« ZurückWeiter »
describes the mustering of the troops from all quarters, pours forth contemptuous sarcasm against the tribes that stand aloof; and then transports us into the midst of the fight, closing with a bitter pathos respecting Sisera's mother (12-31).
The lyric may be divided into three groups of strophes, consisting of three verses each. The second verse is not counted, because introductory to 3-11; just as 12 is introductory to 13-31, and is also excluded, with the thirty-first corresponding to it. Subtracting these three verses, we have in the first series of strophes containing verses 3-11, the following, viz., 3-5 first strophe; 6-8 second strophe; 9-11 third strophe. The second group of three strophes consists of verses 13-21, and begins with verses 13-15c first strophe; 15d-18 second strophe ; 19-21 third strophe. The third group, containing verses 22-30, consists of strophe first, verses 22-24; strophe second, 25-27; strophe third, verses 28-30. Thus each series of strophes consists of three verses multiplied by three. In like manner the introduction, 3-11, contains the same-three verses multiplied by three.
The following is proposed as a better translation than that of the received version :Then sang Deborah, and Barak son of Abinoam on that day,
Mine heart is for the rulers of Israel,
Curse ye Meroz, saith the angel of Jehovah,
of a spoiler. Thus perish all thine enemies, Jehovah ! But let them who love him be as the going forth of the sun
in his strength. And the land had rest forty years.
The blessing pronounced by Deborah on Jael (ver. 24), for the treacherous murder of Sisera, has greatly perplexed a class of theologians who come to the study of the Bible with peculiar and hereditary notions. Deborah as a prophetess was inspired. She received communications from the Lord. Jehovah revealed himself to her. But though an inspired prophetess, she spoke according to the ideas of morality prevalent among the Hebrew people in her day. Her inspiration did not make her infallible in word or deed. The Spirit of God in his rational creatures never lifts them up into the region of Deity himself; but enters into their mind with a purifying and elevating influence agreeably to the principle of development which runs through all revelation. They were gradually led onward to clearer conceptions of the truth. The morality of the Old Testament was
progressire, incomplete, imperfect. It was simply the reflexion of the purest existing morality. To say that it was a standard morality for all time, or even for the time of its manifestation, is to mistake its character. In the case before us, some have resorted to the expedient that this song has been preserved only as a historical monument, and is not inspired as most of the Scriptures are. But the ode partakes of inspiration equally with the song of Moses in. Ex. xv. or any of the Psalms. Both Deborah and the writer of the lyric were inspired. That circumstance, however, does not necessarily make what she utters accordant with the unalterable perfections of Jehovah. She was not infallible ; for infallibility does not admit of degrees. The sentiments she is made to express in commendation of Jael's deed are objectionable, because contrary to the moral law. Hence it is absurd to justify them; and impious to say that she spoke thus in the name of Jehovah ; as if Jehovah could approve what is opposed to His own nature. It amounts to a libel on the character of the Most High to say with some that Jael was moved by a divine impulse to execute the deed ; as if He could prompt his accountable creatures to do any thing contrary to His immutable perfections. It is true that He has a right to dispose of His creatures as he pleases; but that is a different thing from His suggesting to a rational creature to do a thing expressly condemned in the moral law. An act of foul treachery cannot be justified by the miserable shifts of divines who would rather sacrifice principles on which the existence of a moral creation rests, than abandon a favourite notion of inspiration. Why should we approve of an act merely because Deborah a prophetess applauded it; especially when the act is repugnant to the noblest feelings we have derived from God himself?
X. JEPHTHAH's Vow.—The vow of Jephthah has been variously explained by commentators. The point itself is not of much importance to readers of the Bible at the present day; though a great deal has been written upon it. Let us briefly notice the leading views taken of the vow.
1. Dr. Randolph renders Judges xi. 31 thus : “Whosoever cometh out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return in peace from the children of Ammon, shall surely be the Lord's; and I will offer to Him a burnt-offering." Auberlen? advocates the same rendering. Two things are specified in the passage so understood.* First, that Jephthah should dedicate to Jehovah the person who should first meet him coming from his house ; secondly, that he should also offer a burnt-offering to
1 View of our blessed Saviour's ministry, vol. ii. p. 166 et seqq.
העליתִי appended to the verb הוּ The pronoun
Jehovah. To this interpretation Hebrew, usage is adverse.
can only mean the offering, not the Being to whom the offering is made. Parallels are found in 1 Sam. vii. 9 and 2 Kings iii. 27, where the same verb, with the pronominal suffix, followed by the same noun occurs, and where the sense can only be, offered him or it for a burnt-offering. Hence the proposed interpretation cannot be accepted, however simple or plausible it appears. We admit that the construction is grammatically possible, for examples justify it, as Gesenius shews. Auberlen adduces Judg. i. 15; Is. xliv. 21; Ezek, xxix. 3, xxi. 32. But the same word and suffix elsewhere, forbid the interpretation.
2. The English Bible makes the vow run thus : “Whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house to meet me,” etc. etc., “shall surely be the Lord's, and I will offer it up for a burntoffering.” l'his view accords with the notion of Josephus, who
. represents Jephthah as promising to offer in sacrifice whatecer living creature should first meet him. The Targum of Jonathan agrees.
We do not think, however, that it is so natural as the rendering whosoever instead of whatsoerer, implying that Jephthah thought of a human being belonging to his house, rather than of any living, irrational creature.
3. A third opinion is presented in the marginal rendering of the English Bible: “Whatsoever cometh forth of the doors of my house," etc. etc., “shall surely be the Lord's, or I will offer it up for a burnt-offering." Kimchi is said to have been the first who proposed this translation. Lilienthal, Saalschütz, and Cassel adopt it. According to it Jephthah had a choice between two things, and could act as the case might require. If the thing which came forth from the doors of his house were fit for a burnt-offering, he could make it one; if not, he could consecrate it to the divine service. Thus there was an alternative. It cannot be denied that the conjunction may be rendered or.
The Hebrew language had very few conjunctions, and therefore one had to fulfil the office of several in other languages. In the present case there is evidently no necessity requiring the disjunctive sense. On the contrary, the sense is rather embarrassed by it. The first clause, “whatsoever cometh forth out of the doors of my house shall surely be the Lord's, is complete in itself, comprehending all that the second clause is here supposed to promise—viz., that the thing should be devoted to the Lord in a manner suitable to its nature-it should either be put to death or not agreeably to the law. Besides, we object to the general rendering “whatsoever" instead of "whoso
1 Studien und Kritiken for 1860, pp. 541, 542.