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Unlike most of the Old Testament books, the Wisdom books are not like the rest of the book, they do not relate to Israel’s history. These books have many sayings, songs, and poems that show us how to understand a deal with everyday life and problems through faith. The books go from the suffering of Job to the Proverbs of wisdom, to the vanity of all things and the intimate love of God. The books Spiritually nourish us and give us, the people of God, instructions on how to live according to the word of God. These books can teach us to learn how to know, love and fear the Lord. They deal with the concerns of mankind, such as suffering, sickness, and death. For the most part, they are speaking about a man to the Lord, and they do all these things in a way that can be related to. There are five poetic books are Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, and the Song of Songs. Within these five books, we see much commentary on things such as love, daily living, suffering, and the feebleness of pursuits without God being in the forefront. Most of the poems in the book of Psalms are prayers addressed to God, but there are also proclamations of the Lord’s works, descriptions of the suffering situation of man, curses invoked on enemies, praises addressed to the king or city of Jerusalem, and exhortations to lead a happy life. Frequently the themes are intermingled in the same composition. There is always references to divine act in creation, in history and in the life of man. There are two types of wisdom forms. The first type is used for teaching purposes, the book of Proverbs and some of Ecclesiastes mainly reflect this purpose. The second type brings in the book of Job and some of the chapter in the book of Psalms. These books reflect on traditional doctrine and show us worldview. These two types of Wisdom literature have their own way of teaching us something, whether it is how to live life in the path of Christ or to teach us how to live in a family or in society.
The Book of Job
The book of Job tells the story of a man who is overwhelmed by many troubles. During his troubles, he is stripped of his wealth, his family and his health. This was a very confusing time for Job and doesn’t understand why God had allowed all these tribulations to happen. In the end, God gives restore Jobs prosperity and happiness. No one really knows who has written this book, “Upon this simple plot an unknown writer of superlative genius has erected monumental work” (Andersen, Pg. 15), Jewish tradition attributes the book to Moses as well as many other authors have been suggested none who we know for sure have written this great book. “The most persistent question of the relationship of men to God have been given powerful theological treatment in verse whose majesty and emotion are unsurpassed in any literature, ancient or modern.” (Andersen, Pg. 15). Since the author is unknown, it’s date is also debated on (Andersen, Pg. 61). Some think that it was written before Moses (Pre-1500 B.C), others say it was at the time of Solomon (900 B.C.), and some believe that it was written in late in the time of the Babylonian Exile or even later (Post B.C.). The common ideological response that scholars say to the reason for the book is to answer the age-old question, “Why does God allow the righteous to suffer?” This is certainly a question that Job asks during his time of distress, but it is also important to note the fact the Job himself never receives a direct answer. There is also never an answer from the author themselves. Although there is a question that is answered, “Does Job fear God for nothing?” Satan is the one who made this challenge and we now know the Challenges that Satan brings, God only lets Job go through these difficult challenges in answer to the question Satan brings. Job never realizes what is happening. Therefore, the purpose of this book is to the answer the question, “How should the righteous suffer?” there were many times that Job questioned and complained to God and often came close to blaming God for everything but he never did; he never crossed the line of bashing God, instead he humbly submits to God and waits for God to do what he has to do. The major themes of the book of Job are the test of a righteous man and the sovereignty of God; this book shows us that “Human suffering is more than a system of rewards and punishments.” (Andersen, Pg. 67). God is deserving of our praise because of who he is, we should praise him through the blessing and the struggles. This book is very distinct in showing us that we should not question Gods ways, “It is not for us to question the ways of the Almighty!” (Andersen, Pg. 66). The question of suffering is addressed – Why am I suffering? Why doesn’t God do something? What did I do to deserve this? Not all of these questions are answered, sometimes we have to look at the important points that are made: Gods works are more than man can imagine, We must learn to trust in God, no matter how difficult or simple the circumstance is; when we suffer it is not just because we are sinning it is also because God is trying to show us something or trying to make us stronger. Many people, like Job’s friends, draw the conclusion that the reason that we suffer is that of the consequence of sin. Job proves this conclusion wrong.
The Book of Psalms
The word Psalms means “hymn” in Greek and in Hebrew, it means “Praise”, the book of Psalms is a hymnbook of the ancient Israelites. These hymns reflect their faith and worship to God. Most of the poems written in the book of Psalms are the prayer addressed to God, they are a proclamation of the Lord’s work, descriptions of how men have suffered during situations and exhortations to lead a happy life. There are one-hundred and fifty chapters in the book of Psalms and all were collected over a period of many years (McEachern, Pg. 9). The Psalms were used as worship in the temple in Jerusalem. Some of these Psalms are incredibly famous for example Psalms twenty-three. It is possible that the book of Psalms had more than seven composers, King David wrote at least seventy-three of the one-hundred and fifty Psalms; the other possible authors are Moses, Asaph (Wrote 12 Chapter), Solomon, Heman, Ethan, and The Sons of Korah (Levites who served in the Temple; wrote 11 chapter). Since the book of Psalms had many authors the collection of these chapters is widely divided into ranges of dates, according to McEachern most of the Psalms were written between 1000 and 00 B.C. Just like in the Pentateuch, the Psalter is divided into five books, Book one (Psalms 1-41); Book 2 (Psalms 42-72); Book 3 (Psalms 73-89); Book 4 (Psalms 90-106) and Book 5 (Psalms 107-150). Psalms reflect the theology of Israel, just like many of our song today reflect what we believe. There are many themes noted in the book of Psalm; the way that God is portrayed through these chapters is important. “He is the Creator who spoke the world into existence and made humanity.” (McEachern, Pg. 11). Many of these Psalms including Psalms 33, 100:3, and 86:9 show us that God has created us and sustains humans with his power, he also made Israel a nation and made many other nations. Another theme is, “God is Sovereign” (Pg. 11, McEachern) God is not someone that we should compare to any other god or any other idol. God save his people is another theme, salvation is viewed in both material and spiritual in the book of Psalms. Many other themes that are shown in the book of Psalms are, “God Chose Israel and his people and made a covenant with them”, “God reveals himself and his purpose by word and deed”, “God is holy”; “God is also characterized by his faithful love”, and “God is spirit” (McEachern, Pg. 11). According to McEachern, all these themes are portrayed through the book of Psalms through many chapter and verses. The purpose of the psalms it to be able to express thank and praise for the Lord. It is a record of how people called upon God, thanked God, and praised him. The Psalms in today’s day bring comfort encouragement and blessing to the people of today. Christians of today are able to read the Psalms and notice that there were people in their shoes, praying and asking God for help and for response of their prayer, yet we call also see that we must give thanks and praise him for all the good He has done and even if there is no good we should praise him either way. Reading the Psalms, people can learn to pray and approach God in prayer, we are able to strengthen our faith in Jesus Christ; it is a training guide on how to live a holy and righteous life before God.
The book of Proverbs
The book Proverbs is a book that many people investigate, in fact, anything that is labeled a proverb is supposed to be very helpful in life since they are wisdom quotes. The book of Proverbs, specifically in the bible, is a book that many Christians look up to for instructions. From the beginning first chapter of Proverbs, it is a list of instruction from a father to a son, the father being God and us being his children. These words of wisdom help us to learn how to live a life of a Christian and be able to walk in His path correctly. There are many definitions to the meaning of Proverbs but one that is more understandable is written by Paul Koptak. Koptak states that the book of Proverbs is, “a course study (a collection of wisdom teachings and sayings) designed to foster wisdom (the development of discernment and character) using literary-rhetorical resources (juxtaposition and metaphor).” (Koptak, Pg. 23). Even though the book begins with the title ascribing the proverbs to Solomon, if looked further into the chapters it is noted that Solomon was not the only author of the Proverbs. There were a couple of authors which were a circle of wise men, Agur and Lemuel, two men are not mentioned anywhere else. The dating of this book is difficult as well because there are multiple authors it is difficult to figure out an exact date, what is for sure is that it was written during the time of Solomon before he began to rule. It is possible that this book was written around 935 B.C. from Jerusalem. The book is mainly written for those who want to learn wisdom and live a Godly life, “Wisdom is concerned with what one understands but also what one does with that understanding. Wisdom is about developing both discernment and character.” (Koptak, Pg. 24). There are thirty-one chapters in Proverbs, each chapter has a meaning to it. Each chapter helps us learn how to be wise in personal well-being, happy family relationships and good community as well as many other life aspects. Duane A. Garrett writes in The New American Commentary, “In age when seduction, domestic conflict, financial mismanagement, substance abuse, and dishonesty often seem to be behavioral norms, we must allow the spirit to transform us with truths from the biblical wisdom.”. With the book of Proverbs, we can learn biblical wisdom and practice it in our ordinary life, with our ordinary issues. The book has a lot of poetry, there is vivid imagery, parallelism, and many other literary techniques that help the reader understand each concept of the chapter. Each type of literary device helps the reader understand the concept of having wisdom in their daily life, it helps the character of the person and it helps the person grow spiritually as well. The books of Proverbs also have many themes; many of the themes have to do with the wisdom of course and others have to do with how to live life in this world. All these themes help Christians learn how to live a life right with Christ.
The book of Ecclesiastes
Ecclesiastes is a very difficult book to understand, many people have disputed over the fact if this book should even be in the bible. Christians and Jews, for many years, believe that Solomon was the author of the book of Ecclesiastes. This book offers a third view of looking at life, through this book people can observe and reflect on life’s situations and by using their reasoning powers to deduce life’s truths as well. The primary speaker for the book is named Qoheleth which is translated as “teacher” or “preacher” this reflects the purpose of the book. There is not a time of a writes name that is mentioned in the book, but it is possible that King Solomon is the writer of this book; because of the unique style of Hebrew and attitude towards rulers, it is possible to think that another person could be the author of this book. The author of Ecclesiastes used his wisdom and human experience to show human beings how to live life in this world under God. The author specifically writes in the book of Ecclesiastes that without God life is meaningless, that we should remember our creator and then we should fear God and keep his commandments. These three are very important for Christians to abide by. Garret writes in The American Commentary that we should live the way that it is instead of living in false hope. “Ecclesiastes urges its readers to recognize that they are mortal.” (Garret, Pg. 278). There are three conclusions that Christians should think about, first is that “all pretense of pride in oneself must be abandoned.”, Second is that “life should be enjoyed for what is is-a gift of God.” And thirst is that “one must revere God. To refuse to do so is to deny one’s dependency on God.” (Garret, Pg. 278). Ecclesiastes gives a great teaching on how to be wise in this world. Just like all the other books of wisdom Ecclesiastes sends and a good message to its reader. Ecclesiastes provides instructions on how to live life meaningfully, purposefully and joyfully. It shows us this by primary placing God at the center of one’s life, work, and activities, by trusting God and obeying Him.
The Book of Songs of Songs
Just like the book of Ecclesiastes, the book of Songs of Songs is another one of the most difficult books to understand among all of the other books. It is one of the smallest on one of the most popular books for the Jews and the Christians. This book is like an ancient marriage manual, graphically portraying intimate love between a husband and a wife. The Song of Solomon is part of the third section of the Bible, it is part of the five scrolls or five books of wisdom just like the books written about above. The date for the composition of this book is difficult to answer, it is said that “the set date for composition some time about the middle of the tenth century BC.” (The Song of Solomon, Carr, Pg. 17) It is also possible that many of the poems written were written as late as the four or third century BC. The traditional title of the book “The Songs of Solomon” reflects the idea that King Solomon, the son of King David was the author of song of songs. Since Solomon had so many wives, more than seven-hundred wives, it is not surprising that he was able to write so many love poems. The interpretation of this book is difficult, there are four ways that Carr writes about that are ways of dealing with the question of how we should approach interpreting this type of literature. The first is Allegory which means, “to say one thing but mean something else” (Carr, Pg. 21), the second is Typology which similar to Allegory but has a specific difference, “Whereas allegory denies or ignores the historicity of factualness of the Old Testament account and imposes a deeper, hidden or spiritual meaning on the text, typology recognizes the validity of the Old Testament account in its own right but then finds in that account a clear, parallel link with some event or teaching in the New Testament which our Old Testament account foreshadows.” (Carr, Pg. 24). The third is Drama, “As early as about AD 250, Origen declared that the Song was ‘a marriage-song which Solomon write in the form of a drama’.” (Carr, Pg. 32) and fourth is Natural or literal interpretation. This means that it could be a “series of poems which speak clearly and explicitly of the feelings desires, concerns, hopes and fears of two young lovers” (Carr, Pg. 34). Just like the other books the Songs of Songs is written in poetic form because it is in this form it helps the translation of the poetic ideas and structure into various languages. In this book, the most common theme that is expressed in many ways “is the joy and excitement the lovers find in each other’s presence” (Carr, Pg. 38). Something very distinct is that even though the book only contains one hundred and seventy-seven verses it has very uncommon words. There are forty-seven words that are using in the book of Songs that are not used anywhere else in the Old Testament. There are a couple of purposes for the book of Song of Songs these are, the songs as cultic ritual, The song as a vehicle of instruction, and the song of celebration. All of these purposes are very important to think about when reading the book of Song of Songs.
The book of Wisdom of very important books in the bible. These books allow Christians to be able to walk in Gods path correctly, learn to pray, praise, and worship, among many other lessons. It is not just about being knowledgeable it is about knowing what the bible says but also living it, being wise. The wisdom literate sets itself apart from the rest. Many young people see that being educated is one of the keys to success but in order to be successful we must be wise but not just in the world, spiritually and biblically as well. The wisdom books of the Old Testament offer different perspectives on how to live well in God’s word, they reveal so much wisdom of generations of Godly people, these books are so important, especially to young people. Each book has a different teaching, Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs are all different yet show us the meaning of life and what it means to live in the wisdom of God.
- Andersen, Francis I. Job: an Introduction and Commentary. Inter-Varsity Press, 2008.
- Baldwin, Joyce G., and Donald J. Wiseman. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries: Esther: an Introduction and Commentary. Intervarsity Press, 1984.
- “Book of Proverbs – Read, Study Bible Verses Online.” Bible Study Tools, Salem Web Network, www.biblestudytools.com/proverbs/.
- “Book of Psalms.” Book of Job Explained, www.bible-studys.org/Bible Books/Psalms/Book of Psalms.html.
- “Book of Psalms – Read, Study Bible Verses Online.” Bible Study Tools, Salem Web Network, www.biblestudytools.com/psalms/.
- Copeland, Mark A. Christian Classics Ethereal Library, 2009, www.ccel.org/contrib/exec_outlines/job/job_01.htm.
- Exell, Joseph S. The Biblical Illustrator: Ecclesiastes. Baker Book House, 1957.
- Garrett, Duane A. Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs. Broadman Press, 2003.
- “Introduction to the Book of Proverbs.” Doctrine and Covenants 8, www.lds.org/manual/old-testament-seminary-teacher-manual/introduction-to-the-book-of-proverbs?lang=eng.
- “Introduction to the Book of Psalms.” Doctrine and Covenants 8, www.lds.org/manual/old-testament-seminary-teacher-manual/introduction-to-the-book-of-psalms?lang=eng.
- Koptak, Paul E. The NIV Application Commentary (Proverbs). Zondervan, 2003.
- Lawrenz, Mel. “What Should We Take From the Books of Wisdom?” Acts 3:9-10 NIV – – Bible Gateway, Bible Gateway Blog, 12 Feb. 2015, www.biblegateway.com/blog/2015/02/what-should-we-take-from-the-books-of-wisdom/.
- McEachern, Alton H. Psalms. Broadman Press, 1981.
- “Themes in the Book of Proverbs .” Where Did Jesus Feed the 5000, www.messiah-study.net/proverbs-themes.htm.
- Freedman, David Noel, et al. Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible. W.B. Eerdmans, 2000.
- Achtemeier, Paul J, et al. Harper’s Bible Dictionary. 1st ed., Harper & Row, 1985.
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