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subsequent age; and, if we may believe Professor Dathe, the two latter have established this point, by arguments so weighty, that none, except very stubborn defenders of ancient traditions, can deny it.* The sceptical Semler pronounces it a matter of doubt, whether it be the production of the Hebrew monarch, or of some writer of a later age, who assumes his character.t Without bowing with implicit deference to the authority of these learned Germans, let us collect and review the principal arguments of the abovenamed critics; and, should they be found, upon an impartial examination, not to be invincible, we need not hesitate to acquiesce in the generally received opinion, that Solomon was the author of the Ecclesiastes.
I. Objection. “ Solomon was not the author, because the Rabbins attribute it either to Hezekiah, or Isaiah, the most distinguished contemporary of that monarch."| This statement is undoubtedly agreeable to the common interpretation of the Talmudical language, which the reade will find in the margin;but nothing more may,
* Dathii Versio Lat. not. a. in Eccles.
, , Proverbia, Canticum, et Ecclesiasten.-Bava Bathra. c. 1, fol. 15, a. And in Shalsheleth Hakkabalah, fol. 66, b. we read, that Isaiah wrote ans, his own book, Proverbs, Canticles, and Ecclesiastes.
משלי שיר השירים קהלת ,f The words of the Talmudists are ,Ezechias et coetus ejus scripserunt Esaiam ,חזקיה וסיעתו כתבו ישעיה
perhaps, be meant, than that the Ecclesiastes was inserted into the canon of Scripture by Isaiah or Hezekiah, not that it was written by either of them; or, it may only intimate, that, though Solomon was the author of the book, it was first committed to writing by them, it having been previously handed down by oral tradition; or, the meaning may only be, that these eminent men copied the book, and disseminated faithful transcripts of it among the people.* In some such way the words of the Talmudists here referred to must be explained; for it is elsewhere expressly asserted, that Solomon was the author.t And this is confirmed by its being placed in the canon as his work, which is indisputable evidence, that he was believed to be the author by the ancient Jews. It would not have been transmitted to posterity as his work, in so sacred a manner, except it had been ascribed to him by an universal consent. There could be no reason for palming a spurious book upon the world for Solomon's, no motive for attributing it to him falsely; or, if this had been attempted, the deceit would have been immediately detected, as the light of inspiration and prophecy was not extinguished till after the return from the Babylonian captivity; and, subsequently to that event, the veneration of the Jews for their Scriptures precludes the possibility of any designed alteration in the canon. Its reception into the canon, therefore, as the production of Solomon, could only have proceeded from its being known to be his work by those who, as to this circumstance, were incapable either of deceiving, or of being deceived.
* Waehner, Antiq. Heb. sect. 1, cap. 30. Simon, Critique de la Biblioth. du Pin, vol. iv. p. 107. Wolf, Bibliotheca Hebræa, vol. ii. p. 117. Carpzov, Introductio ad Lib. Bibl. par. ii. cap. 4, $ 4. Gray, Key to the Old Testament.
+ See the authorities in Wolf, Biblioth. Heb. vol. ii. p. 121. Carpzov, Introd, ad Lib. Biblicos, par. ii. cap. 4, § 4.
II. Obj. “ The Ecclesiastes cannot be supposed to be the production of Solomon, because the style is very different from that of his acknowledged writings." Without alleging that arguments drawn from difference of style rest upon precarious grounds, we may admit the fact, while we deny the inference attempted to be deduced from it. By comparing the book with the Proverbs and Canticles, the competent scholar must, I think, perceive some diversity in language and phraseology; but it would be unfair to infer, from this circumstance, that they have not emanated from the same mind. Intercourse with foreigners, new studies, advancing years, a change in habits of thinking, in inclinations and desires, with a
Eichhorn, Einleitung in das Alte Testament, $ 658. In referring to Eichhorn, I am indebted to the kindness of a friend, who has favoured me with a translation of such parts of the Einleitung as the book of Ecclesiastes. See also J. H. van der Palm, Diss. de Lib. Eccles. p. 44.
multiplicity of other circumstances, contribute to the alteration of style; so that thelatest productions of the same person are not unfrequently wholly dissimilar, in the external dress and colouring, to those which have been composed in early life. The diversity of style, in the present instance, is not of such a kind as necessarily leads us to attribute them to different authors. It may be accounted for partly from the different nature of the subjects; the Canticles abounding in sentiments of love and sensibility, in images of pastoral poetry replete with mystic significance: the Proverbs consisting of short sententious maxims, designed to impress the memory by their beauty and terseness; and the Ecclesiastes being a regular philosophical disquisition; and partly from the two first having been written in the prime of life, and the last in the vale of years.
According to the tradition of the Jews, the book of Ecclesiastes was written by Solomon in his old age, after he had repented of his former vicious practices, and had become, by sad experience, fully convinced of the vanity of every thing terrestrial, except piety and wisdom.* Many parts of the work itself corroborate this tradition. The acknowledgment of numerous follies and delusions implies, that it was composed
* Jerom, in Eccles, i. 12. Huet. Demonst. Evangel. prop. iv. p. 246. Michaelis, Notæ Uberiores, Præf. § 2.
after the author had apostatized from Jehovah, and had subsequently repented of his past misconduct. The frequent assertion of the emptiness of earthly greatness; the declaration that human enjoyments are unsatisfactory; the enumeration of gardens, edifices, and possessions, requiring a long life for their completion; the deep condemnation of former pursuits; the expression of satiety and disgust at past pleasures; and the tone of cool and philosophical reflection which pervades the whole, are strikingly characteristic of an advanced period of life; and the production of a king, bowed with the infirmities of age, wearied with the pomp of royalty, sated with luxury, humbled with a sense of past guilt, and prostrate in penitence, can scarcely be similar in style to those of the same monarch in the vigour of health and manhood, and buoyant on the full tide of popularity and glory.
“ The proper name of Solomon is not prefixed to the book, as in the Proverbs and Canticles."* This can be no valid objection, so long as he is designated to be the author by another unequivocal title; and there may have been reasons for the omission with which we are not acquainted. As this answer is perfectly
* Hermann von der Hardt, De Libro Koheleth,