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It may be added, in respect to the composition, or make up, of the book of Judges
, that the two stories at the end of the book, commencing with the 17th chapter, are not put into the position they occupy, to indicate the order of time that belongs to them in the history. The first of these transactions must have taken place soon after the settlement of the country, and yet not till the power of Jabin, who held that northern country in the region of Dan, was broken, in the time of Deborah and Barak. The last transaction, namely, the war with Benjamin, took place while Phinehas was high priest, who was grandson of Aaron and son of Eleazar. Judges. xx. 28.
The time of writing the appendix, containing these stories, has no necessary connection with the time of their
De Wette argues, from allusions to the absence of a kingly government, that the writing took place after the time of the kings. These allusions do not authorize this conclusion Other nations had kings, if the Israelites bad not; and it was easy to institute comparisons, and express regrets, that they lacked what others had.' The allusions may have been prompted, too, by the problematical advantages of being under a strong and vigorous government.
We have said nothing of the book of Ruth, for the reason, that it is not so much a separate book, as it is a part of the book of Judges, to which, we are assured by St. Jerome, it once belonged. It is plain, from some circumstances mentioned in the book, that the incidents took place, at the time of one of the early judges. The book closes with a genealogy, from which we learn that Boaz, who married Ruth, was the son of Salmon, and grandson of Nashon, who was cotemporary with Moses, and prince of the tribe of Judah. Num. 1. 7. Furthermore, from the genealogy of Jesus, Matt. i. 5, we learn, that Salmon married Rachab of Jericho ; and of course their son Boaz must have lived immediately after the conquest of Canaan. This determines the time when
Boaz and Ruth were on the stage; and when the events occurred, recorded in the book of Ruth; but it does not determine when the book was written.
It was not written till after Judges, for there is allusion to the time "when the judges ruled." i. 1. We might infer, from the genealogy, near the close, that it was not written till the time of David. iv. 22. But it would have been very natural, for a copyist to add this name, as it would give character to the story, and perhaps gratify those personally interested.
The story is of such a character, that it could be transmitted, without material detriment, for several generations, before being put into permanent form. It was probably written in the time of David, and, it may be, at his instigation, for, though it represents him as descended from a poor woman of Moab, and from a harlot of Jericho, (if she were a harlot,) that reproach, if it be one, would be balanced by the fact, that Nashon, the prince of the tribe of Judah, and brother-in-law of Aaron and Moses, belonged on the same list.
The custom of taking off the shoe in confirmation of certain contracts, existed when the marriage of Boaz and Ruth took place; but it had gone out of use when the book was written; and this implies a long period, in view of the well known inveteracy of oriental customs.
The number of generations, from Boaz to David, may seem hardly sufficient to fill the space of time that intervened, according to the usual chronology; over five hundred years, according to Hales ; and nearly four hundred, according to Calmet; but it must be remembered, that Bible Chronology, during this period, is greatly embarrassed, and has never been determined with any degree of certainty.
Some expressions, in the book of Ruth, that are also found in Samuel and Kings, but no where else in the Bible, have led to the opinion, that it may have been written by the same hand. One of these is, “The Lord
do so to me and more also,” i. 17; which is found with the simple exchange of God for Lord, in 1 Sam. iii. 17; xiv. 44; 2 Sam. iii. 9, 35; xix. 13; 1 K. ii
. 23 ; xix. 2; xx. 10; 2 K. vi. 31. The other is, literally, though slightly different in the translation, “I have discovered to your ear.”iv. 4. Comp. 1 Sam. xx. 2 ; 2 Sam. vii. 27. Calmet on Ruth. De Wette, vol. II.
320. SECTION V.- TRUTH, That these books are reliable as history, and are in the main, true, is a much more important question, than any pertaining to authorship.
Those things already noticed, will have more or less influence on the minds of men, in determining their convictions respecting the truth of these books. They have all the marks of candor, sincerity and truthfulness. There are reasons for believing that they were written near the time the events took place, by one every way competent to record them, and ought to be received as substantially true. The supernatural element is the only part of the books that is objectionable, in itself; and if the rest is objected to, it is doubtless mainly, if not entirely on that account, and not because there is a lack of evidence in respect to the books themselves. This subject of miracles has been discussed at length, in vol. II. ; and what is there said, will apply to the other books.
The truth of these books will be best shown, perhaps, by pointing out the fallacy of the arguments usually urged against them. It is one of the expedients of the Skeptic and Rationalist, to describe these books as “peculiar;” thus denying all unity of spirit, design and object in them, and weakening the confidence of men in their truth or reliability. Hence, De Wette says the book of Joshua is peculiar. Vol. II. p. 169.
The book of Joshua is not peculiar. It is precisely such a book as we should expect would follow the Pentateuch. It is in many respects like the Pentateuch. As the Lord promised to be with Joshua, as he had been with Moses, i. 5, we should expect to find, recorded in the book, the same or similar exhibitions of divine power. These we do find. The passage of the Jordan was very similar to the passage of the Red Sea. The angel of the Lord appeared to Moses; and in like manner the angel appeared to Joshua. The Lord spake to Moses ; and he spake to Joshua. Ex. iii. 2; Jos. v. 13; Ex. vi. 1, 10, 28; vii. 1, 8, 10, 19; viii. 1,5; Num. ii. 1; ix. 1; Jos. i. 1; iv. 1, 15; v. 2, 9; vi. 2, etc.
Of Judges, De Wette says: "The mythology of this book is peculiar. In ch. ii. 1, an angel of Jehovah comes up from Gilgal to Bochim, to admonish the nation. But he speaks as if he were Jehovah himself, and not simply an angel." Other examples are quoted, namely, the appearance to Gideon, vi. 11, 14, 16; and to Manoah, xiii. 3. Vol. II. p. 197. And this is peculiar! Has the author forgotten the appearance of an angel to Hagar— to Abraham - to Moses — to Joshua? Gen. xvi. 7-10; xxii. 15-18; Ex. iii. 2-6; Jos. v. 13-15; vi. 2-5. In all these instances, the angel was God himself.
In a note by the Editor of De Wette, the late learned Theodore Parker, we have the following comment on the appearance of the angel first mentioned. Perhaps the original legend taught, that Jehovah himself appeared ; and some redactor, thinking this too gross, ascribed the action to the angel of Jehovah. The redactor was very considerate; but, after all, he did not improve the passage much; since it still asserts that the angel was Jehovah, and not an angel merely!
Strange to tell, after declaring the mythology of Judges to be peculiar, he adds, in another place, (Vol. II. p. 200,) that the book has a striking resemblance to Joshua and Deuteronomy, and adds in respect to Joshua, “There is a similarity in the mythology; for example, Angel of Jehovah. ii. 1, sqq. vi. 11, 14. Miraculous signs, vi. 17, 36, as in Ex. iv., and elsewhere."
The books of Samuel are much like those of Joshua, Judges, and the preceding books. There is but one ap
pearance of an angel. 2 Sam. 24. The practice of erecting monuments of stones, to perpetuate the memory
of important transactions, is reported in these books. 1 Sam. vi. 18; vii. 12. Significant names are given to persons and places. 1 Sam. i. 20; iv. 21; xxiii. 28. Proverbs are scattered through the other books; and we find them here in Samuel. “Saul among the prophets," "The blind and the lame shall not come into the house. 1 Sam. x. 12; xix. 24; 2 Sam. v. 6-9. There are in Samuel, as in the other books, some expressions that are accommodated to the low conceptions of God that generally prevailed in that age. 1 Sam. ii. 25; xv. 10-35; 2 Sam. xvii. 14.
As in other books, so in these, we find a record of sundry miracles. The evils brought on the Philistines, while the ark was among them; the direction of the kine to a city of the priests, among the Hebrews; the punishment of those who violated the enactments of Moses, by looking into the ark; the thunder that came, at the bidding of Samuel, in harvest time, &c., &c., are of this kind.
Again, De Wette points out, in these books, a large number of what he calls contradictions. Books, that are full of contradictions, can not be true. On this subject we remark, in general terms, that no author would allow to remain in his book, a real and evident contradiction. Contradictions do not lie on the surface, exposed to the observation of the most superficial read
If any part of this narrative be contradictory, in any proper sense of the term, it is obvious that the discrepancy was not seen by the author; and he must be allowed to have understood his own language.
The contradiction in Joshua, that is affirmed of the record of the conquest, as compared with the portion of country still in the hands of the Canaanites, has been before explained. For more on the same subject, the reader may consult our comments on Jos. x. 41; xi. 16, 17; xiii. 2-6. p. 233.