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thou them in the hand of their enemies, so that they had the dominion over them: yet when they returned, and cried unto thee, thou heardest from heaven; and many times didst thou deliver them according to thy mercies; and testifiedst against them, that thou mightest bring them again unto thy law: yet they dealt proudly, and hearkened not unto thy commandments, but sinned against thy judgements, (which if a man do, he shall live in them,) and withdrew the shoulder, and hardened their neck, and would not hear. Yet many years didst thou bear with them, and testifiedst against them by thy spirit through thy prophets: yet would they not give ear: therefore gavest thou them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. Nevertheless in thy manifold mercies thou didst not make a full end of them, nor forsake them; for thou art a gracious and merciful God.
"Now therefore, our God, the great, the mighty, and the terrible God, who keepest covenant and mercy, let not all the travail seem little before thee, that hath come upon us, on our kings, on our princes, and on our priests, and on our prophets, and on our fathers, and on all thy people, since the time of the kings of Assyria unto this day. Howbeit thou art just in all that is come upon us; for thou hast dealt truly, but we have done wickedly: neither have our kings, our princes, our priests, nor our fathers, kept thy law, nor hearkened unto thy commandments and thy testimonies, wherewith thou didst testify against them. For they have not served thee in their kingdom, and in thy great goodness that thou gavest them, and in the large and fat land which thou gavest before them, neither turned they from their wicked works. Behold, we are servants this day, and as for the land that thou gavest unto our fathers to eat the fruit thereof and the good thereof, behold, we are servants in it. And it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom thou hast set over us because of our sins: also they have power over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress. And yet for all this we make a sure covenant, and write it; and our princes, our Levites, and our priests, seal unto it."
This portion of Scripture reaches an appropriate close with this ceremonial presentation of the history of Israel as the history of a
broken covenant, together with a solemn renewal, to stand for ever, of the covenant between the Chosen People and its God.
But the great achievement of the Men of the Return was the collection of the nation's great literature, and the organized arrangement of it which has come down from them to the rest of the world. The next section of this work deals with the transition from History to Collected Literature.
The Introduction to this work has brought out how the Old Testament is a succession of independent books with an interconnection that makes the whole the history of the Chosen People of God. It has also indicated that, when we study the plan of arrangement which underlies the succession of books, this is found to undergo a remarkable change about the middle of the Old Testament. Up to the dividing line what we find seems to be continuous history; though on closer inspection the history is seen to be an historic framework, the spirit of the whole being given in special literary forms, such as story and song. After the dividing line the relative proportions of history and literature are reversed: the latter part of the Old Testament appears as collections of literary works, any connection with an historic movement being left for inference by the reader. In the present chapter we are to consider this difference between the earlier and the latter parts of the Old Testament, this transition from what is mainly history to what is mainly literature. In part, the transition is due to the spirit of the age in which the constituent parts of the Bible were brought together. In part, the change depends upon the nature of the literary works that are being collected.
We know nothing in detail of the mode in which the separate elements of our Bible were united. But an ancient tradition, which seems to have much probability in it, connects this work with the era of the Return from Captivity, and specifically names "Ezra the Scribe" as its leading spirit. From this period onward the Scribes' appear as a distinct literary class, whose primary work is making copies of the Law; it would fit in with the regular functions of such a literary class that it should set about the work of collecting and arranging books. The leaders of the Return from Captivity were men animated by the high purpose of reinstating the Chosen People of God after their fall into captivity. They rebuilt the walls of the Holy City; they set up the Temple and restored the Temple services. But the Israel of their day was no longer a simple nation distinguished only by a mission to other nations; it had become a great literary people, producing works of poetry and prose of high order. The restoration ideal would extend from what was directly connected with religion to the further task of gathering together what would make a great national literature.
In the literary product of this age of the Return from Captivity one portion is to be described, not by the word 'collection,' but by the word 'revision.' This relates to the history of Israel. Every Bible reader will have noticed that the history of Israel, in the important epoch that commences with the accession of David, is duplicated in the Old Testament. One version is contained in the Four Books of Kings, as they were formerly called, which in our Bibles are named the two Books of Samuel and the two Books of Kings. The other version is found in what are The First and called the two Books of Chronicles. The history Second Books in the Books of Kings is the work of prophets, who of Chronicles are its chief heroes. The history in the Books of Chronicles is ecclesiastical history. We have seen that with the Return from Captivity the Hebrew nation has been transformed into the Jewish Church; prophets henceforward fall into the background, and the leading spirits of the new era are priests and scribes. The new spirit of the era calls for a re-telling of the national history. It is instructive to compare the two series of historic books. Both are dealing with the same matter, the history of the nation from the accession of David to the end. Considerable sections of the two histories are in identical language, or nearly so. But there are marked differences. The most conspicuous difference has reference to the northern kingdom of Israel; this bulks large in the history of the Kings, it is almost entirely absent from the history of the Chronicles. The mere fact of the schism in Israel, and the rise of the separate kingdoms, is narrated in the Books of Chronicles precisely as in the Books of Kings. But the fact once being stated, the ecclesiastical history seems to regard the revolting northern kingdom as having fallen outside the church; it can be ignored, though this northern kingdom appears indirectly in the chronicle history where this relates wars that take place between Judah and Israel. This difference carries with it another, of great importance. The kingdom of Israel, being given over to idolatry, was the natural sphere for the activities of the prophets; the achievements of Elijah and Elisha are the most prominent parts of the history of the kings. All this disappears from the Books of Chronicles. There is a similar absence of prophetic stories in the chronicle history in connection with the reign of David. The dissension