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In presenting to the Public the first Volume of an EVENING SERIES of the Daily BIBLE ILLUSTRATIONS, it is not necessary to remind the reader of the plan of the Work, which has already been fully explained and exemplified.
The successive Volumes of the former Series took much of their character from the nature of the subjects which they embraced; but the prevailing tone of the whole was historical --dealing chiefly with material facts, and with men and nations in their acts, their characters, their sentiments, and their passions.
In like manner will the Volumes of the present Series derive their complexion from the portions of Scripture of which they treat. While, therefore, the main design has been kept closely in view, the present Volume will be found to differ considerably from those that have preceded it, as well as from those that are to follow.
This Volume relates to the Book of Job, the Psalms, the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. These we call THE POETICAL Books; not because they are the only Poetical Books, but because, separately regarded, they are usually so distinguished, while the other Books which also contain poetry, and that of the highest order, come better under the designation of Prophetical Books.
The absence of historical, and (except in Job) of personal details, in this portion of Holy Writ, has dictated the necessity of a peculiar mode of treatment, and has afforded opportunity for the introduction of topics which are of especial interest in regard to these Books; and to which we feel the more satisfaction in inviting the attention of our readers, from the fact, that they are not usually found in books designed for popular use, though they tend greatly to promote an intelligent knowledge of the Sacred Volume. The construction of the several Books has thus been explained, their arguments have been stated, and various particulars concerning their history have been furnished.
The consideration of the Book of Job occupies the largest share of this Volume. In that Book, the main interest and instruction depend on understanding aright the arguments of the disputants. Accordingly, after explaining the nature of the Book, and entering fully into so much of the personal history of the Patriarch as it supplies, we have conducted the reader through the poem, not chapter by chapter, but speech by speech, showing the purport of each, and then illustrating some of its more remarkable passages.
The hundred and fifty Sacred Songs which compose the Book of Psalms, having no historical or logical coherence, were not open to this mode of treatment, nor could any other be devised which should fully bring their contents within the scope of our undertaking. It was, therefore, found best to limit attention to matters of general interest concerning them, and to give such an explanation as circumstances allowed of the Hebrew system of poetry. This seemed necessary in a Volume treating of the Poetical Books, and was especially appropriate to the Psalms, from which the illustrations are derived.
Ecclesiastes and the Song of Songs are among the most aggrieved books of Scripture. We have endeavoured to set their claims in a proper light, and to vindicate them from injurious aspersions. In regard to Ecclesiastes, this has been attempted by stating, first of all (not consecutively, as in Job), the real design and the argument of the sacred writer, and we have then applied ourselves to the consideration of some of the more signal matters which the Book contains.
Upon the whole, although the present Volume comprises a large proportion of material facts and incidents, it has more of a literary cast than any of the others. This will, we trust, appear in the entire Series as an agreeable diversity, and we are without fear that this Volume will be regarded as less interesting than the others, because the writer has in some places made rather more than usual claim upon the reader's attention.
LONDON, December 1851.