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Outside the Book of Psalms a striking example of such Direct Metaphor is found in the second Act of the Rhapsody of Habakkuk (page 255; see note 491). The words, Wine is a treacherous dealer might be read as a proverbial saying, but is really the image on which rests the whole solution' of the problem: the haughty career of the Chaldeans is compared to the reeling of the drunkard which precedes his fall. Similarly, in the Doom of the Chaldeans which follows: the ideas reflected in successive strophes-usury, house building, city building by violence—have often been understood directly, as characteristics of the Chaldeans. A truer interpretation is to understand each as an image, by which the sudden fall of the Chaldeans is illustrated.
4. Imagery and Symbolism Certain portions of the 0. T. contain oriental symbolism, which must be distinguished from the imagery of our western poetry. In both there is comparison of one thing to another; in imagery the comparison appeals to the imagination, whereas in symbolism the imagination must often be restrained, if the effect is to be caught. To illustrate. When we read (in Shakespeare)
Golden lads and girls all must,
the imagination at once conceives a picture of the bright hair of youth as resembling gold. A passage of the Song of Songs seems at first to be imagery of this kind:
His head is of the most fine gold
but the sentence continues
His locks are black, and bushy as a raven.
The imagination cannot conceive the same hair as both golden-colored and raven-black. But in symbolism, where the imagination is quiescent, the combination is possible: gold is the highest thing of its class, raven-black is the highest thing of its class, my love's hair must be both.
A famous tour-de-force of such oriental symbolism characterizes a sonnet in Ecclesiastes (page 434). For contrast the reader might note a stanza of the western poet Sackville presenting the same picture of old age.
Crookback'd he was, tooth shaken, and blear-eyed;
Went on three feet, and sometimes crept on four;
His scalp all pilld, and he with eld forlore;
Tumbling and drivelling as he draws his breath:
Every phrase of this impresses a picture on the imagination. The comparisons of the Biblical sonnet avoid pictures. Or ever the sun, and the light ...be darkened: in view of the opening words of the Essay, which take the 'light' and ‘sun' as symbols of the whole happiness of conscious existence, it is clear that the darkening of this light is the gradual failing of the joy of living.–And the clouds return after the rain: an exquisite symbol closely akin to the last. In youth we may overstrain and disturb our health, but we soon rally; these are storms that quickly clear up. In age the rallying power is gone: 'the clouds return after the rain.'—The keepers of the house shall tremble: Cheyne understands of the hands and arms, the trembling of which is a natural accompaniment of old age. Compare in the parallel above the withered fist knocking at death's door.—The strong men shall bow themselves: the stooping frame; the plural is merely by attraction to ‘keepers.'—The grinders cease because they are few: obviously of the teeth.—Those that look out of the windows be darkened: the eyes becoming dim.—The doors shall be shut in the street: the general connection of ideas makes it inevitable that the 'folding-doors' should be the jaws; clenched jaws are so marked a feature in the skull that it is not difficult to associate them with the picture of old age.-When the sound of the grinding is low, and one shall rise up at the voice of bird, and all the daughters of music shall be brought low: these must be taken together: appetite, sleep, and speech are all feeble. Grinding must be interpreted as grinders in the previous part of the sonnet: the loud or low sound of such grinding may fitly typify the eagerness of appetite or the reverse. The early waking or short sleeping of the old is well known. The daughters of music are the tones of the voice.—They shall be afraid of that which is high, and terrors shall be in the way: the gait of old age is, through physical feebleness, much what the gait of a person terrified is for other reasons. Compare Sackville's lines:
Next saw we Dread, all trembling how he shook,
With foot uncertain proffered here and there. The almond tree shall blossom, and the grasshopper shall be a burden, and the caper-berry shall burst: the three are linked together as being images from natural objects, not because of their symbolizing similar things. The blossoming of the almond Iree I believe to be the sparse white hairs of age. It would be unlikely that this obvious symptom should be omitted; and of the almond tree these two things are established: (1) it is the first to blossom (and its Hebrew name is founded on this), (2) though not strictly white its blossoms look white by contrast with other blossoms. The whitish blossoms, solitary while all is bare around, just yield the image required. The grasshopper is evidently a symbol for a small object, which is nevertheless heavy to feeble age. The ca per-berry shall burst: the last stage of its decay: the failing powers at last give way. And then follows the dropping of the symbolism: “Man goeth to his long home.”
So far we have had symbols for failure of powers; now for actual death and dissolution. Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken: a symbol from the house-lamp of gold, suspended by a silver cord, suddenly slipping its cord and breaking, its light becoming extinguished. For bowl in this sense compare Zechariah, chapter iv, 2, 3.-Or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the
wheel broken at the cistern: these are exquisite symbols for the sudden and violent cessation of every-day functions. Compare the popular proverb: “The pitcher goes to the well once too often.”—And the spirit return unto God who gave it: this by analogy with the previous line must be interpreted to mean no more than that the man becomes just what he was before he was born.
5. Literary ‘Formula' in Ecclesiastes One of the characteristic features of style in this book is the employment over and over again of certain phrases, which have the effect of ‘formulæ': they are always used consistently, but the sense of each must be caught from the whole group.
Vanity of vanities, all is vanity.
There be many things that increase vanity. Etymologically the word for 'vanity' is suggestive of breath or vapor. But the force of these formulæ is best appreciated by noting how the word occupies the position which in other Biblical philosophy is occupied by the word 'wisdom,' in the sense of the universal harmony or one-ness. Thus 'vanity' to this thinker connotes the failure to satisfy the reflective faculty. In this connection ‘all' or 'all things' is suggestive: it is antithetic to the conception of a unity in the universe.
All that is done under heaven.
of their life.
(Many others) The whole group of expressions, under the sun, or upon the earth, etc., make formulæ for the objective world, antithetic to the world of consciousness and reflection which fills the thought of the book. Another antithesis to these expressions is the following:
The work that God hath done from the beginning even to the end.
These are formulæ, not for the phenomena, but for the underlying principles which are hidden, and (Ecclestiastes thinks) impossible to discover.
Another set of expressions are used to introduce distinct stages or steps in the reflective process.
There is nothing better for a man than that he should eat and drink, and make
his soul enjoy good in his labour. Who can eat, or who can have enjoyment, more than I? Nothing better for them than to rejoice and to get good so long as they live: and
also that every man should eat and drink, and enjoy good in all his labour
is. There is nothing better than that a man should rejoice in his works. Good . . . and comely . to eat and to drink, and to enjoy good in all his
labour. Riches and wealth and power lo eat thereof, and to take his portion, and to
rejoice in his labour. God giveth riches, wealth, and honour, so that he lacketh nothing for his soul
of all that he desireth, yet God giveth him not power to eat thereof. Then I commended mirth, because a man hath no better thing under the sun
than to eat and to drink and to be merry: and that this should accompany him in his labour all the days of his life.
When all these passages are read together it becomes evident that the expression eat and drink is not used by this writer in the limited sense of indulging sensuous appetite, but as a formula for appreciation in the widest extent: some of these passages applying eat and drink to riches, to labor, and even to honor. A similar remark may be made as to mirth: the last quotation makes it an element of labor. As a fact, Ecclesiastes never dwells upon the revel, or the sensuous, by itself: all happy appreciation of life is treated as one.
6. Key Words in the Bible There are certain characteristic words used in Scripture in a sense different from, or wider than, the modern usage. All these words have been explained where they occur; but it may be an assistance to the student to have attention called to them again.
Prophecy has not its modern sense of prediction; it means interpreting for Deity. [Fully discussed on page 144.)
Holy, Holiness, have sometimes the modern sense of the words (e. 8., Isaiah's Call, page 181). But their main use in the 0. T. is to express the separateness of Israel from the nations. Compare on page 499 note to page 308.
Righteousness has our modern sense of being right, but also the special sense of making right, vindicating right, almost an equivalent for salvation. Thus (in Zion Redeemed) Do righteousness: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed. Compare on page 487 note to page 196. Judgment is the regular Biblical term for the modern word Providence.
The word covenant is a special term throughout the Bible for the relation between God and man. Compare pages 3, 9, 138.
The word Theocracy does not occur in the Bible; but the idea it stands for is the connecting link between all parts of Scripture. See page 472; and on page 500 end of note to page 342. The Kingdom of God on earth: this, in various phases of it, is the dominant thought of both 0. T. and N. T.
7. Name of Deity In the text of the Bible most English versions (but not all) follow an ancient custom of avoiding the frequent use of the special name of Deity (JEHOVAH), and substituting “The LORD” The exact usage could not be stated except in terms of the original Hebrew. But for practical purposes the reader may understand that “The Lord,” or “The Lord God,” spelled with capitals, represents the actual name of Deity. Spelled without capitals “The Lord” may apply to God, but is not the sacred name. The present work follows this usage so far as the text of the Bible is concerned; but uses “JEHOVAH" as title of a speaker in dialogue. (E. g. in Zion Redeemed.)