« AnteriorContinuar »
aud tribal feasts were held, such as may be found in Judges ix. 27, 1 Samuel ix. 12-25, and 1 Samuel xx. 6. Apart from the stone symbol there was also the sacred pole, called
Asherab," the sacred tree (whether terebinth or poplar), referred to over and over again in the history of Abraham, and sometimes the sacred spring. The reformation in Josiah's reign in 621 B.C., resulting in the Book of Deuteronomy, suppressed all these local sanctuaries, and made Jerusalem the only centre of worship. Inasmuch as the Book of Kings was written under the Deuteronomic influence, we find over and over again rebukes addressed to the Kings who tolerated High Places. But in the eighth century, when Amos, Hosea and Isaiah were living, no protest was made against the stone symbol, or the sacred pole, or the use of the ephod (the plated image of Jahveh), or the Teraphim (ancestral images). The prophets were not concerned with points like these, because tribal festivals and high places formed part of the normal religious life in the days of Samuel and David onward. Isaiah denounces, it is true, the necromancer, but not the soothsayer. What the prophet was especially anxious to destroy was abnormal religious practice, foreign usages, borrowed from the Philistines or from the East. The other portion of the prophetic protest was directed against the priests. Isaiah draws for us a terrible picture of a drunken priesthood, just as Hosea gives us a still more terrible recital of the murdering gangs of priests in Shechem or Gilead, who lay in wait for the pilgrims. No foreign cultus, no debased priesthood, but a return to the simplicity of nomad times and the worship of Jahveh—these were the chief notes of the prophetic utterance. And, throughout, morality, the morality of ordinary life, was proclaimed as the only real proof of a true religion.
When, however, the Northern kingdom and Judah were both threatened by the vast empires on either side of them, Assyria on the east, Egypt on the south-west, to say nothing of Syria, the notion of a tribal god was in peculiar danger. According to the usages of the time, if the tribe or the nation was overwhelmed by a foreign nation, its own god was over
whelmed by the god belonging to the conquerors. If Israel and Judah were defeated by the armies of Sargon and Sennacherib, their god also was held to suffer a like conquest. How did the prophets meet this problem? Amos, whose activity was in the Northern kingdom, solved the difficulty by the assertion that Jahveh was more than local and national, that his sovereignty was an universal sovereignty. It was not only the fact that Jahveh had brought the Israelites out of Egypt, but he was also the Lord of the Universe, the Deity who made the great lights of Heaven, the God of the whole world. Inasmuch as Jahveh was a righteous ruler, he claimed from men that they too should be righteous, and a merely ceremonial worship that ignored the claims of morality was absolutely valueless. Hosea's contribution to this question was of a rather different type. Hosea lays stress on the unfaithfulness of Israel towards a God whose relation to them might be described either as that of a husband to a wife or of a father to a son. And the one constant note is the necessity for “ lovingkindness,” the duty which a man owes to God, and the duty which he equally owes to his neighbour. As contrasted with Amos, Hosea emphasized the divine love, while Amos laid stress upon the divine righteousness.
Isaiah, succeeding to these previous messages, carried them both to a higher plane. Jahveh is indeed an universal God. It is he who makes foreign despots instruments of his wrath. Assyria, for instance, is "the mace" of Jahveh's anger, and the same tone is heard in all the so-called “burdens" or oracles dealing with Moab, Damascus, Ethiopia and Philistia. Because the Universal God desired to have a reign of righteousness on earth he could punish those who deserted him, just as he could reward those who trusted in him. And, just like Hosea, Isaiah's burning words are full of the conception of divine outraged love, witness the lament over the faithful city of Sion, which had now become a harlot (Isaiah i. 21). Indeed, Isaiah carries out the ethical conception of the Godhead to a far greater extent than most of the prophets. God is the Holy One of Israel. God is a spiritual Being, the great, absolute, invincible Spirit of the whole earth, in response to whose ordinances the various peoples of the earth conquer or fail. In similar fashion, because the prophet will have nothing to do with various intermediaries between Jahveh and bis people, the duty of faith, of personal trust, is constantly insisted upon. And this faith in the divine Power and Presence is expressed in the name Immanuel, “God with us”—a perpetual watchword of Isaiah to his countrymen, even at the darkest moment of their fortunes. So gradually we get formed the lineaments of the highest, because most spiritual and most personal, religion to which the Jews attained. Apparently it was too rare and too pure a form of faith to endure, though it left itself not without witness in much later times, when Jesus of Nazareth revived the spiritual and moral fervour of the prophets. But the interval is filled with the formal, priestly religion, which built its fabric of ceremonial duty on the Law.
Of course, the religion of Isaiah had its limitations. It is not possible to assert that Isaiah’s monotheism excluded a belief in lower deities. The deities of other nations had a kind of life of their own, yet they are described as purely secondary and shadowy beings, mere nothings, the work of men's hands. The great day of the Lord, the Day of Judgment, will finally get rid of these phantoms. So, too, the real Isaiah, as apart from the deutero-Isaiah and the tritoIsaiah, does not extend his vision beyond the confines of earth, or even the times in which he lived. The Day of the Lord, the rule in righteousness of David's son, the age of the Messiah, do not belong to the remote future, because Isaiah was especially anxious to bring some present help to his sorely distressed countrymen. Here is the great contrast between the prophet of Jerusalem and the Apocalyptic teaching which begins many years after him (certainly not earlier than the fourth century). Probably as late as 250 B.C., some time in what is called the Greek Period, there was a systematic revision of the prophetic writings on the basis of the dogmatic system of later Judaism, including the apocalyptic hopes and expectations, of which we find so much illustration in the Book of Daniel. Isaiah's eschatology is not of this type. The year 701 B.C., when Sennacherib, invading Judah, retired without being able to effect the conquest of Jerusalem, is the immediate inspiration of Isaiah's highest hopes.
S VII.“ WISDOM” LITERATURE AND THE HELLENIC SPIRIT.
The books which constitute the Wisdom Literature of the Bible are Proverbs, the Book of Koheleth (Ecclesiastes), and the Book of Job. If we add books outside the established canon, we should have to include in this list the Wisdom of Jesus, the son of Sirach (or Ecclesiasticus), and the Wisdom of Solomon. If ever the Hebraic spirit got near to formal philosophy it was in these books, for here are old-world problems discussed, not so much in relation to a given creed as in reference to some of the fundamental conditions of human thought. Yet the first thing almost which strikes the reader is that they do not constitute a philosophy at all; or, if the word must be used, it is a philosophy quite alien from that range of metaphysics in which Hellenism set the example to European nations. For however much the problems discussed may be such eternal riddles as the meaning of human life, the reality of Providence, the justice of providential rule, the distribution of happiness and unhappiness, and incidentally the end of life, the treatment in each case is subordinated to a particular practical purpose, and made a vehicle for edification rather than enlightenment. Take “the end of life,” for instance. This question is discussed by Plato, Aristotle and others who are imbued with the Hellenistic spirit, as something which has to be decided in terms of reason so as to become acceptable to reasonable creatures. In Hebraic literature the end is not argued about, but assumed. The idea of the end of life precedes and regulates all the inquiry, instead of coming as the last link in a chain of logical arguments. In the books of the Old Testament already referred to there is no definite and formal attempt to pursue knowledge for its own sake. The object