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Having shewn that this poem claims Solomon for its author, and that this claim was admitted and recognized by the most ancient versions, we may now consider what has been objected to it. The first objection is, that Josephus does not mention this among the sacred books: but the fact is, he names none of them distinctly and expressly. His words are, We have two-and-twenty books which justly claim our belief and confidence. Of these, five are the books of Moses-thirteen, the books of the prophets-and FOUR more contain hymns to God, and admonitions for the correction of human life.' The question is, which are the four last? We reckon, 1. The Psalms, 2. Proverbs, 3. Ecclesiastes, and, 4. The Song of Solomon: and because the Psalms were placed first, and are the most considerable, these four books appear to have been all anciently comprehended under this name: so our Lord distinguishes the sacred books into the Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms'. These books, sometimes including others, are also called the hagiographa, or sacred writings, not comprehended in the law and the prophets. I am aware that, in order to exclude the Song of Songs' from this canon, some chuse to introduce Job as one of the four books; but this appears to me arbitrary, and hypothetical, since Job ranks as properly among
'Dr. PRIESTLEY says, 'There can be no doubt but that 'the canon of the Old Testament was the same in the time ' of our Saviour as it is now.' Institutes of Rel. (1782) vol. I. p. 297.
the historical books, Joshua, Judges, &c. which Josephus includes under the general name of prophetic writings'.
It has indeed been suggested, by Voltaire and others, that the divine authority of this book was doubted in the primitive Christian church, and particularly by Theodorus of Mopsuestia; but when the fact comes to be examined, it can only be proved that he rejected its allegorical explication, and thought it difficult to explain. This Theodore, however, lived in the middle of the sixth century; and his opinion was generally condemned by the other doctors of the church: whereas MELITO, bishop of Sardis, before the middle of the second century, without hesitation enumerates the CANTICLES among the sacred books then universally received 3.
Another objection alleged against the antiquity of this book is, that the name of David is spelt in the original with a yod, according to the manner of spelling it after the captivity. But as this name occurs but once, I cannot see with what propriety this circumstance can be insisted on by critics who maintain that the present Hebrew is full of literal mistakes of far greater importance; nor should I have thought it worth an answer, but for the respectable name from which it comes. However, as the
1 See Cosins's Scholastic History of the Canon of the Holy Scripture, p. 12-15. and Gill's Exposition (not Comment.) p. 8.
Findlay's Vindication of the Sacred Books, p. 455-8. 3 Cosins's Schol. Hist. p. 33. Euscb. Hist. Eccl. lib. iv. cap. 26.
subject is a very dry one, I shall throw it into the margin, where the reader will find it completely answered by the very learned Dr.
Dr. Kennicot (Dissert. I. p. 20.) observes that the 'word DAVID, from its first appearance in Ruth, where it is written (77) without the yod, continues to be so writ'ten through the books of Samuel, Kings, Psalms, Proverbs, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel; but appears with a yod (77) in the books of Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Zachariah; wherefore he suggests, that if it was customary to write this word without a yod till the captivity, and with one after it; then he thinks a strong argument may "he drawn from hence against the antiquity of the Canticles, and its being made by Solomon, since this name is written with a yod in Canticles, iv. 4. the only place in it in which it is used; but in answer to this, it must be said, it is not fact, that the word is universally used without a yod in the books mentioned, particularly the books of Kings: for the authors of the Massorah have observed on 1 Kings iii. 14. that it is five times written full, as they call it; i. e. with the yod. Three of the places I have traced out, (1 Kings iii. 14. xi. 4, 36.) and have found it so • written in all the printed copies I have feen; and so it is read by the eastern Jews in Ezek. xxxvii. 24. and in several printed editions of Ezek. xxxiv. 23. This learned man is aware that it is so written once in Hosea, and twice in Amos, books written 200 years before the cap· tivity; but then he observes, that in the two last places, in Bomberg's edition, it has a little circle () to mark it for an error, or a faulty word, though none over the word in Hosea but it should be known that that circle, in hundreds of places, is not used to point out any thing faulty in the copy; but is only a mark referring to the margin, and what is observed there; and be it, that it does point out an error, or a faulty word, the same circle is over the word in Canticles, and consequently shews it to be faulty there, and to be corrected and read without the yod; which ob<servation destroys the argument from it: and so it is read in that place of the Talmud without it, and in the ancient • book of Zohar: .... so that upon the whole the argument, if it has any force in it, turns out for, and not against, the an
As to the use of a few Chaldee and Syriac words, or forms of words, in this book, it can only prove that the author was acquainted with some of the kindred dialects; and sometimes embellished his poetry with foreign ornaments, perhaps chiefly for the sake of the rhythm, or the pronunciation; just as the Greeks intermixed their dialects, which differed nearly as these neighbouring eastern languages. The same kind of argument might be employed against the writings of David, and other prophets, as well as against other pieces of the same writer.
Let us next enquire what internal evidence can be drawn from the book itself, particularly from the poetic imagery, to ascertain its high antiquity, and, in some degree, its author. One might be tempted to suppose, that those who place this among the books written in or after the captivity, must never have read it. The beautiful objects of art, from which great part of the imagery is taken, were then doubtless, in great measure, in a state of decay. The towers of David and of Lebanon, the fish-pools of Heshbon, the vineyards of Engeddi, and
tiquity of Solomon's Song. But this matter stands in a clearer light by observing the larger Mafforah on 1 Kings, xi. 4. and on Ezek. xxxiv. 23. in which the five places ' are mentioned where this word is written full, 1 Kings, iii. 14. xi. 36. Cant. iv. 4. Ezek. xxxiv. 23. In which places this word was originally so written, as well as throughout Chronicles, the twelve prophets, and Ezra; so that in all these places it is marked not as a faulty word, but as rightly written, though different from what it is in other places. Gill's Exposit. p. 12, 13. 3d edit.
various other things and places referred to, must have been greatly injured by time, had they not fallen into the hands of a foreign enemy: but after the city had been plundered and burned, it is impossible to suppose that they remained entire; much less objects for poetic composition. Beside, this was not a time to celebrate marriages, and write nuptial poems: the poetic compositions of this period were elegies and lamentations; psalms of confession, and earnest supplications of divine mercy. Nor can an author be pointed out in this period to whom the book can with any probability be referred. There is also, in the last chapter, if I rightly understand it, a reference to the sacrificial flame, which strongly implies that it had not been then extinguished'.
Again, as some of these images carry us above the captivity, others will carry us up to the time of Solomon himself. The chariots and horses of Pharoah, would hardly have been thought objects of comparison in later ages, when the kings of Egypt were the enemies of Judah. But the reference to Solomon's nuptial bed, and the invitation to behold him with his crown, cannot by any means be reconciled to a later period.
Still the question remains, at what period of Solomon's life was this composed? I know that many of the Jewish writers refer it to the latter part of his reign; but as this opinion does not appear of sufficient antiquity to have
See my note on ch. viii. 6.