The Books of Poetry and Wisdom

Wednesday, October 28th 2020

Having considered the five Books of the Law, then the twelve Books of History, this week we continue our tour of the Old Testament with a brief consideration of the five Books of Poetry and Wisdom. The five are: Job (pronounced “Jobe”), Proverbs, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and finally, the Song of Solomon.

If things up to this point had been chronological, this third division of the Hebrew Scripture breaks that pattern. Starting with the Book of Job, many scholars believe the Book to have been composed around 2,000 BC. If this is so, it would make it the oldest Book in the Bible. The Book wrestles with one of the most perplexing issues of all time. It is the question of evil, and especially why some suffer more than others.

Before continuing with the second book in this segment of Poetry and Wisdom, a word is in order concerning Hebrew Poetry. Unlike the poetry we are used to in English, Hebrew poetry seldom involves rhyme! Instead it involves something called “parallelism”. That is, it involves repeated and complementary thoughts that unfold different aspects of a subject.

The Book of Psalms is a collection of songs and prayers written by many different people over many centuries, but perhaps as many as 74 of the 150 psalms were attributed to King David. This Book is often referred to as “the Psalter”. It is the hymnbook used by Jesus and His disciples.

The Book of Proverbs contains a collection of wise sayings, often in short two-line sentences. They instruct God’s people in how to live productive lives. Much of the collection was compiled by King Solomon.

The Book of Ecclesiastes can seem cynical in outlook. With its oft repeated phrase, “under the sun”, we are reminded that if we live as though this life were all there is, then nothing makes sense.

Finally, Song of Solomon contains love poems between a groom and his bride. And accordingly we do well to remember that the Church is the bride of Christ!

Since You Asked…

What is the significance of All Saints’ Day?

The significance is expressed in the hymn The Church’s One Foundation, the fifth stanza: “And mystic sweet communion / With those whose rest is won.” We certainly mourn in death the physical separation with our loved ones, but the Church affirms that the dead in Christ are very much alive and are present with our Lord. We further believe in the Resurrection of the dead on the last day, and our joyful reunion with the saints of all the ages in the eternal kingdom of our Lord. Therefore we can speak of our dearly departed as being a part of the Church Triumphant while we remain the Church Militant. On the festival of All Saints we direct our attention to the richness of Christian history, and the manifold workings of God’s grace through the lives of believers who have gone before us. It is also an appropriate time to honor the memory of those members of our congregation who have died.

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