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prevailed. Hence we have every reason to conclude that an author so well informed possessed all the means of giving a true bistory, if he was otherwise inclined to do so. Indeed Bertholdt says (p. 2451 seq.), the author must have resided for a long time in the higher regions of Persia, or perhaps was not a native of Palestine. The attacks npon the book are only the result of ignorance, and in earlier authors, as Corrodi, they figure more largely than in later times. They have served, however, only to establish so much the more securely the truth of the book in every particular.
08. The Religious CHARACTER AND DESIGN of the Book.
Without controversy the old theologians set the religious estimate of the book too high. They entered too little into its peculiar nature and structure, and introduced into it arbitrarily a foreign element. Thus Carpzov says (Introd., p. 364), “ The book not only demonstrates in a singular manner God's care over his church, but also by so striking a history marks out and honors the people from among whom the Messiah was to be born. It also encourages the Jews, on their restoration to their own country; os that, relying on the promises of the future Messiah to come from among themselves, they might proceed with the more confidence, in laying anew the foundations both of the church and state.” In an inipartial examination of the book, one meets with little or noihing of all this; and the whole is set aside by the fact that, if it were true, we must admit that the Jews out of Palestine are the church of God. Later critics have passed a much more unfavorable judgment upon the book. De Wette will suffice as a specimen. He says, "the book breathes the arrogance, bigotry and revenge of the later Jews, and is entirely devoid of a religious spirit” ($198). If this charge is wellfounded, the book is a solitary phenomenon in the Old Testament canon, and we cannot conceive how it obtained a place among the sacred books. For even if it were a fit exponent of the spirit of the later Jews by its air of arrogance and revenge, still the other charge would be far more repulsive. It is notorious that the Egyptian Jews took offence at the book, in this view, however much it corresponded with their prevailing spirit; the Alexandrine
translator took pains often to bring in the name of God which is missing and thus to conceal the deficiency.
Thus much of this charge is well-founded, viz. that the most important characters described in the book, Mordeeai and Esther, bear very evidently the marks of the degeneracy of the later Jews. If any one expects to find in it deep and warm piety, he will be disappointed. The prominent points in the characters described are a general feeling of nationality, self-devotion on account of it, and zeal for the honor of the Jewish people. That these were the traits of the Jewish character at that period, and that they were particularly developed in the Jews who remained in the kingdom of Persia, cannot be dombted. The elements of the religious life were smothered in that remnant of the nation, who were too indolent to seek again the temple of God, or to return to the holy land of their fathers. Here the corrupt spirit of the age and the elements of heathenism took root and brought forth fruit. We regard it therefore as established, that we have in the book of Esther a description of these circumstances of the Jews out of Palestine, which every impartial reader must acknowledge as true and faithful. It is a lively mirror of the times, and of their life, their tendencies, and their modes of thought.
But if the author had a perfect knowledge of his times, there is nothing in his work which indicates that he de signed to present to his readers the narrative of events as any thing extraordinary or ideal. So far from using embellishment or exaggeration, he relates in the simplest manner all the minutiæ in the course of events. To such an extent does he carry this simplicity, that even in describing the deliverance of the Jews out of the hand of their enemies, he does not exhibit the higher aspect of it as a triumph of divine Providence; he regards it merely from a human point of view. In fact he could not do otherwise. The Jews of that period regarded themselves as abandoned of God; and he would not hypocritically conceal this feeling, after the manner of the Alexandrian Jews, and thus give to events a false coloring. He had a elearer insight into things than his later editor and pretended improver.
The absence of the name of God from the book arises VOL. XIII. —NO. LI.
from the nature of the case. It could not be mentioned in the description of the feast of Purim; for this in its original inteiit, as here set forth, was not marked by a special reference to God; it was simply a popular festival. The conclusion of the whole affair shows clearly how little a purely religious interest attached to it,-a thing which the author takes no pains to conceal. Offended national honor and love of life had far more to do with it than pious zeal for the honor of God. Jehovah did not here come forth in those mighty acts of justice and mercy, in which he had displayed his power among his covenant people, and in their own land. Moved by the fear of God, our author does not venture to attribute to him an occurrence which showed the estrangement of his nation from God rather than his interest in them, nor, by this means, ascribe to it a religious character which it did not in its nature possess.
Let it now be granted that in the peculiar historical impress of the book, we see in the author no special regard to religious considerations, but still, a strict conscientiousness and love of truth,-nevertheless it would be wrong to deny to the work all religious reference. If this were wholly wanting, how could it have found favor with the strict Jews of Palestine? That element appears only in one of its lowest degrees of this character is the frequent mention of fasting (comp. 4: 1, 2, 15, 16, 9: 30, 31). This custom was received during the exile. It was the only outward service which that unhappy nation, liv. ing remote from their temple and their God, was in a condition to render, unless they had undertaken an arbitrary imitation of the worship of God in Palestine. If our book intentionally gives prominence to this poverty of divine worship, it presents a true picture of the religious condition of things.
But above all, that part of the book merits our consideration in which is set forth the cause of the calamities which came upon the Jews (3: 1 seq). It is nothing less than a purely religious one. The whole narrative has a religious basis. The central point of the events is a regard for God and his law. A refusal to submit to the rites of heathen worship because it was contrary to the
* For other explanations, see Carpzov, p. 368 seq; Hapeden, Diss. de Hist. Estheræ, (Gotting, 1736, 4.) p. 17 seq.; Pareau, Instit., p. 422.
law of the Jews, was the occasion of all the events narrated, and imparts to them a religious aspect. The writer exhibits in a lively and impressive manner the conflict between the Jewish and heathen laws (comp. particularly 3:8). The example of Mordecai shows that they are utterly irreconcilable; and that where heathenism obstinately holds out, its firniness issues in its own destruction. We are sensible, indeed, that this zeal of the Jews, proceeding from a steadfast adhesion to the law, has a more abstract character than the feeling springing from a lively conscientiousness, such as we find, e. g. in the narratives in Dan., ch. III. and VI. It marks the transition of Judaism into that stiff, rigorous and legal formalism, in which, through zeal for the law and its sacredness, the living God whose character is enshrined in it is forgotten, or put into the back-ground. Still this view is not destitute of interest, inasmuch as it exhibits the last remains of faithfulness to the law and zeal for it, when its innate religious life and power was well nigh extinguished.
$ 9. Date of the COMPOSITION OF The Book. Various efforts have been used to discover the author of the book. Some have proposed Mordecai, others Ezra; others, the high priest Joachim, etc. (Carpzov, p. 360. Hüpeden, l. c. p. 12 seq. Bertholdt, and De Wette $190). Clericus remarks, to settle the question of the authorship of the book would require the skill of a magician. This is a thing which lies beyond the reach of criticism. The time of the composition of it, however, possesses both more interest and importance.
At the outset, we condernn the opinion of those recent critics who affirm that the book was composed in the tiine of the Maccabees, after the fall of the Persian monarchy. They maintain it on wholly insufficient grounds, such as the following:
1. “This period is indicated by the manner in which the author explains Persian customs and history (8:8, 1: 13, 1: 1)." But such explanations in a contemporary writer would not appear striking. We find the like in other historians of the East.* But they
But they are still less difficult to * Comp. an analogous case in Bohaeddin's Vit. Saladini, p. 70, ed. Schultens, where he explains the custom of the Arabs in regard to their trealment of pris. oners of war He does it especially for the sake of trumpeting the praises of Arabian hospitality.
be accounted for here, inasmuch as the author scarcely wrote for the Persians, but to give to the Jews of Palestine information concerning the event which he narrates. Thus he interprets the Persian word Purim (3:7), by the Hebrew. And yet this class of critics, including De Wette himself, fancy on account of the author's acquaintance with Persian mauners, that he must have written in Persia. It is however very plain from such things that he wrote for the Jews at a distance, and that his object was to give them as definite a knowledge as possible of the course of events. It makes no difference whether the persons for whom he wrote were contemporary, or lived at a later period; in either case the explanations were necessary to make his work intelligible.
2. “The refusal to do homage as a matter of court-etiquette (3: 2, 5) must have first become customary in the period of the Seleucidæ and Lagidæ; for the Jews then ceased to have any connection with courts, and, in their zeal for the worship of the one God, held such a usage to be contrary to religion.” But if the offering of homage was a court-ceremonial only, there was no reason for declining it even at that late period. How could this author, then living in Persia, be suspected of being out of connection with royal courts, and unacquainted with their customs, when he was evidently familiar with the court-ceremonial in its minutest details? But if the homage were understood to be,-as in fact it was—a religious act, then a strict and conscientious Jew, as is shown in the example of Daniel, could not yield it at any time. It was always in direct opposition to the fundamental requirements of the law.
3. “The custom of sending gifts at the feast of Purim (9: 22) first came into use after the observance of the feast became general.” But why? The feast of Purim was a feast of joy from its very commencement; and on such occasions men take pleasure in making the poor happy with presents. That this was the case soon after the exile is evident from Neh. 8: 10, 12.
4. “The blood-thirsty spirit of revenge and persecution points very clearly to ihe age of the Ptolemies and the Seleucidæ." But granting that this were the spirit which prevails in the book, still we know the spirit of the Jews in Persia after the exile in no other way than through