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The work herewith submitted to the pubUc, consists of the first series
of a complete course of Essays on the Poetic Writings of the Old
Testament. As may naturally be supposed, the Poetry of the inspired
Hebrew writers occupied much of my thoughts, of my converse with
literary friends, and of my pen. Fragments of this, the first series of
Essays, appeared in a Hebrew Christian Monthly, which I originated
and edited at Dublin, in 1847, under the title of " Star of Jacob." ' But
the undertaking of a course of Essays on the Sacred Bards of the Old
Testament, in all its fulness, was suggested to me by the perusal —
immediately after its publication in 1858 — of Mr. Gladstone's great
work, '* Studies on Homer and the Homeric Age."

By way of complying, by anticipation, with probable demands for
reasons, for his undertaking and publishing a work of the kind,
Mr. Gladstone, at the very outset of his learned Prolegomena, vouch-
safes the following : — " I will place in the foreground an explicit state-
ment of the objects which I have in view. These objects are twofold :
firstly, to promote and extend the fruitful study of the immortal poems
of Homer; and secondly to vindicate for them, in an age of discussion,
their just degree both of absolute and, more especially, of relative
critical value."

' Adverse circumstances made that Magazine disappear from the literary horizon
after a course of a few months. I have not, however, relinquished the cherished
hope of seeing the Monthly not only in the ascendant, but enjoying a long and
steady career.


I became roused to the consideration that if an admirer of " Homer
and the Homeric Age " feels so zealous for the honour of the object of
his admiration as to become determined to bring his varied learning
and colossal gifts to bear upon promoting and extending the fruitful
study of the poems of his justly favoured Greek bard, — should not an
humble, but devoted student of the inspired Bards, their respective
poems and times, be equally solicitous for the honour and glory of the
sacred compositions of those great, good and holy men.

The twofold objects, then, which Mr. Gladstone had in view, in
undertaking his great work, became the ruling objects with me. To
promote and extend the fruitful study of the immortal Sacred Poems
of the Old Testament ; and secondly, to vindicate for them, in an age
of discussion, theirjust degree both of absolute, and, more especially, of
relative critical value. I determined to do for Moses, Deborah, David,
Isaiah, Micah, and other Heaven-taught bards, what Mr. Gladstone
has done for the immortal poems of Homer.

Most thankful do I feel to the accomplished Author of "Studies
on Homer and the Homeric Age" for the idea. Not only for the idea,
but also for the title, an adaptation of which surnames every series
of my Essays. In this, the first series, however, I not only treat of
the Mosaic, but also of the pre-Mosaic age. In token of my grati-
tude I have presumed to dedicate this work to Mr. Gladstone, being
the first fruits of the results of my labours in that field to which that
brilliant genius has unwittingly directed my attention. I dare not
presume, to pretend even, that I have approximated, ever so remotely,
in the performance of my labours, the ability which my great model
has displayed in his work. A work which is likely to prove as immortal
and as cherished as the poems which he has so ably expounded and

It is not improbable that the professors of " a higher criticism" — as
some designate arbitrary treatment of the Sacred VOLUME — may


express some surprise, and perhaps indulge in some sagacious sneer,
at my espousing views of the old Christian Divines. I beg therefore
to submit, most respectfully, to those learned critics that I do not
consider rejection, or even suspicion of everything Christian either a
necessarj'^ qualification, or an essential feature in a sound critic of the
Old Testament. As I have intimated elsewhere,* proficient Scholarship,
and a thorough knowledge' of the Hebrew and its cognate languages,
are the principal requirements. I have learnt by the same experience
which taught the late Archbishop WHiately, that there is a blinder
prejudice, in some quarters, in favour of everything that is not accounted
sacred, than of that which for ages and ages has been accounted Divine.
I subsci-ibe to his implied proposition : — Undue prejudice against
whatever relates to religion is no proof positive of sound philosophy.

The independent Hebrew scholar cannot help feeling surprised
at the trifling originality, in modern works, on the Holy Scriptures,
on either side. The "Orthodox School" are satisfied with such
authorities as Bochart, Delitzsch, Havemick, Hengstenberg, Keil,
Kurtz, etc., etc. after their kind. The " Higher Criticism School,"
are content to abide by the opinions of Astruc, Bleek, De Wette,
Ewald, Kunen, etc., etc. after their kind. And when one is curious
enough to look up the respective referees, in order to find out on
what authority the latter founded their conclusions, then the curiosity
is gratified by strings of references to former Authors, and so on
and on.

I have thought proper to give the original of the specimen quotations
which I had occasion to adduce, in the form of foot notes. This
may be considered by some as unnecessary in the case of the learned
reader, and useless as regards the ordinary reader. The objection
may be true as made with the respect to the latter ; but that made in

* " The Oracles of God, and their Kimlication."


reference to the former, experience has taught me, does not hold
good. The more learned a reader is, the more anxious is he to learn ;
and he is too glad to have the lesson made pleasant to him, by having
all the materials for work placed before him then and there, instead
of having to cumber himself with a number of volumes.

I have only to add here that long after the MS. of the following
Essays had gone to the press, the first instalment of the Speaker's
Bible — on the Pentateuch — made its appearance ; and I am glad to
find that some of the views, propounded in this work, are being espoused
by some of the learned Commentators of that work. As an instance
I quote the following from the Bishop of Ely's " Introduction to the
Pentateuch :" — " It is argued again, that the language of the Pentateuch,

although in some few fragments apparently archaic, is for

the most part too like to later Hebrew for us to believe that it came
from Moses. To this it may be replied, that this is really what we
might expect. A language is fixed by its great, and especially by its
popular authors. It is commonly said, that English has been fixed
by Shakspeare and the translators of the Bible. Moses, putting
aside all question of inspiration, was a man of extraordinary powers
and opportunity. If he was not Divinely guided and inspired, as
all Christians believe, he must have been even a greater genius than
he has been generally reckoned. He had had the highest cultivation
possible in one of Egj'pt's most enlightened times ; and after his early
training in science and literature, he had lived the contemplative life of
a shepherd in Midian. We find him then with a full consciousness of
his heavenly mission, coming forth as legislator, historian, poet as well
as prince and prophet. Such a man could not but mould the tongue
of his people. To them he was Homer, Solon, and Thucydides, all
in one. Everyone that knew anything of letters must have known the
books of the Pentateuch. All Hebrew literature, as far as we know,
was in ancient times of a Sacred character ; at all events no other


has come do-ttTi to us ; and it is certain that writers on Sacred subjects
would have been deeply imbued with the language and the thoughts
of the books of Moses. Eastern languages, like Eastern manners,
are slow of change ; and there is certainly nothing strange in our
finding that in the thousand years from Moses to Malachi, the same
tongue was spoken, and the same words intelligible ; especially in
books treating on the same subjects, and where the earlier books
must have been the constant study of all the writers down to the very
last." Compare Essay III., pp. 71 — -Ji, and Appendix B.

M. M.

Forest Hill, August, 1871.


Essay I. An Apology for the Subject . . . . i

Essay II. The Vestiges of Primeval Hebrew Poetry,

traceable in the Book of Genesis . . .29

Essay III. Studies on Moses and the Mosaic Age . . 65

Essay IV. The bwa or the Hieroglyphic Poetry of the

Pentateuch 97

Appendix -145



I APPRECIATE a certain 7V;/f d' esprit, which is ascribed ^^/^"ribed
to George III., said to have been spontaneous, on the *°^^''- "^■
occasion when a copy of Bishop Jewell's 'Apology
for the Church of England ' was presented to his
Majesty. The story circulates that when the king
opened the volume, and read its title-page, he ex-
claimed in his usual thrice-told, emphatic, curt manner,
" An Apology for the Church of England ! An
Apology for the Church of England ! An Apology
for the Church of England ! The Church of England
needs no Apology ! The Church of England needs
no Apology ! The Church of England needs no
Apology !" ^ I fully admit the justice of the reiterated
royal sentiment. It applies with threefold force to
the theme which I have set before myself to discuss
in this and subsequent disquisitions. Nevertheless, I
hold the somewhat paradoxical opinion that the first
of a series of Essays, on the Poetry of the Hebrew
Pentateuch, ought to deal in a sort of an apology.

' Another version of the anecdote is, to the effect, that the royal demurrer
was enunciated on the occasion when a copy of Bishop Watson's "Apology
for the Bible" was presented to George III.



An apology J am Hot Certain whether some precocious critics —

for my apo- ■■■

i°ey- ^]^Q aj-g jj^ ^]-jg habit of pronouncing their opinions

of books as soon as they have glanced at their title-
pages — may not begin their strictures by protesting
that the subject was too profound and abstruse to
be capable of being treated in a popular style ; and
demand, therefore, an apology for bringing it be-
fore the British public. Their demand shall be

The gener- Mv plca is this : — Hcbrcw Poetry must needs make

alityofEng- -^ ^ ^

lishmen are ^^g Biblc the Essayist's principal text-book. The

prepared to j r r

spirit' of° the volume of revelation is a book which in this land, at
* ^"'^' least, is almost universally read. A considerable

portion of its contents is familiar to the great majority
of Englishmen ; so that a work on Hebrew Poetr>'
must be apprehended, to a certain extent, by even
moderate intellects. The minds of the majority of
Englishmen are, in a manner, prepared to enter into
the spirit of the theme. The metaphors, tropes,
figures of speech, symbols, emblems, and other pecu-
liarities of the sacred muse, are already familiar to the
sons and daughters of Britain. So that the subject,
notwithstanding its sublimity and profundity, is capable
of being treated in so popular a manner, that " the
reader of it may be most fluent in it." i

' Such is the real meaning- of the simple words of Habakkuk ii. 2 :
n NTlp yiT ^I-d"?— words which have recently elicited so much ingenuity
amongst a certain class of students of the Hebrew Bible and language.


Moreover, I am desirous to contribute my mite J^f^^ ^''^^^

towards stimulating a craving, on the part of the s^ud^'of'tht

Christian priesthood, for the cultivation of a knowledge guVe hacf"n

of the sacred tongue ; the want of which is beginning giorious''Re-


to be felt most sensibly. We are accustomed to look
back with pride and pleasure on the glorious days of
the Reformation, — and justly so — for noble was the
victory then gained ; but we must recollect that the
revival and the study of the Hebrew language had no
small share in achieving that victory ; nor can we view
with indifference the efforts made to acquire this know-
ledge by the goodly band of the early Reformers.
We see how Reuchlin stepped forth at the first, and,
in the words of the Poet, how he " cried aloud to
God's dead language — live ! " We see how Melanc-
thon and Luther patiently devoted days and nights to
the hallowed study ; and, turning from the Vulgate to
the pages of the Hebrew Bible, thence derived, in all
their purity, truths, the might of which was destined
to " shake the world."

" It is necessary," observes Melancthon, " to pre- Meianc-

thon's opin-

serve the knowledge of the Hebrew tongue in the ionontheim-

° ° portance of a

Church ; for although there are extant interpretations ['he'^'lalre"!
necessary for the people, yet God wills there should
always be witnesses of those interpretations. He wills
that upon obscure passages, the fountains be consulted.

How much clearer the meaning is to those

who are acquainted with the fountains, the skilful are
able to judge. This is plain, that when the language



of the Prophets is known, ingenuous minds are de-
hghted with the certainty of the sense." The gentle
Reformer winds up his fervent appeal to the Clergy
in behalf of the study of the sacred tongue, with the
Saviour's dictum — " For unto every man that hath it
shall be given, and he shall have abundance ; and from
him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken
away." I have no doubt that Melancthon's views and
sentiments influenced, in a certain measure, the way-
ward mind of the unaccountable Henry VIII. I
cannot forego the inclination to quote a passage from
a letter of the amiable Reformer, to the headstrong
king : — " Away with all false pretences in divine things.
Let us practise what the Holy Scriptures teach, and
what the first Church kept for three centuries after the
Apostles. Why has the boldness of men forsaken the
ancient custom } Why defend the error of those who
have changed the commandment of Christ .-' "
Luther's es- Who is the Hcbrcw scholar that could withhold his

timate ot the

kno"wiedgeof Sympathy from that great Reformer, Luther, when, in
Scriptures?'' humble gratitude, he recorded his sense of the im-
portance of the sacred acquisition, saying : — " Scanty
as the measure of my attainments in the knowledge
of the sacred language is, I would not barter that
which I possess for all the treasures of the universe." ^
The following Lutheran advice to young candidates for

' Etsi exig-ua sit mea linguje Hebraicse notitia, cum omnibus tamen totius
mundi gazis non commutarem.

The excla-
mation of
Henry VIII.

ESSAY 1. 5

Holy Orders, though applicable to the present day, is
scarcely translatable into our modern polite style of
English writing. I leave, therefore, the characteristic
counsel in Luther's own Latin : — " Qui cum unam
Ebraem vocem sonare didicerunt, statim putant, se
magistros hujus sacrae linguae. Ibi nisi nos earn
tenuerimus tanquam assinis illudent et insulta-
bunt, sin autem nos quoque muniti fuerimus cog-
nitione hujus linguae, poterimus eis impudens os ob-
struere .'' "

It would appear that the observations of Melancthon
and Luther found their way to the mind, if not to the ^TccounVof
heart, of Henry VHI. — Both Reformers corresponded ablek^ckofa

knowledge of

with that king-. — The imperative necessity of culti- the sacred

'-'■'• tongue a-

vating a competent knowledge of the sacred tongue "^^^f^^^ ''^^j.
forced itself upon his Majesty; who, with his wonted cht.r^ch"n'ws
emphasis, exclaimed that " it was exceedingly to be Tappy effect
lamented that our theologians were so deficient in a mation.
knowledge of the sacred tongue, and neglectful of the
learned languages ! " i There can be no doubt that
the expression of the royal regret, on the melancholy
condition of the then clerical acquirements, gave an
impetus to the study of the Hebrew language, and
produced a host of well-versed Hebrew scholars, in
the reigns which immediately succeeded that of
Henry VHI. Even ladies of high rank became

' "Vehementer dolere nostra Theolog'orum sortem sanctissime linguae
scientia carentium, et linguarum doctrinam fuisse intermissam." Hody,
p. 466.


proficients in sacred philology. Queen Elizabeth
herself was no mean adept in the original language of
the Old Testament. I Great was the service of that
study to the cause of the reformed Church in this land.
But, alas, from various causes, that most important
branch of the Christian minister's learning, has been
permitted to slip out of the course of education, pre-
scribed for the Candidates for Holy Orders, these
\vhat Queen two ccuturies. Would God that the Sovereign of this


might do. realm, in this our own day, would imitate, in this
respect, Henry VHI., and speak out her mind over
the crying neglect of this department of Christian
theology !

An especial jg tlicrc no causc ! The study which did such good

call for the •' °

days!' "°^^ service in the days of old, is as important now as then ;
the knowledge of Hebrew cannot be too highly valued
by Churchmen at the present time. Questions of
weighty import are still at issue between the Churches
of England and Rome. The flood-gates of scepticism
have lately burst forth with fresh fury ; the war-horse
of a certain neology has been let loose to career with
unbridled scope. And when the few Scholars begin
to examine the cause of the sudden movement, they
discover it to be either an imperfect knowledge, or
utter ignorance, of the Sacred tongue. The diligent
study of the Hebrew language is, then, as of great
importance now, as it was in the sixteenth century.

' See Appendix A.



Whether we argue about the canon of scripture as the
alone standard of faith, or whether we wish to be pre-
served from a specious criticism of the new School of
divinity, it behoves us to be thorough masters of the
" Hebrew verity."

"The Hebrew verity" — observed the late Dr. or.McCaui

•' on transla-

McCaul, one of the most eminent Professors of Di-
vinity of his day — " as it is well called by ancient
writers, is that which was revealed by the Almighty.
To it, therefore, must be the final appeal in all matters
to be proved by the testimony of Moses and the
Prophets. The man who is ignorant of Hebrew, can
but imperfectly investigate the mind of the Spirit as
revealed in the Old Testament. Whatever he may
think of the right and duty of private judgment, he
imposes very narrow limits for his exercise, who at
the outset commits himself to the guidance of trans-
lators, and whose faith must so far rest upon human
authority. The advocate of unconditional submission
to human authority may be ready to infer the happiness
of him who can lean upon an infallible guide, without
venturing himself upon the difficulties of interpretation.
But such bliss is only that of the lazy mendicant who
loves to beg rather than work ; or rather, the blind
follower of the blind guide who sees not the danger
to which he is hastening. There is no such thing as
a version authorised by the Church Catholic. The
modern Greek Church may maintain the authority of
the LXX., and the Roman Church prohibit an appeal

On the Au-
thorised ver-


from the Vulgate ; but the Church Catholic, as has
been abundantly proved by Hody, always referred to
the Hebrew Verity as the only real authority,"

The same learned divine, when speaking of " the
authorised version," remarks : — " Ignorance of Hebrew
makes the Fathers unsafe guides in interpretation ;
and convinces us of the possibility of our also going
astray, if we labour under the same deficiency. It is
very true that our own translators knew more about
Hebrew than all the Fathers taken together, and that
the authorised version is one of the best ever made ;
but that it is faultless, or may serve the minister of
the Gospel as a substitute for the original, cannot be
maintained, at least in accordance with truth. It
would be as easy to collect from modern sermons and
popular religious works, as from the Fathers, an
abundance of examples of involuntary perversions of
God's Word, arising from ignorance of the original ;
but the task is too invidious. It may, however, be
observed that a pastor can hardly maintain the respect
due to his office, if he is not able to give some answers
to the inquiries of his people respecting difficulties and
varieties of translations ; and such inquiries must
multiply every day, as the study of Hebrew amongst
the laity, and especially amongst females, is on the
increase." ^

' See also the Author's Revision Sermon, " The Oracles of God, and their


Such was the dehberate judgment of one of the ^^° ^^Zm
most orthodox, pious, and learned divines of the ^^ TEfsh^p'^-
Church of England. It is a fact, well worthy of the "'''^compe-

tent Hebrew

most serious consideration on the part of the Clergy, scholar,
that the laity are beginning to view with impatience
the lamentable ignorance of the sacred tongue amongst
the priesthood of the Church of England. The evil
is, that there is no reasonable prospect of a speedy
improvement upon the present state of things.
Scarcely half a dozen of our Bishops can, with a good
grace, insist upon a Hebrew examination, from Can-
didates for Holy Orders.^ The venerable Primate
Sumner himself told me, in the course of a conversa-
tion in 1842, when he was Bishop of Chester, that the
little Hebrew he knew, ere he was raised to the epis-
copate, he had since forgotten ; and that he never
read farther than Habakkuk.2 No, not until it be-
comes a moral practical sine qica non, that the Clergy-
man who is to be preferred to the ofhce of a Bishop
should understand as thoroughly the original of the
Old Testament, as it is now a theoretical si7ie qua non,
that he should understand the original of the New
Testament, there is no reasonable hope of a speedy
improvement in the present state of things. I cannot

' See Prospectus of the Pentateuch according to the Talmud at
the end of this volume.

^ As the Hebrew Scriptures are arranged, Habakkuk occupies a position
more central in the original of the Sacred volume than in the Authorised

10 ESSAY 7.

help repeating my inmost wish that the Sovereign of
this realm made known her sentiments in this respect,
as did Henry VIII.
\\^ni '"h'- ^ have said that the laity are beginning to view
dericaVdutf with impaticnce the lamentable general ignorance of
spect.'^ '^'^ the sacred tongue amongst the priesthood of the
Church of England. The following extract from a
letter addressed to me by an English Duke — in refer-
ence to a certain work of mine, in which the same
views were maintained — will corroborate the above
affirmation : — " I entirely agree with what you con-
sider the proper duties and proper studies of a Clergy-
man, Many people read Homer and Horace for their
relaxation ; and I do not see why all Clergymen
should not read the Bible in the original."
whyshouid So far, so good ; but I would most respectfully

not educated ' o ^ r J

la'^mencufti" submlt to hls Gracc, that I do not see why English
kd|e^of"the Christian noblemen and gentlemen — who prefer read-
the Old Tes- ing Homer and Horace in the original to translations,
because the former is so much more interesting than
the latter — should not also cultivate a knowledge of
the Hebrew, that they might enjoy the luxury of
reading the Old Testament in the original. Such
reading is indeed a mental luxury of the most delect-
able description. It is more delectable, to a person of
true taste, than every species of luxury. It brings
the mind into contact not only with the divinest of

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