher Kant, again, was wont to speak of the two per-

petual wonders, the starry heavens above and the moral law within.

And a still closer association of the two ideas has inspired a line of

Wordsworth, who says, addressing Duty:


            Thou lost preserve the stars from wrong;

            And the most ancient heavens through Thee are fresh and strong.


That the two worlds should in the Biblical poem be placed side by

side without further comment is surely intelligible to our aesthetic

Other examples                sense. Art in general recognises the simple con-

of the Unity of                 trast and antithesis. But more than that, the very

antithesis                       section of art we are considering — the psalms of


            1 Yasna xxxi. 9. I am indebted for this parallel to Rev. J. Hope Moulton, Fel-

low of King's College, Cambridge.

                        THE HIGHER UNITY IN LITERATURE                97


the Bible—give us other examples of this same poetic device.

A closely analogous case is the thirty-sixth psalm,                       Psalm xxxvi

which devotes four verses to a picture of character

so utterly corrupt that evil has become a law unto itself; and then

abruptly, without connecting links, sets against the dark back-

ground of supreme evil a supreme good —a loving-kindness as

wide as the heavens, a righteousness as high as the mountains,

judgments as profound as the sea, bounty as diffused as the light.1

Again, among the ‘Songs of Ascents’ is found a                            Psalm cxxvii

short lyric, the thought of which would be obscure

did we not recognise in it one of these antithetic contrasts between

two types of life—the life of anxious toil and the quiet home

life—made effective by the simple juxtaposition of the two



                        Except the LORD build the house,

                        They labour in vain that build it:

                        Except the LORD keep the city,

                        The watchman waketh but in vain.

                        It is vain for you that ye rise up early,

                        And so late take rest,

                        And eat the bread of toil.



                        So he giveth unto his beloved sleep.

                        Lo, children are an heritage of the LORD:

                        And the fruit of the womb is his reward.

                        As arrows in the hand of a mighty man,

                        So are the children of youth.

                        Happy is the man that hath his quiver full of them:

                        They shall not be ashamed when they speak with their enemies

                                    in the gate.


Our examination, then, of this nineteenth psalm, when once dis-

turbing questions of authorship are laid aside, reveals a connection


            1 The parallelism of form between this and the nineteenth psalm is close: besides

the main point (of antithesis without connecting links) there is in both the culmi-

nation of the whole in prayer.



of thought which is both impressive in itself, and also an addition

to the types of Higher Unity under which Biblical lyrics can be


            In treating this general matter of the Higher Unity it is necessary

to mention what may be called the Unity of Aggregation. This

                                    can be brought out best by the aid of illustrations.

Unity of Aggre-                If the reader examines the Book of Proverbs and,

gation                            discarding the numbering of chapters which has

no literary significance, seeks to divide it into the literary com-

                                    positions of which it is made up, he will be struck

Proverbs xxv.                  with the different relations in which successive

24-28                             verses stand to one another in different parts of

the book. Let him, for example, read the last five verses of the

twenty-fifth chapter.


                        It is better to dwell in the corner of the housetop,

                        Than with a contentious woman in a wide house.

                                                *  *  *

                        As cold waters to a thirsty soul,

                        So is good news from a far country.

                                                *  *  *

                        As a troubled fountain, and a corrupted spring,

                        So is a righteous man that giveth way before the wicked.

                                                *  *  *

                        It is not good to eat much honey:

                        So for men to search out their own glory is not glory.

                                                *  *  *

                        He whose spirit is without restraint

                        Is like a city that is broken down and hath no wall.


Nothing is plainer than that we have here five entirely distinct

compositions all that the "men of Hezekiah" have done is to

collect them. Next, let the reader take four verses that follow

one another in the twenty-sixth chapter.


            THE HIGHER UNITY IN LITERATURE                99


                        The sluggard saith, There is a lion in the way;                    Proverbs xxvi.

                        A lion is in the streets.                                                          13-16


                        As the door turneth upon its hinges,

                        So cloth the sluggard upon his bed.


                        The sluggard burieth his hand in the dish;

                        It wearieth him to bring it again to his mouth.


                        The sluggard is wiser in his own conceit

                        Than seven men that can render a reason.


Here again we have entirely separate sayings, but they are all

sayings on the subject of the sluggard. The "men of Hezekiah"

have not merely collected, they have in this instance                                Proverbs vi. 1-5

arranged their matter. For completeness let the

reader turn to an entirely different part of the book, and read

(say) the first five verses of chapter six.


            My son, if thou art become surety for thy neighbour,

            If thou halt stricken thy hands for a stranger,

            Thou art snared with the words of thy mouth,

            Thou art taken with the words of thy mouth.

            Do this now, my son, and deliver thyself,

            Seeing thou art come into the hand of thy neighbour;

            Go, humble thyself, and importune thy neighbour.

            Give not sleep to thine eyes, nor slumber to thine eyelids.

            Deliver thyself as a roe from the hand of the hunter,

            And as a bird from the hand of the fowler.


Here it is clear that we have no collection of distinct sayings, but

a single composition with an organic unity of its own. The sacred

literature is thus found to include both what in modern phraseol-

ogy are called original compositions, and also collections of sepa-

rate brief compositions put together with or without arrangement.

The shorter sayings are obvious in the Book of Proverbs. But at

the proper place we shall see that they belong equally to other

departments of Biblical literature: that Prophecy includes short





prophetic utterances collected together as well as longer dis-

courses, and that even a lyric composition may be constructed of

separate lyrics in combination. Many mistakes of interpretation

may be avoided by recognising the Unity of Aggregation.

            One more consideration will complete our classification of the

different forms that may be assumed by the Higher Unity in the

                                    literary compositions of the Bible. It will some-

Unity of External times happen that the connection binding the dif-

Circumstances                 ferent parts of a poem into a unity is to be looked

for, not in the poem itself, but in the external use made of it. A

notable example is the twenty-fourth psalm. Any one reading this

                                    psalm with a view to catching its general drift and

Psalm xxiv                       connection will be struck with a break between its

sixth and seventh verses, at which point there is a change both of

form and matter so considerable as inevitably to raise the doubt

whether the whole psalm can be a single composition. The diffi-

culty is met by identifying the poem with a particular ceremonial,

into the different parts of which the two halves of the psalm fit

like a key into the wards of a lock.

            This ceremonial was the bringing of the Ark to Jerusalem.

There is perhaps no single day in the far distance of antiquity

which we are able to follow with such minuteness as this central

day of King David's career; and in a later chapter we shall see

that all the songs composed for the festival can be recovered.

The twenty-fourth psalm represents the words of the processional

march from the House of Obed-Edom to the Gates of Jerusalem.

There seem to have been two points in this march at which the

instruments of fir wood, harps, psalteries, timbrels, castanets and

cymbals gave place to vocal celebration. The first was when the

procession halted at the foot of the high hill on which the city

stood; and here it is that the first six verses of the psalm have

their fitness. After a burst of adoration to the Creator of the

world—one of the perfectly general ascriptions of praise with

which psalms so often commence — the special anthem proceeds

as follows:


                        THE HIGHER UNITY IN LITERATURE                101


                        Who shall ascend into the hill of the LORD?

                        And who shall stand in his holy place?

                                    He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart;

                                    Who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity,

                                    And hath not sworn deceitfully.

                        He shall receive a blessing from the LORD,

                        And righteousness from the God of his salvation.

                        This is the generation of them that seek after him,

                        That seek thy face, 0 God of Jacob.


The identification of these words with the occasion to which I am

referring becomes the stronger through something which illustrates

what has been said above as to the nature of Hebrew poetry, and

how its composition did not fix it in one form, as our writing does,

but left it scope to adapt itself in the mouths of the singers who

preserved it to changes of thought or circumstances. We have a

variant to the anthem just cited: this is the fifteenth psalm, and a

comparison of the two poems is highly instructive.


                        LORD, who shall sojourn in thy tabernacle?                      Psalm xv

                        Who shall dwell in thy holy hill?

                                    He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness,

                                    And speaketh truth in his heart.

                                    He that slandereth not with his tongue,

                                    Nor doeth evil to his friend,

                                    Nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.

                                    In whose eyes a reprobate is despised;

                                    But he honoureth them that fear the LORD.

                                    He that sweareth to his own hurt, and changeth not.

                                    He that putteth not out his money to usury,

                                    Nor taketh reward against the innocent.

                                    He that doeth these things shall never be moved.


That these are varying forms of one poem is obvious; in both the

same character for the worshipper of Jehovah is conveyed in the

same form of lyric question and answer. The differences between

them are two. The fifteenth psalm is much fuller in its descrip-

tion, and yet this fulness is no more than the working out into

detail of what the other psalm had suggested. Again, there is a

striking variation in the wording of the opening verse. The



twenty-fourth psalm asks, "Who shall ascend into the hill of the

LORD," the fifteenth psalm phrases the question, "Who shall

sojourn." This exactly tallies with the view here presented of

the two poems. The one is an anthem for a specific occasion,

and to the circumstances of that occasion—the procession halt-

ing at the foot of the hill -- the phrase is exactly relevant, "Who

shall ascend." But when this description of the worshipper of

Jehovah is divorced from the proceedings of that particular day,

and passes into general use, there is no longer any point in the

word ascend, and a general term, sojourn, is substituted. And it

is equally natural that the brief suggestive sketch should be found

where the thought comes as a single detail in a long ceremonial,

but that when the fragment passes into use as an independent

hymn the thought should expand and gather fulness and devo-

tional beauty.

            The other emphatic point in the march was when the proces-

sion drew up opposite the gates of the city: this gives us the

second part of the twenty-fourth psalm. Two considerations

should be carefully remembered by the reader. One of these is

the nature of the day's festival. It was not a dedication of a

temple, but an inauguration of a city. The tent in which David

placed the Ark was clearly regarded by him as a mere temporary

convenience; the task on which his whole heart was bent was to

bring the Ark to the city of David. This Jerusalem was an

ancient stronghold of the Jebusites; to capture it had been

David's greatest achievement; he wished to turn it into the

metropolis of the military monarchy in which he, as the repre-

sentative of Jehovah, was the principal figure: there could then

be no fitter form of inauguration than to transfer to the newly cap-

tured city the sacred Symbol with the fullest military honours.

The psalm realises all this by its formal call upon the city gates to

open. But a second point must be noted before the anthem

                        becomes fully intelligible. The historical account

II Sam. vi            of the ceremonial gives striking prominence to a

particular title of the Divine Being—the LORD OF HOSTS: the

                        THE HIGHER UNITY IN LITERATURE                103


narrative opens by speaking of "the Ark of God which is called

by the Name, even the name of the LORD of hosts"; it ends by

saying that David, in dismissing the people to their homes, blessed

them "in the name of the LORD of hosts." It is clear that this

title made a sort of watchword to the day's proceedings. With

the full circumstances before us let us follow this second section

of the psalm. The procession has halted opposite the massive

porch of the time-worn fortress, and in full military form sum-

mons it to open its gates.


                        Lift up your heads, 0 ye gates;

                        And be ye lift up, ye ancient doors:

                        And the King of glory shall come in.


Warders answer from within:


                        Who is the King of glory?


By the simplest of poetic devices the anthem keeps back for a

time the great Name, and answers with other titles of Jehovah.


                        The LORD strong and mighty,

                        The LORD mighty in battle.


The watchword has not been spoken, and the gates refuse to open.

The summons must be repeated.


                        Lift up your heads, 0 ye gates;

                        Yea, lift them up, ye ancient doors:

                        And the King of glory shall come in.


A second time is heard the challenge from within :


                        Who is this King of glory?


At last the great Name is spoken:


                        THE LORD OF HOSTS,

                        He is the King of glory!


At this word the gates roll back, the procession enters, and Jehovah

has taken possession of his city.



            It appears then that the two sections of the twenty-fourth psalm

fit in with two points in the procession of the Ark to Jerusalem:

the halt at the foot of the hill, and the climax in front of the

gates. The psalm finds its unity in the external circumstances of

its first production.

            Enough has now been said on the subject of this Higher Unity,

the bond by which different parts of a composition are woven

together into a single whole. We have seen that to look for such

unity is a foremost condition of literary appreciation; and that

this applies to the literature of the Bible, notwithstanding diffi-

culties thrown in our way by mediaeval methods of printing or

reading the Sacred Scriptures. We have seen, on the other hand,

that in searching for the unity of any particular poem we must not

force interpretation through some preconceived idea of poetic

connection, but must be prepared to find the Higher Unity assum-

ing various forms. We have surveyed some of these forms: Sim-

ple Unity, Unity of Transition, Unity of Antithesis, Unity of

Aggregation, Unity of External Circumstances. In each case the

nature of the unity must be gathered from an examination of

the particular composition, and a comparison of it with other

compositions of a similar kind.








                                                CHAPTER IV








            MY purpose in Book First is to arrive at a general classification

of such literary forms as Epic, Lyric, Philosophy, and others,

which can in succeeding books be one by one                                           The Higher Unity

applied to the literature of the Bible. Preceding                                        and distinctions

chapters have been occupied in clearing the ground;                                 of literary form

starting from structural analysis they have advanced through lower

unities of literary form to that higher unity by which a literary

work is grasped as a whole. It is only when a reader has accus-

tomed himself to thinking of a poem (or prose composition) as a

whole that he is in a position to take the further step of recognis-

ing the form such a composition assumes. In the present chapter

we are prepared to consider briefly the general notion underlying

such terms as Epic, Lyric, and the like, when these terms are

used of universal literature; and then to note a few of the special

features that broadly distinguish Hebrew literature.

            Let the reader firmly fix four ideas in his mind, as what may

be called the four Cardinal Points of Literature.                                       The four Cardinal

Two of these are given by the antithesis Descrip-                                     Points of Litera-

tion and Presentation. When an incident is de-                                          ture

scribed to us, the words are throughout the words of the author.

When it is presented, the author himself nowhere

appears, but he leaves us to hear the words of                                            Description and

those personages who actually took part in the                                          Presentation

incident, perhaps to see their doings; we become spectators, and

the circumstances are made to present themselves before us.





Homer and Milton give us literature of description; for pres-

entation the most complete illustration is Shakespeare, in whose

pages all varieties of mankind are speaking and moving, but the

poet himself is never heard.

            The other two ideas are conveyed by the words Poetry and

Prose. It is impossible to use other terms; and yet about these

                                    there is an unfortunate ambiguity, owing to the exi-

Poetry and Prose             gences of language which have imposed a double

duty on the word ‘prose’: it is antithetic to ‘poetry’ and it is

also antithetic to ‘verse.’ No doubt there is a good deal in

common between these two usages of the word: Poetry is mostly

conveyed in verse, and Prose literature in the style called prose.

But the terms must be used with a cautious recollection that

Poetry is sometimes cast in the form of prose — notably, we shall

see, in the Bible; while in the earlier stages of literary history

verse has often been utilised for works of science and philosophy

which would later have been thrown into a prose form. The con-

ception we are at present seeking will be best grasped if we

translate the Greek word ‘poetry’ into its Latin equivalent, ‘cre-

ative literature’; it assists also to remember the old English usage

by which a poet was called a ‘maker.’ The idea underlying these

words is that the poet makes something, creates, adds to the sum

of existences; whereas the antithetic literature of Prose has only

to discuss what already exists. When Homer has sung and Eu-

ripides exhibited plays the world is richer by an Achilles and an

Alcestis. It makes no difference whether, as an historic fact, the

Greek warrior and the Queen of Pherae ever existed, or whether

they are pure figments of the imagination, or whether they existed

but behaved quite differently from what the poem and the play

suggest: to our poetic sense the Homeric Achilles and the Euripi-

dean Alcestis are as real as the Cesar of history. On the con-

trary, the literature of Prose moves only is the region limited

by facts; history and philosophy have to deal only with what

actually has existence, accurately describing things, or bringing out

the relations between one thing and another.

            CLASSIFICATION' OF LITERARY FORMS                     107


            These four ideas, Description and Presentation, Poetry and

Prose, I have called the four Cardinal Points of Literature: they

are to be regarded, not as divisions or classes into                        Primitive liter-

which literary works may be divided, but as so                              ary form: the

many different directions in which literary activity                       Ballad Dance

may move. But to understand this movement a fifth conception

must be added as a starting-point for such activity. The starting-

point of literature is found in what is technically called the Ballad

Dance. The study of Comparative Literature reveals that wher-

ever literature arises spontaneously its earliest form is a combina-

tion of verse, music, and imitative gesture. Whether it be a story,

or an uplifting of the heart in worship, or a burst of popular frolic,

the expression of these will be in rhythmic words, which are

chanted to a tune with or without instrumental accompaniment,

and further emphasised by expressive gestures of the whole body

such as have come to be denominated ‘dancing.’  Hebrew litera-

ture was no exception. Of course, the actual contents of our

Bibles are far removed from such primitive productions. But

some portions of Sacred Scripture are early enough not to have

lost the triple form with which poetry started. Thus                                  Exodus xv. 20

we are expressly informed that the Song of Moses

and Miriam was accompanied with timbrel music and dances;

even when the bringing of the Ark to Jerusalem                                        II Sam. vi. 5,

called forth such lofty strains of poetry we have a                                    14-16

full description of the orchestra with which that poetry was accom-

panied, and we know how David himself "danced with all his

might" in its performance.

            If then the reader keeps in his mind this starting-point of liter-

ature in the Ballad Dance, and also the four directions in which

its impulses are likely to carry it, he will be able                          Fundamental

to lay down as in a chart the great forms which                                          Forms for Liter-

literature assumes as it develops. On the side of                                       ature in general

Poetry three great types of literature arise, which on examination

are found to reflect the three elements— verse, music, dancing —

combined by primitive poetry in one. Epic is a branch thrown



            CLASSIFICATION OF LITERARY FORMS                      109


off on the side of Description, for it consists in the narration of a

poetic story; the name ‘Epic,’ which literally means                                 Epic

‘speech,’ is seen by comparison with the other

names to imply that in this branch verse is the only one of the

three original elements which is essential, music and dancing being

for epic poetry mere accessories that soon disap-                                    Drama

peared. Over against this Epic a second branch

of creative literature is found pointing in the direction of Presenta-

tion; and its name, Drama, implies that here the imitative gesture

of the ballad dance has predominated over everything else, for

‘Drama’ is ‘acted poetry.’ The remaining constituent of primi-

tive literature, music, is suggested by the name of                                    Lyric

the third great division of poetry—Lyric, and all

the devices of musical art find their analogies in the movement

of lyric poetry. As Epic was concerned with Description, and

Drama with Presentation, so Lyric has a special function which

at the same time mediates between the other two. It may be

described by the term Reflection or Meditation; by this medi-

tative function lyric poetry can—as its position on our chart

would suggest—pass at any moment into epic or dramatic with-

out losing its own distinctive character. To illustrate: let us take

up (say) the ninth psalm at the eleventh verse.


                        Sing praises to the LORD, which dwelleth in Zion:

                                    Declare among the people his doings.

                        For he that maketh inquisition for blood remembereth them:

                                    He forgetteth not the cry of the poor.



We have struck this lyric at a point where the poet is reflecting; but

in the next verse the meditation has become dramatic, for we are

allowed to hear the very cries of the poor who have been spoken of.


                        "Have mercy upon me, 0 LORD;

                        Behold my affliction which I suffer of them that hate me,

                        Thou that liftest me up from the gates of death;

                        That I may shew forth all thy praise:

                        In the gates of the daughter of Zion,

                        I will rejoice in thy salvation."



As the lyric form has thus changed quite naturally into a momen-

tary drama, so in the verse that follows it is found to have passed

into epic description.


                        The nations are sunk down in the pit that they made:

                        In the net which they hid is their own foot taken.


Biblical lyrics illustrate more fully than any others this essentially

central character of lyric poetry and its power of absorbing the

other forms.

            Analogous to the three great types of Poetry we have three

main divisions of literature on its side of Prose. Epic has its

                        counterpart in History. The word history has for

History              its range the whole field of positive description:

‘Natural History’ is the description of external nature, and ‘His-

tory’ without any qualifying adjective is the description of events.

                        On the other side the prose analogue of Drama is

Rhetoric             Rhetoric; for the orator differs from others who

use prose in the prominence he gives to presentation. To the

famous orator Demosthenes is attributed the saying that the first

element of oratory is action, and the second element action, and

the third action: the meaning of this is that an orator must above

all things be an actor; he must be able to identify himself with his

cause as an actor presents a part. Lastly, as Lyric was reflective

                        poetry, the corresponding form of prose literature is

Philosophy         Philosophy, which is no more than organised reflec-

tion. And as Lyric was found to occupy a central position on the

side of poetry, so that it could dip at intervals into Epic and Drama,

an analogous power attaches to Philosophy, which can extend in

the direction of Description when it takes the form of scientific

observation, and on the other side can advance almost to the

bounds of Rhetoric in the form of exposition.

            We have thus, starting from first principles, arrived at a concep-

tion of the six main divisions of literary form. But these six forms

must be understood as merely general notions, drawn from a com-

parative survey of literature as a whole. Just as the ‘elements’

            CLASSIFICATION OF LITERARY FORMS                      111


into which the chemist analyses matter are seldom found in nature

separate and distinct, but almost always in com-                           Literary works

bination, so in the actual literatures of the world it                                   seldom confined

will be an exceptional case if any particular work is                                 to a single form

found to exemplify one of the six forms we have been discussing,

without any admixture of the rest.

            We are to review the various forms as they appear in the Bible.

But first I will draw attention to three points which,                                 Distinguishing

in the most general survey, distinguish Biblical lit-                                  features of He-

erature from the other great literatures of the world,                                brew Literature

and affect its relation to the elements of literary form just surveyed.

            The first distinguishing characteristic of Hebrew literature is that

it has not developed a separate and distinct Drama; although, as

if to compensate for this, the dramatic impulse is                         1. No separate

found in Hebrew to invade other regions of litera-                                    Drama but dra-

ture, including such departments as might have                                         matic influence

seemed most impervious to it. The current find-                                       on other forms

ing no channel has spread and diffused itself. The reader of the

Bible knows that he will find in it no acted play like the plays of

Shakespeare. But on the other hand he will find lyric poems

specially dramatic in tone, and in Solomon's Song a lyric idyl that

impresses some of its readers as a complete drama. He will find,

again, philosophy taking a dramatic shape. In the Book of fob

the dramatic form reaches an intensity not exceeded in any liter-

ature; yet even here there is no independent drama, but the

dramatised discussion is made to rest on a basis of epic story.

What is still more surprising, the discourses of prophecy are found

to be leavened by the dramatic spirit, and that most concentrated

form of Hebrew prophecy, which will in this work be called the

Rhapsody, is pre-eminent in the closeness with which it approaches

to Drama. If such things could be made the subject of measure-

ment, it would be safe to predict that the mass of dramatic mate-

rial in Biblical literature would be not less than that found in other

literatures where Drama is a distinct form.



            A second consideration must be mentioned as separating

Hebrew from other literatures. When a reader turns over the

2. Prophecy a                    pages of the Bible, the department which will im-

special depart-                 press him most by its bulk and importance is one

ment of Litera-                 not included in the above classification, because it

ture                               is no element of universal literature. This is the

department of Prophecy. The distinction of Prophecy is not one

of form but of spirit: Biblical Prophecy, in a sense that belongs

to no other class of literature, presents itself as an actual Divine

message. So far as form is concerned Prophecy is not distinctive

but comprehensive: all types of literature are attracted towards

it, and, as will be seen at the proper place, the various literary

forms are fused together into a new form in the Prophetic Rhap-


            The third distinguishing feature of Hebrew literature needs

fuller explanation. It has to do with the external form of verse

3. Overlapping                 and prose. We saw that Hebrew rests its verse

of Verse and                   system, not upon metre or rhyme, but upon paral-

Prose                             lelism of clauses. But, as a matter of universal

literature, parallelism is one of the devices of prose: the rhetoric

of all nations includes it. If then a particular language bases its

verse upon something which is also the property of prose, it is an

inevitable consequence that in that language prose and verse will

overlap: and such is the case with Biblical literature. I do not

of course mean that the verse literature of the Bible taken as a

whole could be confused with the Biblical literature of prose.

What could be further from prose than the Book of Psalms? and

what could be further from verse than the Books of Chronicles?

But while in their extremes they are totally different, yet there is a

middle region of Biblical style in which verse and prose meet: a

high parallelism in which transition can be rapidly made from the

one to the other, or even the effects of the two can seem to be

combined. It is this overlapping of verse and prose which con-

stitutes the third distinctive feature of Hebrew literature.

            I am the more particular upon this point, because it is one

            CLASSIFICATION OF LITERARY FORMS                      113


which I think has not received sufficient attention. The combina-

tion of verse and prose to which I am alluding is not the fact that,

in such a book as Jeremniah, some compositions are found to be

verse and some prose. Nor am I referring merely to the literary

effect of a transition in the same composition from a passage of

prose to a passage of verse; such transitions belong to many

literatures, and are markedly characteristic of Shakespeare in his

later plays. The union of verse and prose can in Biblical litera-

ture be more intimate still: what in another language we should

have to call a system of verse—for example, the analysis of a

single stanza—will in the Hebrew be found to combine prose

with verse into a common system.

            A clear grasp of this overlapping of verse and prose is neces-

sary for the appreciation of Hebrew literature. To gain it may

require some effort of mind on the part of those                                      This an addition

who have formed their ideas in literatures of a dif-                                   to the resources

ferent kind. The English reader, for example, is                                        of style

accustomed to a verse founded on metrical considerations or

rhyme—things foreign to prose; when he hears of verse ap-

proaching prose the phrase is likely to suggest to him weakness

and inefficiency. Any such suggestion becomes inapplicable in

the case of a language where parallelism makes a common ground

between the highest poetry and the highest rhetoric. It is clear,

on the contrary, that the literary resources of Hebrew are increased

by the feature we are discussing. Hebrew has the power pos-

sessed by other languages of producing literary effect with changes

from the one form of expression to the other. But it has also a

power all its own of maintaining (so to speak) a watershed of

high parallelism, from which it can dip towards verse or prose

with the utmost subtlety, or can combine in one the delight in

freedom, which is the spirit of prose, with a sense of rhythm,

which is the foundation of verse.

            I am about to bring forward illustrations, but I must preface

them with one general remark. It will be seen in the extracts

cited that certain passages are printed as prose which are usually



represented to be lines of verse; and the question may arise,

what is the criterion for deciding such points. I would answer

                                    that the matter cannot be determined simply by

Examples of the                examining the passages themselves and the relation

Compound Style              of successive clauses, seeing that parallelism is com-

mon ground between verse and rhetoric prose. Where is the

parallelism of clauses carried further than in the speeches of

Moses as they appear in the Book of Deuteronomy, especially at

such a point of the book as the eighth chapter? Yet no one

would break up such speeches into lines of verse, because the

general drift and spirit of the whole makes it clear that they con-

stitute not poetry but oratory. So with regard to the citations

from prophecy that are to be given, it is necessary, besides ex-

amining the individual clauses, to study the extract as a whole,

and the way its different parts hang together; when this is done,

it will often appear that a passage, which in itself would make

good verse, will in its relation to the whole be better represented

to the eye and ear as prose. To use the terms I distinguished

when speaking on the general subject of structure, the analysis of

prophetic style must be dominated by the higher and not the

over parallelism.

Amos i. 3-ii         My first illustration is from the prophecy of

                        Amos, a book which will impress the most casual

reader with the prominence in it of structural beauty.


                        Thus saith the LORD:

                                    For three transgressions of Damascus,

                                    Yea, for four,

                        I will not turn away the punishment thereof;

            because they have threshed Gilead with threshing instruments of


                        But I will send a fire into the house of Hazael,

                        And it shall devour the palaces of Ben-hadad.

            And I will break the bar of Damascus, and cut off the inhabitant from

            the valley of Aven, and him that holdeth the sceptre from the house

            of Eden: and the people of Syria shall go into captivity unto Kir, saith

            the LORD.


            CLASSIFICATION OF LITERARY FORMS                      115


                        Thus saith the LORD:

                                    For three transgressions of Gaza,

                                    Yea, for four,

                        I will not turn away the punishment thereof;

            because they carried away captive the whole people, to deliver them

            up to Edom:

                        But I will send a fire on the wall of Gaza,

                        And it shall devour the palaces thereof:

            and I will cut off the inhabitant from Ashdod, and him that holdeth

            the sceptre from Ashkelon; and I will turn mine hand against Ekron,

            and the remnant of the Philistines shall perish, saith the LORD God.


                        Thus saith the LORD:

                                    For three transgressions of Tyre,

                                    Yea, for four,

                        I will not turn away the punishment thereof;

            because they delivered up the whole people to Edom, and remem-

            bered not the brotherly covenant:

                        But I will send a fire on the wall of Tyre,

                        And it shall devour the palaces thereof.


                        Thus saith the LORD:

                                    For three transgressions of Edom,

                                    Yea, for four,

                        I will not turn away the punishment thereof;

            because he did pursue his brother with the sword, and did cast off all

            pity, and his anger did tear perpetually, and he kept his wrath for


                        But I will send a fire upon Teman,

                        And it shall devour the palaces of Bozrah.


                        Thus saith the LORD:

                                    For three transgressions of the children of Ammon,

                                    Yea, for four, .

                        I will not turn away the punishment thereof;

            because they have ripped up the women with child of Gilead, that they

            might enlarge their border:

                        But I will kindle a fire in the wall of Rabbah,

                        And it shall devour the palaces thereof,

            with shouting in the day of battle, with a tempest in the day of the

            whirlwind: and their king shall go away into captivity, he and his

            princes together, saith the LORD.



                        Thus saith the LORD:

                                    For three transgressions of Moab,

                                    Yea, for four,

                        I will not turn away the punishment thereof;

            because he burned the bones of the king of Edom into lime:

                        But I will send a fire upon Moab,

                        And it shall devour the palaces of Kerioth;

            and Moab shall die with tumult, with shouting, and with the sound of

            the trumpet; and I will cut off the judge from the midst thereof, and

            will slay all the princes thereof with him, saith the LORD.


                        Thus saith the LORD:

                                    For three transgressions of Judah,

                                    Yea, for four,

                        I will not turn away the punishment thereof;

            because they have rejected the law of the LORD, and have not kept

            his statutes, and their lies have caused them to err, after the which

            their fathers did walk:

                        But I will send a fire upon Judah,

                        And it shall devour the palaces of Jerusalem.


                        Thus saith the LORD:

                                    For three transgressions of Israel,

                                    Yea, for four,

                        I will not turn away the punishment thereof;

            because they have sold the righteous for silver, and the needy for a

            pair of shoes: that pant after the dust of the earth on the head of the

            poor, and turn aside the way of the meek: and a man and his father

            will go unto the same maid, to profane my holy name: and they lay

            themselves down beside every altar upon clothes taken in pledge, and

            in the house of their God they drink the wine of such as have been

            fined. Yet destroyed I the Amorite before them, whose height was

            like the height of the cedars, and he was strong as the oaks; yet I

            destroyed his fruit from above, and his roots from beneath. Also

            I brought you up out of the land of Egypt, and led you forty years in

            the wilderness, to possess the land of the Amorite. And I raised up

            of your sons for prophets, and of your young men for Nazirites. Is it

            not even thus, 0 ye children of Israel? saith the LORD. But ye gave

            the Nazirites wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying,

            Prophesy not.

                        Behold I will press you in your place,

                        As a cart presseth that is full of sheaves.

            CLASSIFICATION OF LITERARY FORMS                      117


                        And flight shall perish from the swift,

                        And the strong shall not strengthen his force,

                        Neither shall the mighty deliver himself:

                        Neither shall he stand that handleth the bow;

                        And he that is swift of foot shall not deliver himself:

                        Neither shall he that rideth the horse deliver himself:

                        And he that is courageous among the mighty

                        Shall flee away naked in that day,

                        Saith the LORD.


            If we examine this portion of Amos in the spirit of the lower

parallelism, we must admit that the passages here printed as prose

could be broken up into verses, most of them without straining.

But the higher parallelism constructs the whole passage on an

extremely simple plan: this prophecy against eight peoples is

made up of common formulae expressing ideal transgressions and

ideal dooms, together with particular descriptions of actual sins

and actual sufferings. It is surely in keeping with such a general

plan that the formulae and ideal portions should be found to be in

verse, and the particular descriptions in prose. Moreover, when

we examine the denunciation of Israel, the final climax up to which

all the rest leads, we find that it is just here that the description is

most difficult to compel into the form of verse: if this goes best

as prose then the parts correlated with it should be prose also.

Finally, if we look at the whole for a moment simply as a work of

art, we must be struck with the superb elasticity of style which

Hebrew obtains from a power of combining verse and prose in

the same way that the oratorio combines recitative with timed

music. The speaker can at any moment suspend rhythm in order

to penetrate with the unfettered simplicity of prose into every

detail of realism, sure of being able to recover when he pleases

the rhythmic march, and the strong tone of idealisation.

            My second illustration goes further than the first in the direc-

tion of artistic elaborateness, and is proportionately

more open to difference of opinion. It is the                                             Joel ii. 1-11

famous passage in which Joel conveys the approach of the mystic




                        Blow ye the trumpet in Zion,

                        And sound an alarm in my holy mountain;

                        Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble:

            for the Day of the LORD cometh, for it is nigh at hand; a day of dark-

            ness and gloominess, a day of clouds and thick darkness, as the dawn

            spread upon the mountains; a great people and a strong, there hath

            not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after them, even to

            the years of many generations!

                        A fire devoureth before them;

                        And behind them a flame burneth:

                        The land is as the garden of Eden before them,

                        And behind them a desolate wilderness!

            Yea, and none hath escaped them. The appearance of them is as the

            appearance of horses; and as horsemen, so do they run. Like the

            noise of chariots on the tops of the mountains do they leap, like

            the noise of a flame of fire that devoureth the stubble, as a strong

            people set in battle array.

                        At their presence the peoples are in anguish:

                        All faces are waxed pale:

                        They run like mighty men;

                        They climb the wall like men of war;

                        And they march every one on his ways.

            And they break not their ranks: neither cloth one thrust another; they

            march every one in his path: and they burst through the weapons, and

            break not off their course.

                        They leap upon the city;

                        They run upon the wall;

                        They climb up into the houses;

                        They enter in at the windows like a thief.

                        The earth quaketh before them;

                        The heavens tremble:

                        The sun and the moon are darkened,

                        And the stars withdraw their shining:

            and the LORD uttereth his voice before his army; for his camp is very

            great; for he is strong that executeth his word: for the Day of the

            LORD is great and very terrible; and who can abide it?


            At first sight the reader might be surprised to see treated as

prose language so full of fire and rhythm. But we have seen that

this by itself is an unsafe criterion: the line is a very fine one that

separates between the rhythm of universal rhetoric and the rhythm

            CLASSIFICATION OF LITERARY FORMS                      119


of Hebrew verse. The only safe guide is the structure of the whole

passage. One point in the above arrangement is obvious — it

yields the favourite Hebrew effect of augmenting: when the pass-

ages of verse are examined it will be seen that the first consists of

three lines, the second of four, the third of five, the climax of a

much larger number. But the more important question is, whether

the breaks suggested between prose and verse coincide with any

change in the spirit of the whole. The passage is dominated by

one idea — the sense of mysterious approach. The prophecy of

Joel, starting from a plague of locusts, idealises this into destruc-

tion as a general notion, and so finely is this idealisation executed

that associations of locusts and of destruction in general mingle

together until they leave on our minds nothing but a sense of

awful mystery. Keeping then this idea of mystic approach before

us, let us examine the sections of the whole passage. The opening

verses are simply an alarm: a trumpet crash and quivering nerves.

Then prose puts the meaning of the alarm, as it might be inter-

preted by rumour: it must be the Day of Jehovah breaking, with

blackness for its light of dawn: a ‘people’ coming, the like of

which has never been seen. With the return to verse we have

advanced from hearing to seeing: but the first glance pictures the

army of destruction only by its effects — the beauty before it, the

destruction and burning where it has passed. A second glance

analyses in prose the destroying force: like the words of one

trying to make out something in the distance, we hear minglings

of the appearance of horses with the sounds of chariots and flames.

Another stage of advance is made by a simple contrast in verse —

the pale terror of the helpless victims, and the energy of the

destroying march. But no sooner is the word ‘march’ introduced

than prose proceeds to analyse the march, with the riddling sug-

gestions of locusts underlying the descriptions of unbroken ranks,

and the pouring through opposing weapons. At last the goal of

the city is reached, and in a string of abrupt verses we have the

irresistible invasion from every side until the whole earth is

darkened and rocking with a universal destruction. Then a yet



higher climax is made when prose brings out the power that has

been behind the whole judgment—it is indeed Jehovah whose

word has been thus strongly executed: and who shall abide his

terrible day! The structural law of the whole stands out clear:

continually augmenting stanzas of verse paint the objective scene,

and prose interposes between them to analyse and interpret


            But to fully appreciate this feature of Biblical style the reader

ought to watch it as it appears upon a more extended scale. I

                                                shall therefore conclude by citing the Book of

Book of Zephaniah                       Zephaniah in full. The structural plan of this

prophecy is equally simple and impressive.  It is prose broken

by snatches of verse. Upon examination, the prose is found to

be a continuous discourse conveying the denunciatory message of

Deity; the verse passages are interruptions of lyric comment at

emphatic points.


                                    THE WORD OF THE LORD

                                                which came unto



                              the son of Cushi, the son of Gedaliah,

                            the son of Amariah, the son of Hezekiah,

                               in the days of Josiah the son of Amon,

                                                   king of Judah.


                 I will utterly consume all things from off the face of the ground, saith

            the LORD. I will consume man and beast; I will consume the fowls

            of the heaven, and the fishes of the sea, and the stumbling-blocks with

            the wicked; and I will cut off man from off the face of the ground,