Josiah Harmar Penniman.

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or of some other kind; but God giveth it a body even as it


pleased him, and to each seed a body of its own. . . . There
are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory
of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is an-
other. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of
the moon, and another glory of the stars; for one star dif-
fereth from another star in glory." I Corinthians 15:37-41.

Of the profitable life Paul says: —

"He that soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and
he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully." II
Corinthians 9:6.

And of the inevitability of results from our lives, he
says: —

"Whatsoever a man soweth that shall he also reap."
Galatians 6:7.

James writes: —

"For the sun ariseth with the scorching wind, and wither-
eth the grass; and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of
the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade
away in his goings." James 1 :i 1.

Peter, writing of men who devote their lives to sin,
calls them: —

"springs without water, and mists driven by a storm."
II Peter 2:17.

Jude speaks of men who " defile the flesh, and set at
nought dominion" as: —

"hidden rocks . . . shepherds that without fear feed
themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds;
autumn trees without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the


roots; wild waves of the sea, foaming out their own shame;
wandering stars." Jude, 12, 13.

To-day, as in the times of Abraham, of David, and of
Jesus, the shepherd and his flocks are characteristic
of the land, and the singing and piping goes on just
as it has gone on for thousands of years. "Can any-
thing be more poetic than this life of the Syrian shep-
herd ! It ought to be religious too. Far, far away, out
on the lone mountain, with the everlasting hills around,
and the heaven above, pure, blue, high and still, — there
go and worship free from the impertinence of human
rhetoric ... in spirit and in truth worship — in solemn
silence and soul-subduing solitude worship the most
high God in his temple not made with hands." *

Scarcely any detail of the shepherd's life is omitted
in the many allusions to it in the Bible. Psalm 23 and
John 10:1-29, are true to the life of the shepherd and the

Isaiah, ch. 28, closes with these lines describing the
work of the farmer: —

"Give ye ear and hear my voice;

Hearken and hear my speech.

Doth he that ploweth to sow plow continually?

Doth he continually open and harrow his ground ?

When he hath levelled the face thereof,

Doth he not cast abroad the fitches, and scatter the cummin,

And put in the wheat in rows, and the barley in the ap-
pointed place,

And the spelt in the border thereof?

For his God doth instruct him aright,

And doth teach him,

For the fitches are not threshed with a sharp threshing
1 W. M. Thomson, The Land and the Book, London, 1889, p. 204.


Neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin;

But the fitches are beaten out with a staff,

And the cummin with a rod.

Bread grain is ground,

For he will not be always threshing it:

And though the wheel of his cart and his horses scatter it,

He doth not grind it."

The parable of the sower, in Matthew, 13, with
its interpretation, the preparation of the heart, as the
plowing of fallow land; Hosea 10:12, the preacher, as
the laborer in the field; I Corinthians 3 -.9, death, as the
reaper; Psalm 90:6, the wicked as the stubble; Isaiah
47:14, trials, as the sifting of the wheat; these and many
other references are familiar examples of figurative uses
of farming.

Threshing and grinding are common figures, as is
also "the chaff which the wind driveth away," Psalm
2:4. The winepress too is referred to, and in one of
the most exalted passages, already referred to in another
connection, in Isaiah, we read: —

"Who is this that cometh from Edom,

With dyed garments from Bozrah ?

This that is glorious in his apparel,

Marching in the greatness of his strength ?

4 1 that speak in righteousness mighty to save/

Wherefore art thou red in thine apparel,

And thy garments like him that treadeth in the winevat?

'I have trodden the winepress alone;

And of the peoples there was no man with me:

Yea, I trod them in mine anger,

And trampled them in my wrath;

And their lifeblood is sprinkled upon my garments,

And I have stained all my raiment,

For the day of vengeance was in my heart,


And the year of my redeemed is come.
And I looked, and there was none to help;
And I wondered that there was none to uphold;
Therefore mine own arm brought salvation unto me;
And my wrath, it upheld me,
And I trod down the peoples in mine anger,
And made them drunk in my wrath,

And I poured out their lifeblood on the earth.' " Isaiah
63 :i-6.

The vineyard and vine-growers are used often as
figures, for example, in Isaiah ch. 5, the Song of Solomon,
John ch. 15. Other occupations of Palestine are likewise
similarly used, as that of the builder, I Corinthians 3 :io;
the fuller, Malachi 3:2, Mark 9:3; the refiner of silver,
Isaiah 48:10, Malachi 3:3; the merchant, Isaiah 47:15,
Matthew 13:45. From the life of the shepherd, and
that of the farmer and of the vine-grower comes much
of the material and also the inspiration of the Hebrew
poetry. This was pointed out long ago by Bishop Lowth
to whom all subsequent writers on the subject are in-
debted. He said: — "the sacred poets, in illustrating
the same subject, make a much more constant use of
the same imagery than other poets are accustomed to;
and this practice has a surprising effect in preserving
perspicuity." l The point of this is not that the
Hebrew poet makes use of the daily occupations of his
neighbors for purposes of simile or metaphor, but that
a definite meaning has come to be associated with the
incidents of those daily occupations, so that the rela-
tion of the shepherd to his flock, the farmer to his
land and crops, and the vine-grower to his vineyard
and its products, are constantly thought of in connection
with the idea of the relation of Israel's God to his chosen

1 Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews, p. 71.


people. This is, in general, true of almost all natural
objects and scenes. God is seen in nature everywhere
as its Creator: —

"Who hath measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,

And meted out heaven with the span,

And comprehended the dust of the earth in a measure,

And weighed the mountains in scales,

And the hills in a balance ?"

"Lift up your eyes on high

And see who hath created these,

That bringeth out their host by number;

He calleth them all by name;

By the greatness of his might, and for that he is strong in

Not one is lacking." Isaiah 40:12, 26.

The processes of nature both manifest and illustrate
his relation to peoples and to individuals. Nature
never became to the Hebrew a mere matter of formal
illustration, as it became to the English poets of the
seventeenth century, nor was there ever anything
Wordsworthian in Hebrew poetry. God was above all,
and controlled and regulated both nature and man.
He did not reveal himself to man through nature in any
Wordsworthian sense because, to the Hebrew, God re-
vealed himself directly. He talked personally with
Abraham, with Moses, with Joshua, with Samuel and
with others. No intermediation of nature was thought
of, although the heavens did "declare the glory of
God." To the prophets he spoke directly, and they,
as his ambassadors, spoke to the people to whom they
were sent. There was no "pathetic fallacy" about
the Hebrew poet's idea of nature. God clothed the


grass, and arrayed more gloriously than Solomon the
lilies of the field, Matthew 6:28, but how God did this
was a mystery to the Hebrew. He did not profess to
understand it. Attempts to explain the processes of
nature, and the conclusion that they are beyond human
understanding, are set forth in such remarkable utter-
ances as we find in Psalms 104 and 139, and particularly
in the closing chapters, 38-42, of Job. Job's words
represent the Hebrew attitude towards nature: —

"I know that thou canst do all things
And that no purpose of thine can be restrained. ,, Job

The larger natural features of Palestine play an im-
portant part in Hebrew poetry. "Among the moun-
tains of Palestine, the most remarkable, and con-
sequently the most celebrated in the sacred poetry,
are Mount Lebanon and Mount Carmel; the one,
remarkable as well for its height as for its age, magni-
tude, and the abundance of the cedars which adorned
its summit, exhibiting a striking and substantial appear-
ance of strength and majesty; and the other, rich and
fruitful, abounding with vines, olives and delicious
fruits, in a most flourishing state both by nature and
cultivation, and displaying a delightful appearance
of fertility, beauty and grace. The different form and
aspect of these two mountains is most accurately de-
fined by Solomon, when he compares the manly dig-
nity with Lebanon and the beauty and delicacy of the
female with Carmel." 1

"His aspect is like Lebanon, excellent as the cedars."
The Song of Solomon 5:15.

1 Lowth, Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews, p. 75.


"Thy head upon thee is like Carmel,
And the hair of thy head like purple:
The King is held captive in the tresses.'' The Song of
Solomon, 7:5.

It was from the top of Carmel overlooking the sea
that Elijah's servant saw the "cloud out of the sea, as
small as a man's hand!" I Kings 18:44. Mt. Hermon,
with its double peak (the reason probably for its name
appearing in Hebrew sometimes plural or dual) lofty,
snow clad, covered often by clouds and mist gives us
"the Dew of Hermon, that cometh down upon the
mountains of Zion." Psalm 133:3. Numerous are the
mountains that are mentioned in the Bible, and im-
portant are the events recorded in connection with them.
Calvary, Ebal, Ephraim, Gilboa, Gilead, Gerizim, Hor,
Horeb, Moriah, Nebo, Olives, Paran, Pisgah, Seir, Sinai,
Tabor, Zion, — What ideas and associations do many of
these suggest!

To the list of mountains we may add a similar list of
valleys, Achor, AjaTorr, Baca, Berachah, Elah, Eshcol,
Gibeon, Hinnom, Jehoshaphat, Megiddo, Rephaim,
Shaveh, Shittim, Siddim, Sorek, Succoth, but, it will
be noted at once that the mountain tops, and not the
valleys, were the scenes of the greatest events.

The peaceful, well-watered valleys are often in the
poet's mind, as are also the many wildernesses or wild
sparsely-settled places used as pasture. The idea that
a leveling of the land was a thing greatly to be desired
seems to be contained in the words of Isaiah 40:3-4,
quoted in Luke 3:4-5: —

"The voice of one that crieth,

Prepare ye in the wilderness the way of Jejiovah,

Make level in the desert a highway for our God.


Every valley shall be exalted,

And every mountain and hill shall be made low;

And the uneven shall be made level,

And the rough places a plain:

And the glory of Jehovah shall be revealed,

And all flesh shall see it together;

For the mouth of Jehovah hath spoken it."

The numerous caves which exist in the mountains
of Palestine played an important part in the lives of
many individuals, such as Lot, who with his two daugh-
ters dwelt, for safety, in a cave, Genesis 19:30; Abra-
ham, who purchased the cave of Machpelah as a tomb,
Genesis 23:9; the five Kings, who hid in a cave at
Makkedah, Joshua, 10:16; the people who hid in caves
for protection from the Philistines, I Samuel 13:6;
David, who hid in the cave of Adullam, I Samuel 22:1;
II Samuel 23:13; Saul, whose life was spared by David,
in the cave at En-gedi, I Samuel 24:10; the prophets,
whom Obadiah hid by fifties in a cave, I Kings 18:4;
Lazarus, whose tomb was a cave, John 11:38; the people
who were driven to caves by persecution, Hebrews
11:38, see also Isaiah 2:19.

These caves are frequently in the minds of the
poets, especially in reference to refuge from danger.
There is of course, at times, the idea of the ancient
cities of refuge, Numbers 35:11, but those were only
for the shedders of blood, while the idea of a general
refuge is much broader as in Psalms 31:3, 71:3,

With the idea of the desert, through which the people
had traveled in the Exodus, the edges of which ex-
tended to the eastern borders of Palestine, and of the
desert tracts in Palestine itself, is associated the beauti-
ful figure of Psalm 91:1.


"He that dwelleth in the secret place of the Most

Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty."

We have such figures as these taken directly from
the nature of Palestine: —

"A man shall be as a hiding place from the wind,

And a covert from the tempest,

As streams of water in a dry place,

As the shade of a great rock in a weary land." Isaiah 32:2.

References to the sea are not uncommon, although
the sea was not, like the mountains and valleys, always
before the eyes of the poet. The fact that John con-
ceives of the new earth as a place in which there will
be "no more sea, ,, Revelation 21 :i, may have reference
to what was a fact, that the sea was not regarded with
pleasure in Bible times. But this attitude towards the
sea is not peculiar to the Jew of old. The poetry of the
sea, beyond allusions, is most of it modern, as is
also, doubtless for the same reason, the poetry of the
mountains. Certain general aspects and suggestions
of both mountains and sea are recognized in ancient
literature, the mountains suggest permanency, and the
sea instability and change, but our modern ideas of
the universe, and our improved means of travel and
of protecting ourselves against the assaults of the
elements, have had perhaps much to do with modi-
fying our thoughts concerning them. Biblical refer-
ences to the sea mention only its power, its restless-
ness, its changefulness, its treachery. Job says: —

"Am I a sea, or a sea-monster,

That thou settest a watch over me?" Job 7:12.


The Psalmist writes: —

"Yonder is the sea, great and wide,
Wherein are things creeping innumerable,
Both small and great beasts.
There go the ships;

There is leviathan, whom thou hast formed to play therein."
Psalm 104:25-26.

"They that go down to the sea in ships,
That do business in great waters;
These see the wonders of Jehovah,
And his wonders in the deep.

For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind,
Which lifteth up the waves thereof.
They mount up to the heavens,
They go down again to the depths:
Their soul melteth away because of trouble.
They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man,
And are at their wit's end.
Then they cry unto Jehovah in their trouble,
And he bringeth them out of their distresses.
He maketh the storm a calm,
So that the waves thereof are still.
Then they are glad because they are quiet;
So he bringeth them unto their desired haven." Psalm

What a volume of meaning is conveyed by the lines : —

"He maketh the storm a calm,
So that the waves thereof are still.

Then they are glad because they are quiet." Psalm

On the sea of Galilee the disciples were in danger in
their small boat, Matthew 8:24, and Paul had a very


rough experience with the Mediterranean, ending with
shipwreck. Acts 27:6-44.

Isaiah, more than any other poet in the Bible, speaks
of the sea, as one who has seen it, in calm and in storm,
and has noted its changing aspects. He refers not only
to the "pleasant imagery" of "the ships of Tarshish,"
Isaiah 2:16, but also to the boisterous sea beating
against the cliffs: —

"And they shall roar against them in that day,
Like the roaring of the sea:
And if one look unto the land,
Behold, darkness and distress;

And the light is darkened in the clouds thereof." Isaiah

And of the sea washing in on the beach: —

"But the wicked are like the troubled sea;

For it cannot rest,

And its waters cast up mire and dirt." Isaiah 57:20.

A splendid passage in which, in Hebrew, by the use
of long vowels and doubled consonants Isaiah has
expressed "the slow lift and roll of the billows — their
distant booming — their crash and hissing sweep along
the Syrian coast," l much of which will be felt on read-
ing the English translation aloud, is the following: —

"Ah, the uproar of many peoples,

That roar like the roaring of the seas;

And the rushing of nations,

That rush like the rushing of mighty waters!

The nations shall rush like the rushing of many waters:

But he shall rebuke them,

1 G. A. Smith, The Early Poetry of Israel, pp. 6, 7.


And they shall flee far off,

And shall be chased as the chaff" of the mountains before the

And like the whirling dust before the storm." Isaiah


Isaiah writes also: —

"Oh that thou hadst hearkened to my commandments!

Then had thy peace been as a river,

And thy righteousness as the waves of the sea." Isaiah 48:18.

He gives a wonderful picture of the Nile and of those
who depended upon it for a living, the drying up of the
Nile being a terrible calamity.

"And the waters shall fail from the sea,

And the river shall be wasted and become dry.

And the fishers shall lament,

And all they that cast angle into the Nile shall mourn,
And they that spread nets upon the waters shall languish."
Isaiah 19:5-8.

Biblical poets give us pictures, not only of the sea,
the mountains and the fruitful fields, but also of the
life of a great city, with its swiftly moving panorama,
embracing the good and the bad, the rich and the poor.
Isaiah speaks of the harlots, the haughty daughters of
Zion that "walk with outstretched necks and wanton
eyes, walking and mincing as they go, and making a
tinkling with their feet," Isaiah 3:16. He enumerates
their articles of adornment, "their anklets, and the
cauls and the crescents; the pendants and the bracelets,
and the mufflers; the headtires, and the ankle chains,
and the sashes, and the perfume-boxes, and the amulets;
the rings and the nose-jewels; the festival robes, and


the mantles, and the shawls, and the satchels; the hand-
mirrors, and the fine linen, and the turbans and the
veils," Isaiah 3 118-23. A somewhat similar description
of adornments is given in Ezekiel 16:10-16, in the
denunciation of Jerusalem, which played the harlot,
and John in his vision, Revelation 17:4-5, beheld the
harlot arrayed in all her fine clothing and jewels. These
descriptions are all from life as seen in the cities.

Isaiah describes the drunkards that "reel with wine
and stagger with strong drink;"

"The priest and the prophet reel with strong drink,

They are swallowed up of wine,

They stagger with strong drink;

They err in vision, they stumble in judgment." Isaiah


The drunkard is a common illustration, and the
results of drunkenness, such as brawling and quarreling,
Proverbs 20:1, Ephesians, 5:18, are held up as warnings.

The caravans, the coming and going of which were
so important in Palestine's prosperity, were in the
author's mind when he wrote of the coming glory of
Zion : —

"The multitude of camels shall cover thee,

The dromedaries of Midian and Ephah;

All they from Sheba shall come;

The"y shall bring gold and frankincense,

And shall proclaim the praises of Jehovah." Isaiah 60:6.

In Proverbs 8:3, we have the vivid picture of Wisdom
standing "Beside the gate, at the entry of the city"
and calling to the people as they go in and out. Job
gives us a scene in the streets of a city, with men of all
kinds passing by: —


"When I went forth to the gate unto the city,
When I prepared my seat in the street,
The young men saw me and hid themselves,
And the aged rose up and stood;
The princes refrained from talking,
And laid their hand on their mouth;
The voice of the nobles was hushed,
And their tongue cleaved to the roof of their mouth.
For when the ear heard me, then it blessed me;
And when the eye saw me, it gave witness unto me."
Job 29:7-11.

"Salutations in the marketplaces" were greatly
valued by men who liked to appear important. Luke
20:46. Isaiah speaks of the merchants of Tyre who are
"princes," and traffickers, who "are the honorable
of the earth." Isaiah 23 :8. Another figure from the
street scenes is found in Psalm 59:6, 14, where the poet
says of his enemies : —

"They return at evening, they howl like a dog,
And go round about the city."

Sometimes the figures used, and pictures suggested,
are those of household life, vivid and forceful as: —

"I will wipe Jerusalem as a man wipeth a dish, wiping it
and turning it upside down." II Kings 21:13.

or: —

"Moab is my washpot; upon Edom will I cast my shoe."
Psalm 60:8.


"Fervent lips and a wicked heart

"Are like an earthen vessel overlaid with silver dross."
Proverbs 26:23.


The poet has in mind the life of a family: —

"Thy wife shall be as a fruitful vine,
In the innermost parts of thy house;
Thy children like olive plants,
Round about thy table." Psalm 128:3.

Or parental love: —

"As one whom his mother comforteth,

So will I comfort you;

And ye shall be comforted in Jerusalem. " Isaiah 66:13.

Like as a father pitieth his children,

So Jehovah pitieth them that fear him. Psalm 103:13.

Sometimes it is the bearing of burdens by means of a
yoke : —

"Thou shalt shake his yoke from off thy neck." Genesis

"My yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew

Again it is the driving of cattle: —

"The words of the wise are as goads." Ecclesiastes 12:11.

The figures are often taken from familiar works of
man: —

" Behold I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone,
A precious corner-stone of sure foundation." Isaiah 28:16.

"His heart is as firm as a stone;

Yea, firm as the nether mill-stone." Job 41 124.

We see and hear the beekeeper hissing to call his
bees : —


"And will hiss for them [the Nations] from the end of the

And behold they shall come with speed swiftly." Isaiah

"And it shall come to pass in that day,
That Jehovah will hiss for the fly,
That is in the uttermost part of the rivers of Egypt,
And for the bee that is in the land of Assyria.
And they shall come, and shall rest all of them
In the desolate valleys, and in the clefts of the rocks,
And upon all thorn-hedges, and upon all pastures." Isaiah

Other sources of figurative language were Chaos and
Creation : —

"I beheld the earth,

And, lo it was waste and void;

And the heavens, and they had no light.

I beheld the mountains and lo they trembled,

And all the hills moved to and fro." Jeremiah 4:23.

The Deluge is probably in the poet's mind when he
writes : —

"The windows on high are opened

And the foundations of the earth tremble." Isaiah 24:18.

The Exodus and its many incidents are referred to in
a number of passages: —

"Thou broughtest a vine out of Egypt;
Thou didst drive out the nations, and pi anted st it."
Psalm 80:8.


"And Jehovah will utterly destroy the tongue of the
Egyptian sea;

And with his scorching wind will he wave his hand over
the River,

And he will smite it into seven streams,

And cause men to march over dryshod." Isaiah 11:15.

"Thus saith Jehovah
Who maketh a way in the sea,
And a path in the mighty waters;
Who bringeth forth the chariot and horse,
The army and the mighty man:
They lie down together, they shall not rise;
They are extinct; they are quenched as a wick." Isaiah

"Is it not thou that driedst up the sea,

The waters of the great deep;

That madest the depths of the sea a way

For the redeemed to pass over?" Isaiah 51:10.

"Where is Jehovah that brought us up

Out of the land of Egypt,

That led us through the wilderness,

Through a land of deserts and of pits,

Through a land of drought and of the shadow of death,

Through a land that none passed through,

And where no man dwelt?" Jeremiah 2:6.

The appearance of God is described in language that
takes us back to the thunderings and lightnings and

Online LibraryJosiah Harmar PennimanA book about the English Bible → online text (page 8 of 30)