Page images
PDF
EPUB

Solomon having written the book of Ecclesiastes in his old age; and that he takes to himself this name, with a feminine termination, to insinuate the debilitated state of his mind, when he suffered himself to be drawn into idolatry by his wives.* An explanation so completely foreign from the undoubted signification of the root cannot deserve a refutation.

The learned Professor Doederlein understands the term as denoting an academy of wise men, in which Solomon, probably, often discoursed; and hence the book may be so called by reason of its containing orations delivered in this academy. Learned and philosophical assemblies, we know, have been frequent among the Orientals, and it is more than probable, that something of this kind existed at the court of Solomon; for if Eastern monarchs, as far as history carries us back, have always encouraged societies for literary discussion, we must suppose, that such would be patronised by a king who excelled all the wisdom of Egypt and of the East. When it is also considered, that the noun sap kahal means an assembly or congregation, and that several

Simonis, Lex. Heb. p. 1409, ed. Eichhorn. Though the Arabic words jy s and is 3 to which he appeals, possess the signification of advanced age, as may be seen in Castell, Lex. Hept. p. 1689, 3310, and Golius, Lex. Arab. p. 1859, 2075; yet abap cannot be referred to them, as they are roots of different radical letters. It is singular, that Simonis does not take notice of Koheleth in his valuable Onomasticon.

parts of the book well comport with this interpretation, it must be acknowledged to have some semblance of truth. Yet, upon a nearer inspection, we shall be compelled to renounce it, since some passages cannot be made to agree with this hypothesis, as the initiatory expressions, “ The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem,” and, “I, the Preacher, am king over Israel, in Jerusalem,” which cannot denote the academy of Solomon, but plainly designate that royal personage himself.* Nor does the title Koheleth properly belong to the treatise itself, as this interpretation supposes. Though the great reformer, Martin Luther, in the Preface to his Commentary on the Ecclesiastes, asserts that it is rather to be referred to the name of the book than of the author, it must be evident, upon an examination of the places where it occurs, that it is a personal designation applied to the author of the book; and this is an insuperable objection to the opinion advanced by Doederlein.

Another interpretation has been brought forward by Sir John David Michaelis, an author of vast erudition and undoubted genius, but whose learning often bewildered his judgment, and whose genius frequently blazed with wild eccentricity. He takes Koheleth to denote, him who presides over the assembly or academy of philosophers, the president and teacher.* Schools or colleges, it is undeniable, existed among the Jews in later ages;t but that fixed and endowed seminaries were established in the time of Solomon, or, indeed, previous to the Babylonian captivity, is a conjecture for which there is no foundation in the sacred writings. Academies, with a president and teachers, are institutions not adapted to the simplicity of primitive times; and if they had existed at the period alluded to, some intimation would, probably, have been given of them in the circumstantial history of the Hebrew monarchs. As to the Schools of the Prophets, we are but little acquainted with their nature; yet, from the few hints given of them in Scripture, they do not appear to have been regular and endowed seminaries. But, whatever might be the nature of these institutions, we find not the least hint of Solomon's having been the president of such a school; and some circumstances respecting the author, particularly ch. i. 1, 12, and ch. ii. 4—10,

* See Schulz et Bauer, Prolegom. in Eccles. $ 1.

.קהלת

• “ Cæterum eum denotat, qui coetui seu academiæ philosophorum præsit, præsidem ejus et doctorem."-Michaelis, Supplem. ad Lex. Heb. in

. + See Ikenius, Antiq. Heb. par. i. cap. 5; Buxtorf, Synag. Judaica, cap. X.; Jennings, Jewish Antiquities, lib. ii. cap. 2.

# Campbell, Translation of the Gospels, Prel. Diss. vii. part 2, $ 2.

Ś An excellent account of the Schools of the Prophets is given by Stillingfleet, Origines Sacræ, lib. ii. cap. 4. See also Vitringa, De Synag. Vet. par. ii. cap. 6; Warburton, Div. Legat. lib. iv. $ 6; and the authors referred to in the two former notes.

are inconsistent with the character and office of a superintendent of an academy.

Though the explanation of the title by Michaelis, in the precise form in which he has stated it, must, for these reasons, be rejected, I am persuaded that it is not very far from the truth; for I accede to the opinion of those who derive it from the verb smp, kahal, to assemble together, and who suppose that Solomon adopted this appellation from his custom of assembling the principal persons among the people, and communicating to them the wisdom of his divinely-illuminated mind. According to this view of the term Koheleth, it means one who convenes the people together, and imparts to them the lessons of wisdom and virtue. Of all the interpretations of the word with which I am acquainted, this is by much the best supported. It results, in a natural and unforced manner, from the acknowledged meaning of the root of which it is a derivative; and is confirmed by the LXX, who have translated it by the word ekk\nciaorns, immediately derived from ek noragw, denoting to call an assembly, and to preach, or harangue.* In this they were followed by the author of the Latin Vulgate, from whence it was adopted by our translators as the title of the book, while in other places, where Koheleth occurs, they render it by the word 6. Preacher.” The terms “ gatherer” or “ assembler, adopted by Parkhurst, may indeed seem more agreeable to etymology; but they do not so well convey the notion of communicating instruction, which is included in the appellation Koheleth; and, upon the whole, though “ Preacher” does not quite express the full force of the original, the English language does not, I think, afford a more appropriate word.

* See Suicer, Thesaurus, vol. i. p. 1060, and Scapula, Lex. in voc. It is observed by Bishop Patric, in his Preface to Ecclesiastes, that Koheleth, in the Æthiopic language, according to Ludolph, signifies“ a circle, or a company of men gathered together in the form of a circle."

This interpretation, it is true, depends upon the supposition, that Solomon was accustomed to assemble and instruct the people; and that such was his practice may be gathered, not only from the import of the term, according to its Hebraical derivation, but likewise from several other considerations. The Orientals, in later ages, have always been fond of meeting together in companies, to entertain themselves with hearing and reciting compositions in prose and verse. In these assemblies they were sometimes edified by the delivery of grave discourses, on subjects of a moral and philosophical nature; though they were more frequently amused with the recital of tales and romantic stories, or listened, with Asiatic rapture, to the effusions of poetic imagination. Several productions, delivered, or supposed to be delivered, in such assemblies, are

« EelmineJätka »