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he came to full age and the possession of power and wealth he departed from his religious training and became the great sensualist of Israelitish history. The description of the splendor of his court, given in the Books of Kings and Chronicles, is paralleled by the historical accounts of the analogously corrupt splendor of the reign of Louis XIV. in France. He built a magnificent palace ; his throne was of ivory; his dishes were gold ; silver, it is said, was nothing accounted of; he had all the sensual pleasures of an Oriental court, men singers and women singers and dancers ; he had a great retinue of servants; at his table, it is said, there were daily consumed thirty oxen, one hundred sheep, and quantities of game. The accuracy of the figures does not concern us; there is no reason to doubt the accuracy of the picture which they convey. He introduced the harem, and the sensual worship of pagan gods; and this latter carried with it, in both social and religious life, the imitation of pagan ideals. It was his ambition, not only to ape but to rival other contemporaneous empires. Yet with it all he maintained a certain intellectual glory. Trained in religion, possessing an educated
. conscience, and surrounding himself with a barbaric and sensual splendor, he was far famed for his wisdom. He was a coiner of proverbs; from his reign, apparently, dates the beginning of what is known as the Wisdom Literature of the Old Testament. When the Queen of Sheba, attracted by the fame of his splendor, came to see him, she
came, it is said, to try him with hard questions. What they were we are not told, but she was satisfied with the shrewdness of his answers. It is such a man as this, with these contradictory and conflicting elements, — a religious training, an educated conscience, a sensual and self-indulgent nature, and a philosophic mind dealing with the actualities of life and trying to understand the riddle of existence, - that the poet who wrote the Book of Ecclesiastes chose for his mouthpiece. He imagines Solomon musing over the problem of life; reflecting upon wealth, sensual pleasure, gratified ambition, philosophic wisdom, and what these bring ; and while this meditative musing on the varied experiences of life is going on, there break in upon him from time to time the memory of his childhood's instruction, the sanctions of God's law, the protest of his own conscience, and reflections suggested by his faith in the righteousness of God and a future judgment.
Thus the Book of Ecclesiastes is a dramatic monologue portraying the complicated experiences of life; these voices are conflicting, but they portray the conflict of a single soul at war with itself. In this monologue the man is represented as arguing with himself; weighing the contrasted experiences of life over against one another. A philoso
1“ As the Book of Job is couched in the form of a dramatic argument between the Patriarch and his friends, as the Song of Songs is a dramatic dialogue between the Lover and his Beloved One, so the Book of Ecclesiastes is a drama of a still more tragic On the con
pher would take these problems in order; he would consider first the value of pleasure, then that of ambition, then that of wisdom, etc., and finally he would draw from this orderly and consecutive consideration a logical conclusion as to life's teaching. The interpreter of Ecclesiastes, translating it into an orderly and philosophical form, is obliged to do this. But the writer of Ecclesiastes is not a philosopher; he is a poet interpreting human experience. And it is not in such well ordered thinking our experiences are fashioned within us.
kind. It is an interchange of voices, higher and lower, mournful and joyful, within a single human soul. It is like the struggle between the two principles in the Epistle to the Romans. It is like the question and answer of the 'Two Voices of our modern poet. It is like the perpetual strophe and antistrophe of Pascal's Pensées. But it is more complicated, more entangled, than any of these, in proportion as the circumstances from which it grows are more perplexing, as the character which it represents is vaster and grander, and more distracted. Every speculation and thought of the human heart is heard, and expressed, and recognized in turn. The conflicts which in other parts of the Bible are confined to a single verse or a single chapter are here expanded to a whole book." The History of the Jewish Church, by Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, D. D., Lecture xxviii. pp. 282, 283. — Dean Plumptre suggests another parallel to Ecclesiastes in the 144th sonnet of Shakespeare:
“ Two loves I have of comfort and despair
Which, like two spirits, do suggest me still.
Wooing his purity with her foul pride." Ecclesiastes, The Cambridge Bible, Introduction by E. H. Plumptre, D. D., p. 43.
trary, thoughts come tumultuously into our mind; they fight their battle out within our consciousness; ambition, sensuality, wisdom, conscience, - all contend for the mastery. There are no parliamentary laws in the human soul, and no one to keep order, first one voice speaks, and then another; they shout against one another, they drown one another. Thus the Book of Ecclesiastes is deliberately and of intention confused, because it is the portrayal of the confused experiences of a soul divided against itself. This confusion is enhanced by one literary characteristic. The writer has told us, in the last chapter, that he has sought out proverbs; that is, ranged over literature to get apothegms that will throw light upon the problem which he is considering. These proverbs, familiar in his time, are inserted in the dramatic monologue; in our time they would be put in quotation marks, with a footnote to say where they had come from. But there were no quotation marks at that time, and the proverbs are incorporated in the body of the text. How much of the book is gathered from a wide range of literature and how much is original with the writer, we do not know; but at times there are literary breaks in the order which may fairly be attributed to quotations, more or less apt.
We are then to imagine a man with religious training, an educated conscience, an apostate life, who has tried the various phases of self-seeking, sensuality, philosophy, ambition, and has undertaken to transcribe the results of his experiences.
The product is a journal of fragments, in this respect analogous to Amiel's Journal. After an introduction giving general expression to his spirit of pessimistic fatalism, the poet records the experiences which wealth and self-indulgence bring. He pictures the king as throwing himself with a certain abandon into a life of self-indulgent luxury, and yet remaining, as it were, outside of himself, a spectator of himself, a self-student, his wisdom remaining with him, as he expresses it, that he may thus investigate and see what is the value of wealth and self-indulgence. He thus reports the result of this spiritual vivisection:" I said in mine heart, Go to now, I will
thee with mirth; therefore enjoy pleasure: and, behold, this also was vanity. I said of laughter, It is mad: and of mirth, What doeth it? I searched in mine heart how to cheer my flesh with wine, mine heart yet guiding me with wisdom, and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what it was good for the sons of men that they should do under the heaven all the days of their life. I made me great works ; I builded me houses ; I planted me vineyards ; I made me gardens and parks, and I planted trees in them of all kinds of fruit: I made me pools of water, to water therefrom the forest where trees were reared : I bought men servants and maidens, and had servants born in my house ; also I had great possessions of herds and flocks, above all that were before me and in Jerusalem : I gathered me also silver and gold and the peculiar treasure of kings and of the provinces : I gat me men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, concubines very