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“Of late, scarcely an advocate of the old tradition has appeared.” He adds :
“When we have reviewed the ground occupied by the question, we shall, perhaps, deem it strange if any future critic should engage in such an undertaking."
In such an undertaking as what? As advocating the old tradition that Solomon was the author of Ecclesiastes ! Reader, you had believed God's Word, that Solomon uttered or wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes. Prepare to have your faith in this testimony overthrown! After the arguments of the very learned Professor, that would be a rash critic that would still adhere to the “old tradition !” His first argument is this :
"(1.) Many things are said by Coheleth (the Hebrew term for preacher, by which he continually designates the author, instead of say. ing Solomon), which show that Solomon is only occasionally, and not constantly speaking. He says in i: 12, that he was king in Jerusalem.' The praeterite tense here ('!!!?, I was) refers, of course, to a past time, and it conveys the idea that when the passage was written he was no longer king. But Solomon was king until his death, and could, therefore, never have said, 'I was king, but am not now.' Then, again, how passing strange for him, as Solomon, to tell those whom he was addressing that he was king in Jerusalem! Could he suppose that they needed to be informed of this? But a writer in times long after Solomon might easily slide into the expression that Coheleth had been king,”
pp. 86, 87.
Will this argument bear the test? The praeterite tense does not necessarily convey the idea that the writer had been king, but was not now. The editor of the work, Professor Robbins, in a note, shows that it does not. He says, “A frequent secondary use of the praeter tense of the Hebrew verb is to indicate a state of being which, beginning at some former period, still continues to exist at the time of narration.” Stuart's own Roediger, as well as Nordheimer's Grammar, may be cited in confirmation.
Stuart himself, in commenting on chapter iii, verse 15, says: “The first 1777 here, though in the form of the praeter tense, includes a present sense (as the praeter often does), viz.: which was and is.” Again, on vi: 10, he says: “The perfect 179? is here used as an abstract present, including what was and still is.” Again, vii : 10,“7777, was and still is.” Here, then, is Professor Stuart's answer to his own argument, and Solomon, so far from saying he was king in Jerusalem, but is not now, said, “I was and still am king in Jerusalem.” Nor was it “passing strange” that Solomon should say to those present, that he was king in Jerusalem, even if the auditors knew it. He was showing them what advantages he had for making investigations. He was king in a city of wealth and learning, where he had at command what he desired. So much for this argument. The Professor turns round and confutes it with his own criticisms.
The Professor proceeds:
“In i: 16, he (Coheleth) says: 'I acquired more wisdom than all who were in Jerusalem before me.' Doubtless, being a king, he compares himself with others of the same rank, i. e., with kings; and how many of these were in Jerusalem before Solomon ? One only, viz.: David. Who, then, constitute the all? It is only a later writer who would speak thus; and even such a one could so speak only by omitting any special reference to the incongruity seemingly apparent in the declaration as attributed to Solomon. The sentence looks like that of some writer who lived after there had been many kings at Jerusalem. Moreover, in the mouth of Solomon himself, this would wear something of the air of self-magnifying; while a later writer, who admired Solomon, • would naturally speak thus of him. In like manner, in ii : 7, 9, he speaks of surpassing, in various respects,' all who were in Jerusalem before him.' But in the respects there named, only kings could well be brought into comparison with him who was a great king; and therefore the same difficulty arises as before," p. 87.
How a man of Professor Stuart's acknowledged learning could so mistake the original Hebrew as to argue from the words “ before me” (in English), that Solomon was not the writer because David only was before him, is astonishing: The original is, literally, before my face. , The word translated “ before me” in these passages is, 'd', which means, in my presence. It does not mean “ before me” in point of time. It has no reference to time. The same word is used in the first commandment_Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” It would be ridiculous to explain this as meaning that we are to have no other gods before the true God, in point of time. It is remarkable that while Professor Stuart makes learned criticisms on almost every Hebrew word in the Book of Ecclesiastes he makes no criticism on '97 (lepani). One can hardly hardly avoid the conclusion that he purposely avoided it, lest he should overthrow his own argument, and thus spoil his theory that, not Solomon, but a later writer, was the author of the Book. Professor Stuart knew that the original word means in the presence of, and not before, in point of time.
The Professor thinks, also, that in the mouth of Solomon his reference to his having acquired more wisdom than all that were before him in Jerusalem, wore “the air of self-magnifying." It certainly does not wear so much the air of self-magnifying as does the remark of the Professor, when he says, “ When we have reviewed the ground occupied by the question, we shall perhaps deem it strange if any future critic should engage in such an undertaking” as to maintain that Solomon was the author of Ecclesiastes! Here, if the Professor does not tell the world that he had more knowledge than all that were before him, he certainly judged himself to bave more knowledge than all that would come after him, unless they agreed with him. Shall we, therefore, argue that the commentary attributed to Professor Stuart was not his?
But the Professor would gladly press into his service, iv: 8, “ There is one man and no second; moreover he has no son nor brother; and yet there is no end to all his toil,” etc. (Stuart's own translation.)
The Professor says :
“ If iv: 8, could be shown to have a particular personal meaning, and that the person in view was the writer of the book himself, it would bring before us a striking incongruity. The case there supposed is one where the individual has neither son nor brother. Solomon had both,” page 87.
What a pity the writer of Ecclesiastes did not say that he was himself the man referred to! Then the conclusion would be inevitable that Solomon was not the author. But the Professor admits that the text probably refers to a supposed case; and yet its introduction into the argument shows his wish that it might be applied to the writer of Ecclesiastes, and thus prove that it was not Solomon.
It requires a fruitful imagination to make iv: 13, 14, refer to Solomon as “ an old and foolish king," and to Jeroboam as “ a wise and prosperous young man.” But the Professor endeavors to make it so, to show that it was not Solomon who wrote thus concerning himself. Good arguments seem to be scarce when such are needed.
But the learned Professor has other arguments under this head. Hear him:
“In viii: 3, an adviser is introduced, who counsels the prudent course of obeying the king in everything. This would not be strange for a king to say; but when one clause declares that the prudent individual must not hesitate or delay even in respect to a wicked command, it would seem very singular to find Solomon thus characterizing his own commands. Then, again, when the writer gives his own view of this matter of unlimited obedience, in verses 5, 6, he says, that such indiscriminate and blind obedience will incur the guilt of sin, and bring the inevitable judgment of God upon him who yields to it; verses 7, 8. All this is hardly congruous with kingly opinion," p. 88.
It is a sufficient reply to say that our English translation says nothing about obeying “ wicked commands.” And if an inspired king can not object to “indiscriminate and blind obedience,” because it would not be a “kingly opinion," then inspiration is conformed to the whims and freaks of erring men! Such criticisms are calculated to disparage God's Word. Infidelity rejoices in such views of inspiration. Good 'but mistaken men, in New England and elsewhere, have, by such teachings, contributed largely to the abounding skepticism. Give us our orthodox standards, and adherence to them, though pronounced servile, rather than that mental independence that makes shipwreck of the faith.
Professor Stuart next refers to v: 7, iii: 16, iv:1, vii: 7, 10, viii: 9, x: 4-7, 16–19. In these verses various oppressions are mentioned, some of which the writer of Ecclesiastes had witnessed, and in which some rulers are described. He then, most disingenuously asks:
“ Can we now, in any way, suppose all these to be the words of Solomon, describing himself as a haughty, violent, unjust, tyrannical,
oppressor? Was be a glutton, a drunkard, an idler—he who spake three thousand proverbs, wrote one thousand and five songs, and many treatises of botany, besides managing wisely all the affairs of his kingdom? I. Kings iv: 32, seq. Did he permit the land to be full of oppressive magistrates, who caught at bribes, condemned the righteous, and acquitted the wicked ? Was not the power in his own hands to remedy all this ? and to do judgment and justice? And yet Coheleth says, iv: 2, 3, that death is preferable to life under the then existing oppression. Yea, in his impatience, he even wishes that he had never been born. And all this when, if Solomon be concerned in the matter, it was at any moment in his power to put a stop to the evils complained of! How is it possible to suppose that Solomon ascribes all this great wickedness and folly to himself? Let any one read the history of his enlightened and peaceful reign, as given in the Books of Kings and Chronicles, and he will see a picture directly the opposite of all this. The matter of Solomon's authorship, in respect to such passages, seems quite impossible," p. 89.
It is a sufficient answer to say that Solomon had no reference to himself, his own magistrates, or the kingdom of Israel over which he ruled, in these passages. Solomon's knowledge was not limited to the land of Palestine. He tells us that he “turned and considered all the oppressions that are done under the sun," iv: 1. It was of all these that he was speaking; and it is mere sophistry to restrict them to Solomon and his magistrates. And it is a mere rhetorical flourish to ask, “How is it possible to suppose that Solomon ascribes all this great wickedness and folly to himself?” It is not possible to suppose it. And none but a prejudiced mind could believe that if Solomon were the writer, he was speaking of his own oppressions. So much for Professor Stuart's argument from the "things said by Coheleth.” God's truth still stands unshaken-Ecclesiastes is the words of the preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem;" i. e., of Solomon.
Professor Stuart's next argument is thus stated :
“ (2.) The general state and condition of things, when this book was written, indicates a period very different from that of Solomon's reign,"
He then reiterates what he had before stated about the civil