16 NOVEMBER 1907, Page 41


[Under this heading we notice such Books of the week as hare not been reserved for review in other formal Deep Questions. By the Rev. C. T. Ovenden, D.D. (S.P.C.K. 3s. 6d.)—Dr. Ovenden discusses various problems of interpreta- tion, of morals as connected with religion, and of the divine government of the world. In many respects his little book will be found helpful. He brings an acute intelligence to bear upon the questions which he takes in hand; be is candid and reasonable in his treatment of difficulties. Sometimes, however, in his apologetic he seems to miss the point. There is, for instance, the story of the Gibeonites and the vengeance which David exacted on their behalf from the family of SauL It is impossible to read 2 Samuel xxi. without seeing that the writer believed that the three years' famine was a visitation due to Saul's breach of the ancient covenant between Israel and the Gibeonites, that the injured clan was asked to name the penalty, that they demanded the lives of seven of the family of Saul, that the seven men were handed over to them and put to death, and that the famine ceased in due time. Abiathar, says Dr. Ovenden, may have been mistaken when he gave the oracular answer to David. The writer says : " The Lord answered." We want no persuading that the Lord answered nothing of the kind. But that Abiathar thought that he was speaking truth, that every one at the time agreed with him, and that the historian, writing probably two or three centuries later, accepted the same belief, can hardly be denied. The point is this,—not what did God command, but what did the age think He commanded. Dr. Ovenden thinks that the Gibeonites were exceptionally savage and brutal. The historian gives no hint of the kind, though he sees the pathos of Rizpah's behaviour. Dr. Ovenden also says : " as they were pagans." But were they pagans ? Is it likely, seeing that they had then been for more than four centuries "hewers of wood and drawers of water for the house of God" (Joshua ix. 23), and that their city had been for nearly as long a possession of the sons of Aaron (ibid. xxi. 17) ?