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original are susceptible of still other renderings. A proverb couched in words susceptible of so many different meanings may well be called a riddle or “dark saying.” It was probably designed to puzzle, and the variety of meanings attaching to its words was a reason with the author for choosing just those words.
One of the “dark sayings of old” is the poetic fragment ascribed to Lamech (Gen. iv, 23, 24), which may be closely rendered thus: Adah and Zillah, hear my
And Lamech seventy and seven. The obscurity attaching to this song arises probably from our ignorance of the circumstances which called it forth. Some have
supposed that Lamech was smitten with remorse over Lamech's song.
the murder of a young man, and these words are his lamentation. Others suppose he had killed a man in self-defense, or in retaliation for wounds received. Others make the song a triumphant exultation over Tubal-cain's invention of brass and iron weapons, and, translating the verb as a future “I will slay,” regard the utterance as a pompous
threat. Verse 24 is then understood as a blasphemous boast that he could now avenge his own wrongs ten times more thoroughly than God would avenge the slaying of Cain.' Possibly the whole song was originally intended as a riddle, and was as perplexing to Lamech’s wives as to modern expositors.; It would be well to make a formal distinction between the riddle
and the enigma, and apply the former term to such inigma should be tricate sayings as deal essentially with earthly things, distinguished.
and are especially designed to exercise human ingenuity and shrewdness. Such were Samson's riddle, and the puzzling questions put to Solomon by the Queen of Sheba, the number of the beast, and proverbs like that noticed above (Prov. xxvi, 10). Enigmas, on the other hand, would be the more fitting name for those mystic utterances which serve both to conceal and enhance some deep and sacred thought. But the words have been so long used interchangeably of both classes of dark sayings that we can scarcely expect to change from such indiscriminate usage.
The word enigma (alviyua) occurs but once (1 Cor. xiii, 12) in the New Testament, but in the Septuagint it is employed as the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew 777. In 1 Cor. xiii, 12, it is used to
1 For a full synopsis of the various interpretations of this song, see M'Clintock and Strong's Cyclopædia, article Lamech,
Riddle and en
indicate the dim and imperfect manner in which in this life we apprehend heavenly and eternal things: "For we see now through a mirror in enigma." Most expositors take the words in enigma adverbially, in the sense of darkly, dimly, in an enigmatical way. “But aivıyma,” says Meyer, “is a dark saying, and the idea of the saying should as little be lost here as in Num. xii, 8.
Luther renders rightly: in a dark word; which, however, should be explained more precisely as by means of an enigmatic word, whereby is meant the word of the Gospel revelation, which capacitates for the seeing (BRÉTTELV) in question, however imperfect it be, and is its medium to
It is aiviyua, inasmuch as it affords to us no full clearness of light upon God's decrees, ways of salvation, etc., but keeps its contents sometimes in greater, sometimes in a less, degree (Rom. xi, 33; 1 Cor. ii, 9) concealed, bound up in images, similitudes, types, and the like forms of human limitation and human speech, and consequently is for us of a mysterious and enigmatic nature, standing in need of a future húous (solution), and vouchsafing niotis (faith), indeed, but not eidos (appearance, 2 Cor. v, 7).”1
There is an enigmatical element in our Lord's discourse with Nicodemus, John iii, 1–13. The profound lesson con- Enigmatical tained in the words of verse 3: “Except a man be born from above he cannot see the kingdom of God,” perplexed and confounded the Jewish ruler. Deep in his heart the Lord, who “knew what was in man” (ii, 25), discerned his spiritual need. His thoughts were too much upon the outward, the visible, the fleshly. The miracles of Jesus had made a deep impression, and he would inquire of the great wonder-worker as of a divinely commissioned teacher. Jesus stops all his compliments, and surprises him with a mysterious word, which seems equivalent to saying: Do not now talk about my works, or of whence I came; turn your thoughts upon your inner self. What you need is not new knowledge, but new life; and that life can be had only by another birth. And when Nicodemus uttered his surprise and wonder, he was rebuked by the reflection, "Art thou the teacher of Israel, and knowest not these things ?” (ver. 10). Had not the psalmist prayed, “ Create in me a clean heart, O God?” (Psa. li, 10). Had not the law and the prophets spoken of a divine circumcision of the heart? (Deut. xxx, 6; Jer. iv, 4; Ezek. xi, 19). Why then should such a man as Nicodemus express surprise at these deep sayings of the Lord? Simply because his heart-life and spiritual discernment were unable then to apprehend “the things of the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. ii, 14). They were as a riddle to him.
Meyer on Corinthians, in loco.
elementin Jesus' words to Nicodemus.
The same style of enigmatical discourse appears in Jesus' say. ings in the synagogue at Capernaum (John vi, 53–59); also in his first words to the woman of Samaria (John iv, 10–15), and in his response to the disciples when they returned and “wondered that he was talking with a woman,” and asked him to eat of the food they had procured (John iv, 32–38). His reply, in this last case, was, “I have food to eat which ye do not know.” They misunderstood him, as did Nicodemus and the Samaritan woman. “What wonder,” says Augustine, “if that woman did not understand water ? Behold, the disciples do not yet understand food.' They wondered whether any one had brought him something to eat during their absence, and then Jesus spoke more plainly: “My food is that (iva, indicating conscious aim and purpose) I shall do the will of him that sent me, and shall complete his work.” His success with the Samaritan woman was to him better food than any bodily sustenance, for it elevated his soul into the holy conviction and assurance that he should successfully accomplish the whole of that work for which he came into the world. And then he proceeds, adhering still to the tone and style of intermingled enigma and allegory: “Do not ye say that there is yet a four-month, and the harvest comes? Behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes and look on the fields, that they are white unto harvest. Already' he that reaps is receiving reward and gathering fruit into (els, as into a garner) life eternal, that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.” The winning of that one Samaritan convert opens to Jesus' prophetic soul the great Gospel harvest of the near future, and he speaks of it as already at hand. Whether we regard the saying, “ There is yet a four-month, and the harvest comes," as a proverb (Lightfoot, Tholuck, Lücke, De Wette, Stier), equivalent to, There is a space of four months between seedtime and harvest, or understand that the neighbouring grain fields were just sown, or just now green with the young tender grain (Meyer and many), and over them many Samaritans appeared coming to him (ver. 30), the great thought is still the same, and emphasizes the actual joy of Jesus in that hour of ingathering. Sower and reaper were together there and then, but the disciples could scarcely take in the full import of Jesus' glowing words. “The disciples saw no harvest field; they said and they thought assuredly, There must be at least four months yet! But the Lord sets before them a mystery
'In Joannis Evangelium Tractatus xv, 31.
? Most of the oldest and best manuscript authorities omit kaì after ñon, and many of the best critics join ñon with what follows. So Schulz, Tischendorf, Godet, and Westcott and Hort.
and an enigma, and thereby would teach them to lift up aright the eyes of their faith. Behold, I say unto you, I have now been sowing the word, and already behold a sudden harvest upspringing and ready. Should not this be my meat and my joy? O ye, my reapers, rejoice together with me, the sower, and forget ye also to eat!” 1
The words of Jesus in Luke xxii, 36, are an enigma. As he was about to go out to Gethsemane he discerned that the
Enigma of the hour of peril was at hand. He reminded his disciples sword in Luke of the time when he sent them forth without purse,
xxii, 36. wallet, or shoes (Luke ix, 1-6), and drew from them the acknowledgement that they had then lacked nothing. “But now," said he, “he that has a purse, let him take it, and likewise a wallet; and he that has not, let him sell his mantle, and buy a sword.” He would impress them with the feeling that the time of fearful conflict and exposure was now imminent. They must expect to be assailed, and should be prepared for all righteous self-defense. They would see times when a sword would be worth more to them than a man. tle. But our Lord, evidently, did not mean that they should, literally, arm themselves with the weapons of a carnal warfare, and use the sword to propagate his cause (Matt. xxvi, 52; John xviii, 36). He would significantly warn them of the coming bitter conflict and opposition they must meet. The world would be against them, and assail them in many a hostile form, and they should therefore prepare for self-defense and manly encounter. It is not the sword of the Spirit (Eph. vi, 17) of which the Lord here speaks, but the sword as the symbol of that warlike heroism, that bold and fearless confession, and that inflexible purpose to maintain the truth, which would soon be a duty and a necessity on the part of the disciples in order to defend their faith. But the disciples misunderstood these enigmatical words, and spoke of two swords which they had with them! Jesus paused not to explain, and broke off that conversation “in the tone of one who is conscious that others would not yet understand him, and who, therefore, holds further speech unprofitable.”His laconic answer, it is enough, was “a gentle turning aside of further discussion, with a touch of sorrowful irony. More than your two swords ye need not!”.
A similar enigma appears in John xxi, 18, where Jesus says to Simon Peter: “When thou wast young thou girdedst
Enigmatical thyself, and walkedst whither thou wouldest; but when words to Peter, thou shalt be old another shall gird thee and
John xxi, 18. thee
carry Stier, Words of Jesus, in loco.
2 Van Oosterzee's Commentary on Luke (Lange's Biblework), in loco.
* Meyer, in loco.
whither thou wouldest not.” The writer immediately adds that Jesus thereby signified (onpaivwv)" by what death he should glorify God.” But it is scarcely probable that Peter then fully comprehended the saying. Comp. also John ii, 19. The prophetic picture of the two eagles in Ezek. xvii, 2–10, is a
mixture of enigma (17N) and fable (5). It is fabu The two eagles of Ezek. xvti, lous so far as it represents the eagles as acting with
human intelligence and will, but, aside from this, its imagery belongs rather to the sphere of propl.etic symbols. Altogether, it is an enigma of high prophetic character, a “dark say. ing,” in which the real meaning is concealed behind typical images. In its interpretation we need to take the whole chapter together, and we observe that it has three distinct parts: (1) The enigma (verses 1-10); (2) its interpretation (11-21); (3) a Messianic prophecy based upon the foregoing imagery (22-24). The great eagle represents the king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar.
great wings, with long pinions, full of feathers of many colours” (ver, 3), altogether furnish a striking figure of majesty, rapidity of movement, and splendour of regal power. Most expositors explain the great wings as denoting the wide dominion of this eagle; the long pinions as the extent and energy of his military power; the fulness of feathers to the multitude of subjects; and the many colours to the diversity of their nations, languages, and customs. But the tracing of such special allusions in the natural appendages of the eagle is of doubtful worth, and should not be made prominent. It is better to understand in a more general way the strength, rapidity, and glory of Nebuchadnezzar. Lebanon is mentioned because of its being the natural home of the cedar, but it here represents Jerusalem (ver. 12), which was the home and seat of the royal seed of Judah. The leafy crown and topmost shoots of the cedar are the king and princes of Judah whom Nebuchadnezzar carried away to Babylon (2 Kings xxiv, 14, 15). Babylon is here called, enigmatically, “a land of Canaan,” because its commerce and its diplomacy had made it “ a city of merchants.” Its self-seeking spirit of policy and trade made it a land of Canaan (Eng. Ver., “traffic”).
And now the figure changes. The eagle “took of the seed of the land," of the same land where the cedar grew, “and put it in a field of seed” (ver. 5) where it had every chance to grow. Nay, he took it upon many waters as one would plant a willow; that is, with the care and foresight that one would exercise in setting a willow in a well-watered soil in which alone it can flourish. But this “seed of the land” was not the seed of a willow, but of a vine, and it “sprouted and became a spreading vine of low stature;