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The Meshalim, or Proverbs of Solomon, on account of their intrinsic merit, as well as of the rank and renown of their author, would be received with submissive deference; in consequence of which, they would rapidly spread through every part of the Jewish territories. The pious instructions of the King would be listened to with the attention and respect they deserve; and, no doubt, would be carefully recorded by a people attached to his person, and holding his wisdom in the highest admiration. These, either preserved in writing, or handed down by oral communication, were subsequently collected into one volume, and constitute the book in the sacred canon entitled “ The Proverbs of Solomon, the son of David, king of Israel.” The genuineness and authenticity of this title, and those in chap. x. 1, and xxv. 1, cannot be disputed; not the smallest reason appears for calling them in question; and it cannot for a moment be believed, that the fact is not as they state it; that a direct falsehood is placed at the head and front of the book; and that, though the Proverbs are expressly asserted to be Solomon's, they were not actually composed by him. Such a supposition would go far to overturn the authority of the sacred canon ; it would diminish our confidence in the Scriptures as an authentic record of revealed truth, which must end in that scepticism which tends, in its rapid progress, to overwhelm every thing sacred and dear to man. The Proverbs, then, are to be regarded as the real production of the Jewish Monarch.
One portion of the book, from the twenty-fifth chapter to the end of the twenty-ninth, was compiled by the men of Hezekiah, as appears from the title prefixed to it.* Eliakim, Shebna, Joah, Isaiah, Hosea, and Micha, personages of eminence and worth, were contemporary with Hezekiah; but whether these or others executed the compilation, it is now impossible to determine. They were persons, however, as we may reasonably suppose, well qualified for the undertaking, who collected what were known to be the genuine proverbs of Solomon, from the various writings in which they were dispersed, and arranged them in their present order. Whether the preceding twenty-four chapters, which, doubtless, existed in a combined form previous to the additional collection, were compiled by the author, or some other person, is quite uncertain. Both collections, however, being made at so early a period, is a satisfactory evidence, that the Proverbs are the genuine production of Solomon, to whom they are ascribed; for from the death of Solomon, to the reign of Hezekiah, according to the Bible chronology, was a period of 249 years, or, according to Dr. Hales, in his New Analysis of Chronology, 265 years; too short a space to admit of any forgery or material error; as either must have been immediately detected by the worthies who flourished during the virtuous reign of Hezekiah.
* « These are also Proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah, king of Judah, copied out.”—(Chap. xxv. 1.) “ Quæ sic intelligo, sequentes Parabolas esse quoque Salomonis, itidem ut superiores; verum a viris Ezechiæ fuisse collectas et descriptas ; pon et præcedentes, quod existimavit interpres Arabs.”--Huetius, Dem. Evangel. Prop. iv. p. 239, Prancof. 1722.
An argument in favour of the authenticity of the work, arising from the inspired wisdom of Solomon, must not be overlooked. Whether he is to be considered in the light of a prophet, is a question upon which the opinions of the ancient Fathers and modem critics have been divided.* Its determination is not of much importance, since we know from the sacred history, that his natural powers were assisted and exalted by divine illumination, and that “God
• Carpzovii Introductio ad Lib. Canon, par. 2, cap. iv. $ 2..
gave Solomon wisdom and understanding," so that his “wisdom excelled the wisdom of all the children of the East country, and all the wisdom of Egypt.” We are likewise informed, that he spake three thousand proverbs; and if they are not, in part at least, contained in the work ascribed to him in the sacred canon, where are they to be found? The supposition of their total loss is incompatible with the admiration and reverence with which the Jewish people looked up to their Sovereign, so renowned for his opulence, his power, and his wisdom. If they would never have been suffered wholly to perish by his devoted subjects, why should we doubt, that the work which bears his name actually contains a collection of his authentic proverbs ?* When to this it is added, that no suppositious work could have been palmed upon the Israelites without immediate detection; that, if Solomon had not been the author of the book, it would not have been admitted into the sacred canon
* St. Jerom supposes, that this book really contains three thousand proverbs, though in this he is certainly mistaken, as it scarcely contains half that number. Perhaps, the number three thousand in 1 Kings, iv. 32, is to be understood indefinitely for a very great number; as it was customary with the Hebrews to put a definite for an indefinite number. Otherwise it may be supposed, that the Proverbs contain the chief of the three thousand, or the sum and substance of them,
as his work; and that it has been transmitted to posterity as his, by the voice of uninterrupted tradition; we cannot hesitate to ascribe it to the philosophic King of Israel.
That the book of Proverbs, with the exception of the two last chapters, is the genuine production of Solomon, is thus confirmed with as strong evidence as the nature of the case well admits. Nevertheless, Grotius, from the love of singularity which unfortunately adhered to that great man, and rendered his learned labours less serviceable to the cause of biblical literature, supposes it to have been a compilation from a variety of authors who had preceded Solomon. Though this hypothesis has met with the approbation of Eichhorn, and some other writers, it is a mere conjecture, unsupported by even the shadow of evidence. A hardy assertion is easily made, but will not be easily adopted by the cautious investigator of truth. The book comes down to us as the composition of the royal Sage; its genuineness is attested by its title, its reception into the canon, and its acknowledgment by the Jewish church: it therefore requires something more than mere conjecture to overturn so clear and decisive a testimony. Nothing else, however, has been produced to