The Postexilic History of Israel. II.

By Professor Willis J Beecher, D.D.,

Auburn, N. Y.


In the previous paper, we glanced at the events of the seventy years of the exile. Logically, the present paper should take up the whole question of the condition of Israel during the seventy years-the state of the holy land, and of religion there; the circumstances of the exiled people, their numbers, locations, institutions, religious state, and especially the changes that came to them. But most of these topics can be discussed, incidentally, in connection with the various returns of the Jews to Palestine, and all the space of the present paper is needed for one subdivision of the main subject, namely:


Even with this limitation, we have room for no more than the merest outline. That the Jews of the exile were active in literary production is undisputed, though there are differences of opinion as to the direction taken by their activity. Were we to consider every case of the attributing of writings to them by respectable scholars, we should have to go over a pretty large proportion of the Old Testament books. We must leave unmentioned all views of this sort except a few of the most prominent, and must omit details in the views we discuss.

1. Jeremiah's work.—Traditional opinion attributes to Jeremiah the books of Jeremiah and Lamentations, the completing of the books of Kings, and one or more psalms.1

One who defends the traditional view will have to resort to hypothetical explanations in order to get rid of certain difficulties; but it should be remembered that for any other specific view there is no evidence except that which is based on hypothetical explanations. When the biblical account of Jeremiah terminates, Jer. 44, he is in Egypt, apparently not long after the burning of the temple; and Christian tradition says that he was martyred there in Egypt. But if we hold that he wrote Jer. 52:31 and 2 Kgs. 25:27, we must suppose that he was alive, and perhaps was in Babylonia, twenty-six years or more after the burning of the temple. This hypothesis, however, is not improbable, with respect either to time or place; the close of the first year of Evil-merodach was only sixty-six years after the thirteenth of Josiah, when Jeremiah began to prophesy, being "a child," Jer. 1:2, 6; and the offer made him, Jer. 40:4, shows that he might have no difficulty, at some time, in removing his residence to Babylonia.2

If we hold the traditional view, we must suppose Jeremiah to have been a man of pretty wide literary range; a student of history and a popular preacher, a man who uttered his prophecies sometimes orally and sometimes in writing, an author in both prose and verse, a poet equally capable of the highly artificial acrostic pieces in Lamentations, and of the less artificial structure that often appears in the book of Jeremiah. But surely this hypothesis nowhere involves anything very improbable.

Whether the book of Lamentations be regarded as by Jeremiah or by some other author, and whether it be best placed among the prophets or among the Hagiographa, it is, in any case, a literary product by itself, made up of five alphabetical poems, the last two left more or less incomplete in their alphabetical structure. The discussion on this book, by Drs. Naglesbach and Hornblower, in the Schaff-Lange Commentary, is full and able.

2. The book of Jeremiah.—This is commonly regarded as very puzzling, by reason of the imperfections of its text, its confused chronological order, and the great differences between the Septuagint and the Hebrew. But if we suppose these peculiarities to be due to the lack of editing, rather than to false editing, it is not difficult to frame a hypothesis that will account, in general, for the form in which the book now stands, in the Hebrew. Suppose that Jeremiah, late in his life, or some disciple of his, soon after his death, planned an edition of his works, and for that purpose got together, and began to classify, a collection of papers—the same papers now found in the book of Jeremiah. Entering upon his work, he finds the bulkiest paper in the collection to be a rough


sketch of the earlier discourses of the prophet; it is divided by titles into six parts, and each part is a sketch of several separate prophecies; in length, the prophecy-sketches vary from a few lines each to a pretty full report; at first, they are separated by formal sub-titles, but further on, the work is more negligently done, both in this and other respects; in some cases, poetry and prose are intermingled. In fine, this is a document covering the same ground with the volume of Jeremiah's prophecies written by Baruch, Jer. 36:9-32. If it cannot be proved to be the same document, at least this cannot be disproved. As it is, on the whole, the earliest paper in the series, the collector takes it as the beginning of his projected work. It is our present Jeremiah, chapters 1-20.

Among the remaining larger papers, he finds a connected narrative of the experiences of Jeremiah in connection with the downfall of Jerusalem, the narrative found in Jer. 37-44. It is carefully written and classical, quite different from the rough sketch in the first twenty chapters. As it contains the latest recorded facts in the personal history of Jeremiah, he lays it beside the rough sketch, to form the conclusion of that part of the proposed work.

Next he finds, perhaps already put together, and at all events marked by their contents as a group by themselves, certain poems, of different dates, concerning the nations; and groups these, after the narrative, as a new section of his work, Jer. 46-51. To this group of poems he prefixes the little poem concerning Baruch, Jer. 45, finding no better place for it elsewhere.

Among the remaining papers, he finds one that is peculiar, the one now constituting Jer. 52; it seems to be a study in the history of Israel, connected with the matters recorded in Kings concerning the building and the destruction of Solomon's temple. As it has no affiliation with any other documents in his collection, he assigns to it its proper place, as an appendix.

He now has remaining the fifteen prophecies contained in Jer. 21-36. Most of these are dated. Among them are poems, addresses, narratives, and one epistle. Some of them deal with events already treated of in the rough sketch and the narrative; but as a whole, they belong between the two, and the collector disposes of them by placing them in that position, without taking the trouble to arrange them further. And at this point, his work was arrested, leaving the book in the shape in which we find it. Presumably he intended to arrange these fifteen papers chronologically, and to revise the whole, but was somehow prevented from carrying out his intention.

3. Kings. Baruch.—A much less elaborate hypothesis would suffice to explain the alleged completing of the books of Kings by Jeremiah, or under his immediate influence. The positive proof that Jeremiah did the literary work attributed to him is not at all points complete, but there are no great difficulties to hinder our holding that he did it. The hypotheses that show this are capable of much variation. And if these works are not all his, at least they come from men of like spirit with him, and from the period of the seventy years.

Many of the Christian fathers connect with Jeremiah the book of Baruch, and the Epistle that is printed in the King James version as the sixth chapter of Baruch. Mistaken as this is, the situation in Baruch better fits the times of Nebuchadnezzar than most Protestant scholars have been accustomed to acknowledge.

4. The work of Ezekiel.Ezekiel differs from the other prophetic books, in that it is made up of prophecies uttered not in Palestine, but in another country. The tradition of the Baba Batra is:

"The men of the great Synagogue wrote Ezekiel and the Twelve, Daniel, and the roll of Esther."

Perhaps the intention of the author of this statement was to include Ezekiel himself, with the authors of the other books mentioned, among the men whom he designates as the men of the Great Synagogue. Later Jewish comment, however, explains that Ezekiel's prophecies were written by the men of the Great Synagogue, because he himself was disqualified for writing them by living out of the holy land.

Ezekiel's prophetic career began thirty-five years later than Jeremiah's. His latest dated prophecy was uttered 570 B.C., sixteen years after Jeremiah went to Egypt, and some ten years before the release of Jehoiachin, 29:17. Jeremiah belongs to an earlier generation than Ezekiel, and the difference is very apparent in their literary habit and training; but which of the two survived the other is uncertain.

The prophecies of Ezekiel are mostly dated. The first twenty-four chapters are prophecies concerning Judah, of the days of Zedekiah. Like Jeremiah, in Palestine, during the same years, he insists upon political fidelity to Nebuchadnezzar, and upon repentance before Jehovah; in default of this, he threatens present terrible destruction, but promises restoration in the future. In chapters 25-39 are later prophecies concerning Israel, and both earlier and later prophecies concerning other nations. The remainder of the book is an apocalypse of the restored Israel, with its geographical distribution, and its arrangements for worship. The text is in many places rough; it is in dispute how far this is to be accounted for as the result of corruption, and how far as an original mark of style. There are also disputes as to the relations of Ezekiel to certain parts of the Pentateuch. The date and the general character of the book are beyond doubt.

5. The work of Daniel.—The first six chapters of the book of Daniel are a series of wonder stories-accounts of marvelous deeds wrought by Jehovah through his servants-with a few explanatory narrative statements. This half of the book includes one brief apocalypse, 2:31-45. The second six chapters are a series of apocalypses. These twelve chapters are easily distinguishable from the additional sections found only in the Greek copies. In regard to the canonical book of Daniel, two questions are strongly disputed: How far is it historical? When was it written?

At present, common opinion understands the apocalypses as referring to events up to the times of Antiochus Epiphanes, though it would not be surprising if there should some time be a revival of the older interpretation, extending them to the history of Rome, and of later times. Assuming that the reference to the Maccabaean times is the true one, a critic who disbelieves in miracle or miraculous prediction will of course assign the writing of the book to about the same date, and will regard most of it, at least, as unhistorical. A critic who accepts the possibility of miracle may or may not be led to the same conclusion.

In view of certain recent discoveries, the historicity of the general situation presented in Daniel, as distinguished from that of some of the details, can hardly be regarded as longer open to doubt. Belshazzar is now known, from the inscriptions, to be a historical person (see Schrader, e. g., K. A. T., p. 434 sq.). Though the Darius of Daniel is still unexplained, that does not prove him to be inexplicable. The excavations at Naucratis and Tahpanhes in Egypt (see especially " Defenneh," chap. 7, in the fourth Memoir of the Egypt Exploration Fund) settle the question as to Greek colonies and Greek civilization there, and the necessary contact of both Jews and Babylonians therewith, in the times of Nebuchadnezzar and earlier: and show, therefore, that the Greek terms in Daniel may be characteristic of the times of Nebuchadnezzar, rather than inconsistent with them. Such biblical passages as 2 Kgs. 18:26; Isa." 36:11 are now reinforced by such Aramaic inscriptions as the one described in Hebraica, October, 1884, page II6, as refuting the argument that the Aramaic writing in Daniel proves the book to be a legendary product of a period later than the Babylonian. Some powerful influence at the seat of empire is required to account for the prosperity, the national feeling, the cessation from idolatry, the activity in national literature, of the exiled Jews of the Babylonian period; and the statements made concerning Daniel and his companions precisely meet this requirement. Daniel is mentioned in Ezek. 28:3; 14:14, 20, as a distinguished example of wisdom and of power with God. He is spoken of as " Daniel the prophet " in Matt. 24:15. Josephus says that the book of Daniel was exhibited to Alexander the Great, Ant. XI. viii. 5. The argument from the silence of Ecclus. 49 is no stronger against the historical existence of Daniel than of Ezra.

But if it be granted that Daniel was a historical person, then we cannot disregard his claim, made by the use of the first person, or by the statements of the narrative, to the authorship of most of the parts of the book of Daniel, and therefore substantially of the whole. If it is said that the prayer in Dan. 9, e. g., presupposes those in Ezra and Nehemiah, it is easy to reply that the presupposition is the other way. In fine, both the book of Daniel itself and the events mentioned in it seem, on their face, to belong to the seventy years of the exile; and the careful student will require more than merely negative proof, before he assigns them to any other period.

6. The second part of Isaiah.—I suppose that the analysis of the last twenty-seven chapters of Isaiah which regards these as a unit, made up of three divisions, each consisting of three times three short poems, is substantially correct. One of these poems mentions Cyrus by name, and others are commonly understood to refer to the burning of the temple and the approaching return of the exiles from Babylon, e. g. Isa. 44:28; 45:1; 64:11; 62:10. To one who denies the possibility of inspired prediction, this is conclusive evidence that these passages belong to a date when the arms of Cyrus were already threatening Babylon. To one who accepts the possibility of such prediction, the question arises whether we have here predictions, or contemporary statements. Accordingly, many scholars now regard these chapters as the product of the later years of the exile, instead of maintaining the traditional opinion that Isaiah the son of Amoz wrote them. Those who assign these chapters to the time of the exile would likewise assign other parts of the books of the pre-exilic prophets to the same date.

Now I suppose that theological orthodoxy would not be materially affected, if men should come to hold that our book of Isaiah is a collection of the prophecies of Isaiah, with some other prophecies, put together, just as the books of Kings were put together, by an editor of the times of the exile; but the literary difficulties in the way of supposing that most of these prophecies were written in the times of Cyrus are very serious. Begin with Isa. 40, and note how steadily the writer maintains a Palestinian point of view, and speaks of Jerusalem as in existence, surrounded by her neighbor cities; was this written in Babylonia, while Jerusalem and her cities were desolate ruins? Read Isa. 46:1, 2; 43:14; 47:1 sq., and note how accurately these statements fit what Sargon and Sennacherib say in regard to their captures of Babylon, while they fit nothing that is known in regard to the capture of Babylon by Cyrus. Or take the apocalyptic-liturgical prophecies of Ezekiel as one term in the line of prophecy, and the visions of Zechariah, Zech. 1-8, as another term, and inquire what sort of an intermediate term you have a right to expect, in accordance with laws of historical continuity; can Isa. 4o-66 possibly be that intermediate term? If this body of literature belongs to the seventy years, it is at least very different from the other literature of that period.

7. The question of Deuteronomy.—Many of the scholars who hold that the body of laws in Deuteronomy was written in the times of Josiah, also hold that other parts of our present book of Deuteronomy, say Deut. 1:5-4:40; 4:44-11:32; and chaps. 27-30, are separate pieces of composition, written by secondary Deuteronomists, in the times of the exile. But these parts of Deuteronomy, in their own text, date themselves just before the close of the career of Moses; the theory that they were written during the exile involves the supposition that their dates are fictitious. Deut. 28-29 are distinctly cited and referred to in Lam. 2:17 and context, as Jehovah's " word that he commanded in the days of old." The avowed writings of the exile are replete with Deuteronomic ideas, but widely different from Deuteronomy in style. Certainly, the natural impression made by the case is that these parts of Deuteronomy were influential in the times of the exile, not because they were contemporaneous writings, but because of a revived interest in an ancient book.

8. The question of the Levitical Code.—Writers on the Pentateuchal analysis recognize in Lev. 17-26 a code of legislation which they say has been combined with later matter, but whose original form can be approximately restored. This code is assigned by Kuenen and those who agree with him to the last twenty years of the exile, largely on the ground of its affinity with the passages in Deuteronomy just cited, and with Ezek. 40-48. Evidently, the one argument that these writers here regard as strongest is the closeness with which Lev. 26 and Deut. 28-29 fit the phenomena of the times of the exile. With those who accept the possibility of inspired prediction, this argument would have more weight if the fitness of the description were confined to the scenes of the Babylonian exile, instead of fitting the case of Israel from the deportation of the ten tribes to the present day. As in the case of the parts of Deuteronomy just mentioned, the testimony of the text of Lev. 17-26, and its general literary and linguistic character are against assigning it to the period of the exile.

Of course, this paper has been a mere presentation of the subjects to be studied, rather than a study of them ; whatever value it has consists in its grouping together certain things that ought to be studied together, but are too often studied separately. If we make the supposition, in regard to each of the writings that have been mentioned, that it originated during the seventy years, then Jeremiah, Kings, and possibly Lamentations were Palestinian work, probably finished in Babylonia; all the others were products of Jewish-Babylonian training. How many distinct types of literature are we at liberty to assign to this short period of Jewish-Babylonian culture? This question is the more significant since the writings we have been considering are none of them mere mechanical scribe-work, but are all products of literary genius. How does any alleged writing of this period stand the test of comparison with Ezekiel, the acknowledged product of the period?3



1) The tradition in regard to the book of Jeremiah appears sufficiently in the book itself, and in Josephus. That in regard to Kings and Lamentations is found in the often cited Baba Batra, fol. 14 a, "Jeremiah wrote his book, the books of Kings, and Lamentations." The Septuagint introduces Lamentations with the preface: "And it came to pass that after Israel was led captive and Jerusalem was laid waste, Jeremiah sat weeping, and uttered this lamentation over Jerusalem, and said." In some copies of the Septuagint, the title of this book is "Lamentations of Jeremiah." To Ps. 71 some of the Greek copies (not A or B), followed by the Vulgate, prefix: "To David. Of the sons of Jonadab, and of the first captives." Evidently, the scribe who wrote this connected the psalm somehow with the times of Jeremiah, if not with Jeremiah himself. To Ps. 137 the Greek copies prefix: "To David. Of Jeremiah," or "To David, through Jeremiah." To the Hebrew title of Ps. 65 some copies of the Septuagint (not A or B), followed by the Vulgate, add: "A song of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, of the people of the sojourn, when they were about to go forth."

2) The ascription to Jeremiah of the 137th Psalm, and the use of his name in connection with Ps. 65 (see preceding note) imply that, near the close of the seventy years, he was living in Babylonia. The opening verses of the book of Baruch testify to the presence of his friend Baruch in Babylonia, though Baruch had previously gone with Jeremiah to Egypt, Jer. 43:6. The Seder Olam Rabba, chap. 26, says that in the 27th year of Nebuchadnezzar, Egypt was given into his hand, "and Jeremiah with Baruch he transported to Babylon."

3) Students who merely desire to read up in a general way may be referred to the articles on Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, etc., in the various encyclopedias and commentary introductions. These also contain references to additional works on the various subjects. For the field covered by the present paper, the articles in Smith's Bible Dictionary are especially valuable, except in relation to discoveries made since that work was published. The Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia gives the fullest bibliographical lists. The articles in the Encyclopedia Britannica ordinarily give the views of the Kuenen-Wellhausen school, and give them quite fully. Some of these articles are briefly traversed and supplemented in the Encyclopedia Americana, published by J. M. Stoddart, Philadelphia and London, 1883-1889.

All the works on the history of Israel treat, of course, of this period of the history. The latest great work of this kind is the Geschichte des Volkes Israel, by Stade and Holtzmann, Berlin, I888, written from essentially the Kuenen-Wellhausen point of view.

Jeremiahis Life and Times, by T. K. Cheyne, with Dr. Cheyne's commentaries on Isaiah and Jeremiah, written from a point of view which assigns a late date to parts of Isaiah and to Deuteronomy, are among the ripest and best works recently published in this field. The Life and Times of Daniel, by H. Deane, is a work in the same series with Dr. Cheyne's work, and both are published in this country by A. D. F. Randolph & Co.

The Text of Jeremiah, by the Rev. E. C. Workman, of Victoria University, Cobourg, Canada, published in Edinburgh, 1889, is a comparison of the Hebrew text with the Septuagint. It is sharply criticised by Driver, in the Expositor for May, 1889. Cornill's Ezekiel is an older, yet recent work, attempting the emendation of the text of that prophet.

For English readers, probably Kuenen's Hexateuch, translated by Wicksteed, London, 1886, affords the best presentation of the views of that school, as to the exilic origin of parts of Deuteronomy and Leviticus; including a discussion of the different views held by Dillmann and others.

Naturally, the works on the conservative side of all these questions are, in general, relatively brief and unelaborate—hurried replies to assailants, and criticism of their attacks. Fuller and more careful presentations may be expected in due time. The book of Dr. Charles Elliott on the Old Testament prophets, just issued is quite full, and covers some points presented in this paper.