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of discourse contributes to perspicuity; since an expression, very ambiguous in itself, may become sufficiently clear by the aid of the context. It is by this circumstance that the meaning of words, possessed of the most extensive signification, is limited and defined. In the exposition of other works, the scope of each part is a consideration of the highest importance; but as every sentence almost of what are proverbs, in the strict sense of the word, forms a complete and independent proposition, if the sense is not clearly ascertainable from the expressions themselves, they rarely become perspicuous by the reflection of contiguous light.
To these causes of obscurity must be added the great number of words occuring only once, or but seldom, which, together with the difficulties inseparable from the Hebrew tongue, create many obstacles, only to be overcome by the cautious examination and patient research of the Biblical student.
Some circumstances, on the other hand, are not wanting by which these impediments are alleviated, if not entirely removed. Certain facilities in the interpretation of this part of the Scriptures arise from the antithetic style employed by the author. Each
aphorism, for the most part, consists of two hemistichs, the latter of which is either put by way of repetition and confirmation, or of opposition to the former. Thus they mutually explain and illustrate each other: an obscure expression in one hemistich often becomes perspicuous by its consentaneousness with, or contrariety to, some one in the other. Not only the obscurities of single words may be elucidated by the parallelism, but it tends likewise to develop the meaning of whole clauses; and thus we are furnished with a clue to guide us through the intricacies in which the book of Proverbs is involved. It would be useless to accumulate instances, as the following Version and Notes will demonstrate, if I am not much mistaken, the value and importance of this great principle of the paremiastic style.*
Much assistance, it has been supposed, might be derived from a comparison with the adages or moral sayings still in circulation in the East. “I have always been of opinion,” says a learned commentator, “ that the Proverbs of Solomon not only share the common advantage of other books of Scripture, in being capable of receiving light from the Arabic, and the other dialects; but likewise have this peculiar privilege of their own, that, being a collection of wise apophthegms, or moral sayings, they may admit of an additional illustration from the Eastern Amthal, or adagies, which make a great part of the ethical and political wisdom of the Arabians and Persians, and have not only been preserved in their ordinary conversation, but have likewise been gathered into volumes, and illustrated by the commentaries of their learned men."* But with what truth can it be asserted, that Bible precepts may be elucidated by aphorisms comparatively modern, and circulating among a rude people, never distinguished for ethical or political science? Can the dictates of infallible inspiration receive light or force from the sayings of fallible men; of men who have ever been characterized by the aberrations of intellect, and the wildness of Oriental imagination? The success has been answerable to such a chimerical project; and
* “ Gnomæ Salomonis, quæ, quia concisæ sunt sententiæ et paucis verbis inclusæ, multum obscuritatis et difficultatis habent, potissimum e Parallelismo membrorum illustrandæ sunt.”-(Bauer, Hermeneut. Sac. $ 93, p. 395.) I regret that I have not been able to procure a work of which Bauer makes mention, entitled “Dissertatio de Parallelismo Membrorum egregio Interpretationis Subsidio," by Schleusner, the author of the celebrated Lex, in Nov. Test.
the most profound scholars have pored over the tomes of Arabian and Persian lore, without gathering fruits sufficient to remunerate their toil. Many parallel passages have been produced, and abun-. dance of others might, without any extraordinary effort, be collected; they may serve to display a knowledge of Oriental learning, and may amuse in the perusal, like resembling passages from the Greek and Roman writers; but to propose them as explanatory of the scriptural proverbs, is to insult the understanding of the reader. The comparison itself presupposes a knowledge of the meaning; for that must be discovered before their affinity can be determined. After an examination of the most celebrated commentators on the Proverbs, I have not met with any important illustration, derived from the Eastern Amthâl.
Though the proverbial sayings of the East may be little serviceable to the commentator, yet the lan-. guage of Arabia, we are told, is the great storehouse from whence materials may be extracted to repair the wreck which the Hebrew tongue has suffered through the lapse of time. In the opinion of Reiske, the Arabic Lexicographer, Al Jauhari, has alone thrown more light upon the sacred volume than the
whole Synagogue ;* and Bauer pronounces it to be the unanimous suffrage of critics at the present day, that Hebrew can only be illustrated by the Arabic and Aramæan dialects. Almost every work on Biblical criticism which has issued, of late, from the prolific press of Germany abounds with encomiastic strains upon the utility of Arabic. On this subject Continental genius blazes with unwonted splendour; the young adventurous critic fancies he beholds the star in the East, to conduct him to the discovery of the sacred treasure; and the hoary linguist triumphs at the new light which theology has received from “ Araby the blest.”
Bochart, Pococke, Schultens, Schroeder, Michælis, Rosenmuller, Reiske, Schulz, Eichhorn, and other
." Ultro largimur, claram et puram lucem inde unice peti, et unum al Gjeuharium sacro codici V. T. plus quam totam Synagogam prodesse.”-Oratio de Studio Ling. Arab. p. 224.
+“ Hodie omnes consentiunt, hebraicam linguam non nisi ex arabica et aramæa lucem foenerari, &c.”—Hermenent. Sac. $ 19, p. 100. See also Scbroeder, Præf. ad Observat. ad Orig. Heb. 4to. Groning. 1761. Kromayer, de Usu Ling. Arab. lib. i. Francof. 1707. Hunt, Oratio de Antiquitate Ling. Arab. p. 48, et seq. Oxon. 1739, and de Usu Dial. Orient. Oxon. 1748. Aurivillii Diss. ad Sac. Lit. pertinentes, Diss. I, ed. Michælis, Goetting. 1790. Jahn, Introductio ad Lib. Sac. $ 73, et seq. Viennæ, 1814. Every thing that can be said in favour of Arabic has been done by Schultens in bis different works, particularly in his Origines Hebrææ.