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Here, from the two first lists, the title of Darius the First will identify Darius Nothus with Darius Hystaspes; in the first and fourth, Darius the Second would identify him with Darius Codomannus; and in the third and fourth, Ochus the First would identify him with the Ochus of the Canon. The only result, then, of such a line of argument must be to produce incalculable confusion. And thus comparing the whole, the gain of the new system, in the first Artaxerxes, is almost imperceptible, and its loss, in the three leading reigns of Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, and Darius the Mede, fatal and ruinous to its very foundations.
A second argument has been drawn from the captivity of Mordecai, to prove that Esther reigned before the seventy years were expired. The words are “ Mordecai, the son of Jair, the son of Shimei, the son of Kish, a Benjamite, who had been carried away from Jerusalem with the captivity which had been carried away with Jeconiah King of Judah, whom Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon had carried away. And he brought up Hadassah, his uncle's daughter." The question arises, was Mordecai or Kish the person carried away captive ? His Grace argues for the former view. “Universal testimony (of Jewish historians) is in support of Mordecai being the captive. The Greek additions to Esther assert it. Munster, Pagnin, Vatablus, Arius Montanus, Tremellius translate in this way. It is senseless to admit a long parenthesis respecting Kish in the midst of the narrative concerning Mordecai.” Many other authorities are specified, who take this view. The promise was given to Jeconiah's captivity that they should return. The name of Mordecai, and not of Kish, does occur in the list with Zerubbabel. “Where in a small community, two or three historians, contemporary nearly with each other, speak each of a person of note of the name of Mordecai, the presumption is very strong in favour of his being the same person. Willet justly observes, you might as well say that Moses is not Moses, as that Mordecai (in Esther) is not Mordecai (in Ezra.)– Having set aside this evasion, the evidence from the text of Esther, the ancient Jewish authorities, and the judgment of unprejudiced individuals, makes it most highly probable, that not Kish but Mordecai went into captivity. The important consequence is, that the history of Esther must have been during the captivity.”
In the face of these authorities, to which others perhaps more numerous might be opposed, we think it clearly provable from the text itself, that Kish, and not Mordecai, was the captive. There are three plain objections to the other view. First, the words, a Benjamite, become quite useless. If Mordecai's descent were traced to the well-known Kish, the father of Saul, it would be plain of itself that he was a Benjamite. The words, if used at all, ought in this case evidently to have preceded the genealogy. Secondly, the genealogy itself becomes unmeaning. For there were two distinguished Benjamites of the name of Kish, one of them the brother of Ner, and the other his son. To close the genealogy in this manner, without any mark to shew the Kish really intended, would be most unnatural. Why not carry it one step further, to Gibeon, or to Ner, and thus make it really distinctive? Thirdly, the genealogy is then useless for a second reason. There would be about fifteen generations from Kish, the father of Saul, to Mordecai, and still only three are mentioned. If these were well-known names, there might be a plausible excuse for the omission; but neither Jair nor Shimei is named elsewhere ; for Shimei the son of Gera, and Sbimei the son of Kish, are plainly different persons, as are also Jair, a Benjamite, and Jair the Gileadite. Thus the genealogy on this view becomes quite useless. It neither decides from which person called Kish, Mordecai was descended, nor how many generations intervened: nor are the intermediate names those of well-known persons, the only reason why two, out of fourteen or fifteen, should be selected.
On the other view, all is consistent and natural. Mordecai was really three generations distant from Kish, and the links are accurately and fully given. The genealogy is traced up to the captivity for å plain reason, to account for Mordecai's actual condition. Since the name Kish had been common to many, he is first distinguished by his tribe, a Benjamite. Since there were two Benjamites of that name, the father and great uncle of Saul, and possibly others, he is further marked by the time when he lived he was one of Jeconiah's captivity. Since Babylon was now fallen, and Persia had the rule, this change of dynasty is brought out clearly by the further explanation-whom Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, carried away. Thus all is clear, fixed, and definite, and every word is found in its right place, and retains its natural meaning. Mordecai is really the son of Jair, and Jair of Shimei, and Shimei of Kish. The last is defined to be a Benjamite, as the position of the words requires. He is also distinguished from the two earlier and more noted Benjamites of that name, by his actual captivity with Jeconiah.
The interval also exactly agrees on the common view. If Kish were twenty years old at his captivity, and Mordecai sixty in the seventh of Ahasuerus, a probable estimate in either case, the difference of their ages, with the three generations, at the usual average, will make 140 years. But from Jeconiah's captivity A.c. 598 to the seventh of Artaxerxes Longimanus, is precisely 140 years by the actual dates. The harmony could not well be more complete.
"The supposition,” his Grace observes, “ that the decree of Artaxerxes was obtained through the influence of Esther is an anachronism, for Ezra started with the decree in the first month of the seventh year. The plot against the Jews was in his twelfth year, and Esther did not make known her kindred till after this time.”
Now in fact this supposed objection, when examined more closely, leads to an argument, almost amounting to demonstration, that the Ahasuerus of Esther, and Artaxerxes Longimanus are the same, as both Josephus and the Septuagint version suppose. At the first glance, all connexion seems impossible between Ezra's decree and Esther's promotion ; for the decree was on the first month of the seventh year; while Esther was received into favour only in the tenth month of the seventh year of Ahasuerus, and did not reveal her kindred till the twelfth year. But let us examine the dates more closely, with the word of God for its own key. In Neh. i. we read that Nehemiah, in the month Chisleu, or ninth month, of the twentieth year of Artaxerxes, received the news of the desolate state of that city," and mourned certain days and fasted, and prayed before the God of heaven.” After this, we are told in the next chapter, “ in the month Nisan, in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes the king," he made his request and obtained permission to go unto Judah. Hence it is plain that the month Nisan in the twentieth year of Artaxerxes was later than the ninth, and therefore later than the tenth month of the same year of the king; or his accession was between the first and ninth Jewish month. What was true in the twentieth year of the king, would be true in the seventh also. Hence, if Ahasuerus be Artaxerxes, Esther, who was received into favour, and taken into the royal house, in Thebeth, the tenth month of the seventh year, was thus exalted exactly two months before the commission of Ezra, in the first month of that same, or seventh year. What undesigned coincidence can be more complete ? The monarch, in that first gush of affection and joy, “made a release to the provinces, and gave gifts according to the state of the king.” Though Esther still concealed her kindred, she would not fail to use all her influence in favour of Ezra's request ; and the terms of the decree answer precisely to
the words of the description. It was a release to that province, which must have been dear, above all others, to the heart of the queen. It is another coincidence, that when Nehemiah succeeds in his prayer to the king, it is remarked that the queen was sitting by. No other queen of Persia, but Vashti and Esther, is named or alluded to in Scripture ; and when we combine this passage with those just compared, the conclusion is little short of direct and absolute demonstration. And indeed every part of the book of Esther should be enough to shew that the rule of Babylon, and hence the seventy years Babylonish captivity, had now passed away. Not one reader in a thousand, reading Scripture alone, would ever dream of adopting any other view.
A third argument is drawn from the sealing under Zerubbabel and Nehemiah. The names of the chiefs in most of the twentyfour priestly courses are given us in each case, Neh. xii. 1-7, x. 148. On the usual chronology the interval is just ninety years. But, out of twenty-two names, fourteen are the same. Hence it is reasoned that they must be the same persons in each instance; and that the interval was much shorter, or according to his Grace's hypothesis, only about fifty years.
Here we have certainly an objection which appears very formidable, and his Grace has developed it with skill and ingenuity. Yet, on a closer and more exact research, it will change sides, and become a proof of the chronology it is supposed to overthrow. We feel it of double importance to make this plain, since the difticulty is internal to Scripture itself, and therefore is apt to make the deeper impression.
And first, the argument proves too much. It rests entirely on the supposition that the names in the two lists must be those of the same persons. This is doubtless the notion we should be disposed to adopt at first sight; but let us trace its consequenee, even on the amended system. From the first of Cyrus to the fourth of Darius, when the temple was built, is eighteen years, deduced from Scripture alone. The hypothesis requires this to be Darius Nothus, who is known to have reigned nineteen years. The sealing of Nehemiah was not earlier than the 20th of Artax. erxes. The whole interval will thus be 18+15+20, or 53 years. The table in “ The Times of Daniel” would extend it to 59 years. Now the priests, who signed under Zerubbabel were clearly heads or chiefs of their several families, and we may therefore safely assume them to be each at least forty years old. Now if we 102 quire, on any reasonable hypothesis, the likelihood that, out of twenty-two persons, not less than forty years of age, fourteen shan be found alive after fifty-three years, the chance will be some m
lions of millions to one against such an occurrence. So that the difference between the rejected and favoured system amounts simply to the following. On one hypothesis it is quite impossible that the same names in the two lists denote the same persons ; and on the other, it is so nearly impossible, that the probability against it is millions of millions to one. For every practical purpose of reasoning or argument, the difference is insensible, and the inference, that the persons are not the same, would be certain on this ground alone.
Next, we have a third list of the chiefs of the courses, in the time of David, 500 years before Zerubbabel. 1 Chron. xxiv. 7– 18. Yet, at this interval of five centuries, and of six centuries from Nehemiah, nine names are found the same in the first and second lists, and seven in the first and third. Here sameness of persons is entirely out of the question. But if nine names out of twenty-two were the same after 400 years, why should not fourteen be the same at the interval of a century ? This one fact is enough to disprove every argument by which the same names are made to prove identity of person.
But the disproof of this fancied sameness is still more complete. Those who sealed with Zerubbabel were heads of the courses when Joshua was high priest, and Eliasbib was high priest on the sealing of Nehemiah. The high priesthood of Joiakim, the son of Joshua, intervened. Now the list of the heads of the courses, during his priesthood, is actually given (Neh. x.) and contains only two or three names which occur in either the previous or the following list. The conclusion is self-evident, that the persons in the two covenants were not the same. And thus we have really an argument for the longer chronology. No instance occurs in Scripture where a son has the name of his own father, but several where the grandson is named from the grandfather. This was even of proverbial frequency among the Greeks, as in the line of the comic poet, “ Hipponicus, son of Callias, and again Callias of Hipponicus.” Thus the sameness of so many names becomes a strong argument that at least two generations had intervened from Cyrus and Nehemiah.
One further remark seems here needed, since the noble author insists strongly on other coincidents of name, and argues that the same Mordecai and Nehemiah must plainly be meant, in Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther. “ Such extraordinary coincidence," he observes, “ is not to be set aside lightly. If the names were so common they would cease to distinguish, they would be no longer designations. Nor is it in accordance with other examples in Scripture. How rarely do we find in different pedigrees the more proper names repeated.”