BL - 39 Poetical Books

  1. Introduction to Poetical Books
There are five books in the Old Testament (OT) known as poetical books.  In the Hebrew OT, the poetical books are found in the section called Kethubim (means – writings).  In the Septuagint (Greek OT), it is known as  “Hagiographa” (Sacred writing).  The books – Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Solomon – are in the list of poetical books.  Among these, three books (Job, Proverbs and Ecclesiates) are classified as wisdom literature.  The book of Psalms is not classified under wisdom literature, but many Psalms can be characterized as wisdom literature (Ps. 1, 14), Song of Solomon (Song of Songs) shares some common features with wisdom literature.
  1. Characteristics of Wisdom Literature
  1. Wisdom Literature has a practical orientation. This literature is generally addressed to the youths of Israel.
  2. Wisdom literature emphasizes that one must have a complete dependence on God.
  • Wisdom literature has an emphasis on Creation Theology.
  1. All Wisdom literature is inspired.
Note : Students must read each book in the Bible before reading the notes.
Authorship and Date :  Neither the book of Job nor the other 65 books of the canon specify who the author was – so the speculation on this is completely circumstantial.  The fact that the author uses the divine name 23 times suggests that he was a Jew.
                   Some say that Job himself wrote this book.  But it has no support in the Bible and Not many Jewish scholars accept this view.  There are many views concerning the authorship.  But many scholars favour that Moses was the author for the following two reasons:
  1. Job follows the Pentateuch in Syriac version of Old Testament.
  2. From Qumran, only Job and the Pentateuch are found in a Palaeo – Hebrew Script.
                   However, it is very difficult for us to ascertain the author of the Book of Job.  Since we could not ascertain the author it is very difficult to know the date of writing of the book of Job.
Title :  The title of this book is mentioned as Job in Masoretic Hebrew Text and Septuagint.  However, the Latin Vulgate mentions it as “Liber Job” meaning “The Book of Job”.
Historical Setting and Date of Events of Job
                   We do not know exactly when the events mentioned in the book of Job actually happened.  Neverthless, it must have been occured in the first half of the second millennium B.C. for the following reasons.  
  • Names in this book fit in with the first half of the second Millinnium B.C. A scholar (W.F.Albright) has done much work to show that names such as Zophar, Bildad, and Eliphas are in this period.
  • Job resembles other Ancient Near East (ANE) Literature from this same period.
  • Sabeans and Chaldeans were marauding bands in prologue. This appears to be a time before they became a sedentary population.
  • Job reflects patriarchal practices. For example, Job as the head of the house offered sacrifices; Job’s wealth reckoned in livestock (1:3; 42 : 12) like Abraham (Gen. 12 : 16; 13 : 2) and Jacob (Gen. 30 : 43 ; 32 : 5).
                   So we come to a conclusion that the events recorded in the book of Job were actually happened in Patriarcal period.
Note :  There a name “Job” (Jashub – Hebrew) is mentioned in Gen. 46 : 13.  The character “Job” in the book of Job is a different person from Gen.46 : 13.  There were two different Jobs, because the Hebrew Spelling of these names is different in both.
Summary of Events of Job
                   Job was a rich and righteous man.  He used to offer sacrifices for sin even for his children.  However, satan had an eye on him.  Since satan accused Job, even though being without moral sin,  God permitted satan to afflict.  Hence, satan severely afflicted Job in all possible ways.  Even Job’s wife mocked him.  By hearing the sufferings of Job, his friends came to comfort him.  But instead of comforting him, they indirectly charged him.  He presented his cause before them, but did not lose his faith in God.  As a result of his righteous suffering, God blessed him doubly.
Summary of Speeches
  1. Speeches of Job’s Friends
  1. Eliphaz’s Speeches (Ch. 4, 5, 15, 22)
                 Eliphaz began his address with this proposition. “Remember, I pray thee, who ever perished, being innocent?  Or when were the righteous cut off?  (4 : 7).  He thought that Job was suffering because of his unconfessed sin.  Eliphaz based his philosophy on personal observation and experience.  He said that the righteous would not suffer.  He thought that although Job was innocent, there could be some sin in him.  He believed that all those who suffer have sinned because sin brings suffering (4 : 7, 9).  So Eliphaz counsels Job to seek God and get his heart right (5 : 8-16).
  1. Bildad’s Speeches (Ch. 8, 18, 25 : 1-6)
                 Bildad had more severe belief, that Job was certainly sinful and deserved suffering but not so sinful that God had to immediately take his life as He had to do with his children (8 : 2-4).  He believed that Job’s entire family  was sinful.  Bildad based his philosophy of suffering on Tradition, while Eliphaz based his philosophy on Experience.  He thought that If Job would quit sinning, God would restore his joy and prosperity.
iii)   Zophar Speeches (Cha. 11, 20)
                 Zaphar is convinced that Job is a great hypocrite and sinner.  Hence, he said to Job, “Your puishment is less than you Deserve (11:6).  He thought that if the truth had been revealed, Job was a greater sinner than any of his friends could have imagined.  Zaphar was dogmatic that Job deserves serve punishment.
  1. iv) Elihu Speeches
                 He was angry with Job’s three friends because they could not convince Job of his sins.  He said that God is just.  While Elihu is willing to concede that God afflicts men to strengthen them, he still call it chastening.  Therefore he concludes that  Job should reverence God  instead of accusing Him (32 : 1- 33 : 33). 
  1. Job’s Speeches (Ch. 6-7; 9-10; 12-14; 16-17; 19, 21 and so on)
                   In his first speech in chapter 3, Job’s complaint provides the occasioning incident for the friends to speak.  Job reacts to his situation by wishing that he had never been born.  Since this wish is impossible, he pleads with God to kill him in his second speech (6:8).  In Job’s third speech, he moves beyond his death wish and desires a declaration of innocence (9:2-3).  Job’s desire for a court hearing with God grows stronger in his fourth speech for he requests a legal hearing with God before he dies (13 : 3, 16-19; 14 : 13-17).
                   In his fifth and sixth speeches he again wishes that an impartial mediator would serve as his defense attorney before God (16 : 18-22; 19 : 25-27).  Job is convinced of his innocence and is confident that God will vindicate him, even if it is not in the present earthly sphere.  In his seventh speech, he ponders God’s system of justice in the light of God permitting the wicked to live happy and long lives (21 : 7-26) and permitting them to even be buried with honour (21 : 27-34).  Job is confused about God’s moral order.
                   In his eight speech, Job observes some enigmas in God’s moral order (24 : 2-21).  Yet Job is convinced God will rectify these enigmas (24 : 22-25) Job’s quest for the vindication of his integrity moves him in his ninth speech to declare that God has denied him of his justice (27 : 2).  However, he subsequently balances this out by affirming that God will judge the wicked (27 : 13-23).
                   In his tenth speech, Job presents a poem on wisdom.  In this poem he states that man does not have sufficient wisdom to solve some of the problems of the world; only God has this type of wisdom (28 : 20-28).  After reviewing his earlier state of blessing (29 : 1-25), he then redicules those who have attacked him (30 : 1-15) and said that God has attacked him  and refuses to respond to his requests (30 : 16-26).
III.    The Yahweh Speeches
                   The Lord spoke about His wisdom, Sovereignity, and moral goodness.  God spoke about the universe to show Job that finite man can not perceive God’s methods (Is. 55 : 8, 9) of administration and providential dealings (Rom. 8 : 28).  God challenged Job “Are you wiser than I?” (38 : 4 – 40 :2).
  1. Final Response of Job to God
                   By hearing God’s moral order, and mightiness, Job humbled himself before God (40 : 3-5).  He repented for arguing with God (42 : 1-6).  Job’s new faith had been stimulated not by a physical beholding, but by an intuitive observation of Jehovah.
                   As a result of Job’s humble attitude, God doubly blessed him.  
Theological Issue in the Book of Job
                   Why there is evil existing in the world?!
                   Why did Job suffer?
                   These are the two questions that are still unanswered.  Let us first discuss why there is evil in the world?   
  • In general, God in His administration uses smaller evil as a restricting force to restrain greater evil.
  • In particular, with believers, God uses evil for the following purposes.
  1. evil / suffering motivates the believer to seek God for help.
  2. Suffering strengthens the believer (Rom. 8 : 28).
  • Suffering is used by God to comfort other / new believers.
  1. Suffering ultimately brings rewards in eternal life.
  2. Suffering is a teaching method of God to trust Him.
                   In all these ways, evil helps the believers in Christ to learn God’s way of administration.
                   The second theological issue in the book of Job is “Why did Job suffer?”
                   Although it is not explicitly revealed, it could be for the scriptural principle taught in Rom. 8 : 28.  “All things work together for good to them that love God”.  Based on this principle, Job was doubly blessed at the end.
                   In Hebrew Masoretic Text, it is written “Thillim” meaning “Praises”.  Latin Vulgate mensions “Liber Psalmorum” meaning “The book of Psalms”.
Authorship and Date
                   The book of Psalms is different from other Old Testament books.   In that it is an anthology of 150 individual poems written by different authors over a span of approximately 1000 years.  The composer of each Psalm is written as the superscriptions that stand at the head of 116 Psalms.  The 34 Psalms without the superscriptions are commonly referred to as “Orphan Psalms”.  Some other writers were for example Solomon (Ps. 72, 127), Heman, the Ezrahite (Ps. 88), Ethan the Ezrahite (Ps. 89) and Asaph (Ps. 50; 73 – 83).  It was possible that Jeremiah, Habakkuk, Hagggai and Zechariah were writers of some Psalms.
                   From the superscriptions, we can infer that Moses wrote Psalm 90 which would have been composed in the fifteenth century BC.  David (Ca 1000 BC) wrote the majority of the first 72 Psalms.  It is also clear that some of the Psalms were written after the Babylonian exile. An example of this is Psalm 137.  This would have been either in the sixth or in the fifth century BC.  Therefore the writing of the individual Psalms occured over a 1000 year period.
The Five Collections of Hebrew Psalms
                   Our English Bible and other vernacular Bibles have total 150 Psalms.  But these Psalms collected in Five divisions in the Hebrew Bible.  The five divisions are known as Five Books.
Book 1        –        Psalms 1 – 41
Book 2        –        Psalms 42 – 72
Book 3        –        Psalms 73 – 89
Book 4        –        Psalms 90 – 106
Book 5        –        Psalms 107 – 150
                   Also significant in this regard is the essential repetition of a few Psalms in each collection.  The repetitions break down in the following manner.
Psalm 14 in Book 1                 =       Psalms 53 in Book 2
Psalm 40 : 13 – 17 in Book 1  =       Psalm 70 in Book 2
Psalm 57 : 7 – 11 in Book 2    =       Psalm 108 : 1-5 in Book 5
Psalm 60 : 5-12 in Book 2       =       Psalm 108 : 6-13 in Book 5
Historical Background of Psalms
                   The superscriptions of Psalms contain information about the historical background of that Psalms.  When this type of information is available from the Psalms, the reader (Preacher) can make the following correlation with the historical books.
Psalm 3 is related with 2 Sam. 15 – 18
Psalms 4 is related with 2 Sam. 15 – 18
Psalms 7 is related with 1 Sam. 23 : 24-29
Psalm 18 is related with 2 Sam. 22
Psalm 24 is related with 2 Sam. 6 : 17; 1 Chro. 16
Psalm 30 is related with 1 Chro. 21 : 1 – 22 : 1
Psalm 34 is related with 1 Sam. 21 : 10 – 22 : 2
Psalms 38 may be related with 2 Sam. 18, 19.
Psalm 40 may be related with 2 Sam 18, 19
Psalm 41 is related with 2 Sam. 15 : 12, 31
Psalm 51 is related with 2 Sam. 11 – 12
Psalm 52 is related with 1 Sam. 22 : 9
Psalm 54 is related with 1 Sam. 23 : 15 – 23
Psalm 55 is related with 2 Sam. 15 – 18
Psalm 56 is related with 1 Sam. 21 : 10 – 15
Psalm 57 is related with1 Sam 22 : 1 – 2 (Adullam) (or) 1 Sam. 24 Engedi
Psalm 59 is related with 1 Sam. 19 : 11
Psalm 60 is related with 2 sam. 8 : 8-13 ; 1 Chro. 18 : 9-12
Psalm 61 is related with 2 Sam. 18 (regrouping David’s army)
Psalm 62 is related with 2 sam. 18
Psalm 63 is related with 2 Sam. 15 : 23
Psalm 132 is related with 2 Sam. 6, 7 ; 1 Chro. 16
Psalm 142 is related with I Sam. 22 : 1-2 or 1 Sam. 24.
Note :  When you interpret or explain the above Psalms, Read the Psalm and its related historical background in the Bible.  This will help you to understand the Psalm more clearly.
The Use of “Selah” in the Psalms
                   The word “Selah” is not found in the superscriptions.  The Old Testament scholars do not see this as a part of the original written text.  They regard Selah as part of the editorial activity on the Psalter.  Unlike the superscriptions that begin a Psalm, Selah is found after a verse within Psalm.  In NASB (New American Standard Bible), NIV (New International Version) and KJV (King James Version), Selah is marked off from the English verse in order to reflect that it is considered part of the editorial activity on a Psalm.
                   Selah is found 71 times in the Psalter and 3 times in Habakkuk 3.  It seems (Selah) to have some sort of musical significance. The exact meaning of this word Selah is uncertain.  However, scholars suggest many views among which two are prominent and possible.  Those views are as following:
  1. Selah has been related to a Hebrew root “Slh” supposedly meaning to ‘bow down” (Erdmans). As such, it could be understood as an exhortation for the audience to bow down at this point in the Psalm in worship to the Lord.
  2. Some of scholars have related Selah to a root “sll’ (Hebrew), meaning to “lift up”. It could be understood as a reference to the audience to raise their voices or for the instruments to increase their volume.
                   Hence, Selah is a musical note only,  it has no scriptural, theological, spiritual value, apart from musical value in Hebrew singing and worshiping.
Messianic Psalms
                   There are some Psalms in the Bible known as Messianic Psalms, because they have some predictions about the Lord Jesus Christ – His birth, His mission and His rule.  These Psalms have the Davidic covenant in 2 Samuel (1 chro. 17) as their foundation.  These Psalms are especially significant for Christians because they provide the background and find their culmination in our Lord Jesus Christ.  The messianic Psalms are 2, 8, 16, 22, 23, 24, 40, 41, 45, 68, 69, 72, 89, 96, 98, 102, 110, 118 and 132.
                   All the verses of these messianic Psalms do not mention about Messiah.  But, a few verses in the messianic Psalms predict something about Messiah.  Let us  see how these Psalms (verses) predict about Messiah.
Psalm 2 (Christ, the Anointed King)
2 : 2
“His anointed” – reference to Christ’s Kingship.
2 : 6
“My King” – has a reference to Christ, as King
2 : 12
“Kiss the King” – Jesus Christ (Messiah) will be the King of Kings.  Others must love and worship him.
Psalm 8 (Christ, the Incarnated One)
8 : 2
“Babes and Sucklings” – Children would praise, if rulers do not praise (Mt. 21 : 15, 16).
8 : 5
“A little lower than the angels” – Probably it speaks of “Christ humanity”.  He became little lower than angels (or God), when he became man in his earthly incarnation.
Psalm 16 (Christ, the Resurrected Saviour)
16 : 10
“Not leave my soul in hell” – It refers to Christ going to the place of departed spirits and declared unto them his victory over death (1 Pet. 3 : 19-20).  “Neither will you suffer your Holy one nor see corruption” – this is a reference to the body of Christ and his resurrection (holy thing – Lk. 1 : 35; Acts 13 : 35-37).
Psalm 22 (Christ Crucifixion)
22 : 1
“My God, My God, Why hast Thou (You) Forsaken me?” – This is Jesus’ cry from the cross (Mt. 27 : 46).  This verse speaks of Jesus’ human nature in which he suffered for sin of humanity.
22 : 2
“I cry in the day times . . .  and in the night season”.  During the time that Jesus was on the cross, three of those hours was spent in darkness (Mt. 27 : 45).
22 : 6
“A reproach of man . . . “  He was reproached by those who passed by His cross, by the Chief Priests and even by the thieves.
22 : 9, 10
These verses speak Jesus’ virgin birth and humanity.
22 : 14-17
Description of Christ’s crucifixion a thousand years before it actually happened.
22 : 21
“Save me from the lion’s mouth” – By Christ’s resurrection, he was saved from satan’s attempt to destroy Christ at His crucifixion.
22 : 27-31
These verses speak of Christ’s millennial reign over all nations (Zech. 14 : 16-21).
Psalm 23 (Christ is our Chief Shephered)
23 : 1
The Lord is my shephered – Jesus is the true shepherd.  (Shepherd – refers to the leaders in Hebrew concept) Yes.  Jesus is the only true leader.
Psalm 24 (Christ is the Sovereign King)
24 : 7-10
“The King of Glory” mentioned five times “Who is the king of glory”.  The answer is Jesus Christ who alone is the King of Glory.  He will rule in the millennial Kingdom.
Psalm 40 (Christ is Our Redeemer)
                   Psalm 40 is a Messianic Psalm because 40 : 6-8 is applied to Jesus Christ in Hebrew 10 : 5—7.
40 : 7
“Lo, I come” – reference to the incarnation  of Christ.
Psalm 41 (The Suffering Christ)
41 : 9
“Mine own familiar friend” – Judas betrayed Jesus as Ahithophel betrayed David.  It is interesting that both Ahithophel and Judas died by hanging themselves (2 Sam. 17 : 23 ; Mt. 27 : 3-5).
Psalm 45 (Christ, the Bridegroom of Royal Wedding)
                   This Psalm depicts a royal wedding in the jewish community.  However, this is applied by some scholars to the union of Jesus Christ with His church after rapture at His secret coming on the clouds (1 Thes. 4 : 13-18).
                   The bride must be pure and holy.  It speaks of believers’s purity and preparedness for His coming.
45 : 6
“Thy throne, O God is for ever” – This passage is clearly addressed to God’s Son, Jesus Christ, according to Heb. 1 : 8.
Psalm 68 (Christ, the everlasting Ruler in Jerusalem))
68 : 16
“This is the mountain (Jerusalem) . . .  the Lord will dwell in it for ever”.  Jesus will rule from Jerusalem, for ever.
68 : 18
“You have ascended . . .  led captivity captive .. .” Although explaining this text is very difficult, Paul quotes this verse in Ephesians 4 : 8.  It refers to Christ’s triumph after the cross.  He distributed gifts to the believers in the church.
Psalm 69 (Christ, the Defender of Holy Temple)
69 : 9
“Zeal for your house has eaten me up” – This is a clear reference to what Christ would do at the temple for dishonoring it (Jn. 2 : 13-17).
69 : 21
They gave me gall . . .  vinegar to drink”.  Gall and “sour wine” (vinegar) were offered to Jesus during the agony of His crucifixion. (Mt. 27 : 34)
69 : 25
This verse predicts a curse on Judas. (Acts 1 : 16-20)
Psalm 72 (Christ, the King)
                   This Psalm is primarily about Solomon.  However, it prophetically tells about Messiah and His Kingdom.
72 : 15
Christ shall be praised for ever.
72 : 17
In Christ, all shall be blessed (Gen. 12 : 3).
Psalm 89 (Christ, the King of David’s Throne)
                   This Psalm reminds the Davidic covenant (v:3).  Based on this covenant, David’s seed (referring to Christ) will rule on his throne for ever.
89 : 45
It refers to Christ’s reproach that he faced at His crucifixion.
Psalm 96 (Christ, the Coming King)
96 : 10
Jesus Christ is the righteous King.  He will judge the people righteously.
96 : 13
Jesus Christ is the king who is going to come to  judge the earth.
Psalm 98 (Christ, the Judge)
                   This Psalm is a Psalm of praise.  Jesus Christ as the Messiah shall be praised for His salvation (v : 2)
Psalm 102 (Christ, who never changes)
102 : 25-27
This is quoted by the writer of Hebrews to show the permanence of Jesus, the Son of God, over the angels (Heb.1 : 10-12)
Psalm 110 (Christ, the Royal High Priest)
110 : 1
The Lord said to my Lord
“The Lord said” refers to Yahovah (Jehovah) = (Jehovh “said”)
“to my Lord” – refers to the Messiah.
                   In general, this Psalm refers to Messiah’s kingship and priesthood.  As Melchizedek was king and priest of Salem, Jesus Christ shall be the king of Jerusalem as well as the Chief Priest of saved people for ever.
Psalm 118 (Christ, the Merciful king
118 : 22,23
These verses are quoted five times in the New Testament as applied to Jesus’ being rejected by the Jewish leadership (1 Pet. 2 : 7).
118 : 25
The shouts of “save now” (Hozanna) were the shout by the crowd at Jerusalem, when he entered triumphent at Jerusalem (Mt. 21 : 9).
Psalm 132 (Christ, the Mighty One)
132 : 11
This verse was quoted by Peter on the day of Pentecost, confirming the resurrection of Jesus and His ascension to the throne of David.
132 : 17
“Anointed” refers to Christ the Messiah.
Summary of Christ in Psalm
Prophetic Portrayal of Messiah
New Testament Fulfilment
2 : 7
The Son of God
Matt. 3 : 17
8 : 2
Praised by children
Matt. 21 : 15, 16
8 : 6
Ruler of all
Heb. 2 : 8
16 : 10
Rises from Death
Matt.28 : 7
22 : 1
Forsaken by God
Matt. 27 : 46
22 : 7, 8
Derided by enemies
Lk. 23 : 35
22 : 16
Hands and feet pierced by nails
Jn. 20 : 27
22 : 18
Lots cast for clothes
Matt. 27 : 35, 36
34 : 20
Bones unbroken
Jn. 19 : 32, 33, 36
35 : 11
Accused by False witnesses
Mk. 14 ; 57
35 : 19
Hated without cause
Jn. 15 : 25
40 : 7,8
Delights in God’s will
Hebrews 10 : 7
41 : 9
Betrayed by a friend
Lk. 22 : 47
45 : 6
The eternal king
Hebrews 1 : 8
68 : 18
Ascending to heaven
Acts 1 : 9-11
69 : 9
Zeal for God’s House
Jn. 2 : 17
69 : 21
Given vinegar and gall
Matt. 27 : 34
109 : 4
Praying for enemies
Lk. 23 : 34
109 : 8
His betrayer replaced
Acts 1 : 20
110 : 1
Ruling over His enemies
Matt. 22 : 44
110 : 4
An Everlasting priest
Heb. 5 : 6
118 : 22
The Chief stone of God’s Building
Matt.21 : 42
118 : 26
Coming in the Name of the Lord
Matt. 21 : 9
Psalm 119 and its significance
                   This Psalm is divided into 22 stanzas with eight couplets in each stanza.  The couplets of each stanza begins with the particular Hebrew alphabet given as the title of that stanza.  Hence, all the couplets under stanza “aleph” begin with Hebrew alphabet “aleph”.  The couplets in the second stanza begin with the second letter, “beth”, and so on to the end of Psalm.
                   This Psalm exalts the importance of God’s word and meditating and practicing God’s word in daily life.  There are many terms such as Law, Commandments, Testimonies, Statutes, Precepts, Judgements, Word, Ordinances, way, which represent God’s word (The Bible).  These terms are used almost in all verses excluding 119 : 121, 122.
The Psalms of Degrees (120 – 134)
                   These psalms are known as Psalms of Degrees or The songs of Ascents.  These psalms are probably those sung by Jewish Pilgrims ascending the hill of Jerusalem for the yearly feasts (122 : 4).
Notable Psalms
Psalm 105 : This Psalm gives the summary of the History of Israel in Egypt.  It praises God for saving Israel through out History.
Psalm 136 : It is a Psalm of Thanksgiving.  The Psalmist thank God for His enduring Mercy.  The thanksgiving phrase “For His Mercy endures for ever” is in all verses, emphasizing God’s mercy.  (We can read this Psalm, whenever we want to thank God for His mercy toward us).
Psalm 139 : This Psalm expresses the three major attributes of God.  Verses (1-6) tell about God’s Omniscience, Verses (7-12) Omnipresence, Verses (13-18) Omnipotence.
Interpretation of Psalms:  When we interpret any Psalm, we must be careful in applying the rules of interpretation.  Special rules of interpreting Psalms must be applied.  If we know the historical context, it would be easy for us to understand the message of Psalm.  When we don’t know the historical context of a Psalm, we must read the words carefully and must observe, how the word is used whether a particular word is used with normal meaning or it is used figuratively.  If the word is used figuratively, the purpose of figurative speech must be studied and applied while interpreting that figurative words.
Ex : The hills melted like wax at the presence of the Lord – Ps. 97 : 5a.
“In this verse” hills melted like wax” – is a special expression (figurative speech) in order to magnify the power and presence of God.
                   In Hebrew it is said “Misle Slomo” (The Proverbs of Solomon) in Greek (LXX) it is “Pariomiai Salomontos” (Proverbs of Solomon) in Latin Vulgate it is “Liber Proverbiorum (The Book of Proverbs).
                   According to jewish tradition, proverbs were written by King Hezekiah and his company.  But the Church fathers of early church saw Solomon as the author of the entire book of Proverbs.  Some scholars take a middle view between the Jewish and Church fathers view.  According to this middle view, all the proverbs were either written or collected by Solomon.  But Hezekiah and his company must have compiled them into one book.
Who was Lemuel?
                   Proverb 31 is ascribed to Lamuel.  There was no king in this name in Israel or in Judah.  But some believe king Lamuel was the pet name for Solomon.  However, we have no record to substantiate this view, that Lamuel was Solomon.
The Collection List of Proverbs (Collection of Collections)
Proberbs of Solomon
1 : 1 – 9 : 18
Proverbs of Solomon
10 : 1 – 22 : 16
Words of the wise
22 : 17 – 24 : 22
Words of the wise
24 : 23 – 34
Proverbs of Solomon transcribed by Hezekiah’s Scribs
25 : 1 – 29 : 27
Words of Agur
30 : 1 – 33
Words of Lamuel
31 : 1 – 31
                   The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. (9 : 10).
Teaching System in Proverbs
                   Proverbs was written with the purpose of instructing the youth about the importance of wisdom to lead the daily life.  It helps the youth to gain skills necessary for Leadership.  The book of Proverbs contrasts many life principles.  The key contrasting concepts are given below (Taken from S.F. Bible).
          God                      versus                   Man
          Wisdom                versus          Folly
          Righteousness       versus          Wickedness
          Good                    versus                   Evil
          Life                       versus                   Death
          Prosperity             versus                   Poverty
          Honor                            versus                   Dishonor
          Permanence          versus                   Transience
          Truth                    versus                    Falsehood
          Industry                versus                   Indolence
          Friend                   versus                   Foe
          Prudence               versus                   Rashness
          Fidelity                 versus                   Adultery
          Peace                    versus                   Violence
          Goodwill              versus                   Anger
                   As one reads proverbs, he will be enlightened on these life principles.  He will also be able to understand what is right and what is wrong.
Use of proverbs in Jewish Society
                   The book of Proverbs was used for two main purposes among the Jews.  First in the court school, the young courtiers were also taught to read and write and gain other skills necessary for leadership.  Second, it was used in the Jewish home.  The father was responsible for teaching his children (Deut. 6 : 4 ff).  Both father (1 : 8,10,15 ; 2 : 1 ; 3 : 1, 21 ; 4 : 1, 10) as well as mother taught their children (1 : 8 ; 4 : 3 ; 6 : 20 ; 31 : 1, 26, 28).
Problem of Proverbs – 26 : 4, 5
                   The “Talmud” indicates that some Jewish scholars had some questions about the supposed contradiction between Proverbs 26 : 4 “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you will be like him yourself” and 26 : 5 “Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes”.
                   These two verses do not have any contradiction, but they complement each other.  Both principle must be used very wisely where it is necessary.  “Sometimes, it is best not to stoop to a fools level; however, there are times when it is mandatory to rebuke his foolishness” (Notes on Proverbs; DBTS).
Characteristics of Proverbs
  1. A Proverb is concise and memorable.
  2. A Proverb is simple yet profound.
  3. A proverb is specific yet general.
  4. A proverb is consistently cast into poetic form.
  5. A Biblical proverb is an observation about life as filtered through Biblical revelation.
Interpreting Proverbs (Taken From DBTS)
  1. The characteristics of proverbial literature influence our interpretation of individual proverbs.
  2. Since proverb is a collection of seven collections of proverbs, an individual proverb should be interpreted in light of its immediate collection.
  3. We should also consider the literary form in which a proverb is found.
  4. The various proverbs should also be interpreted in light of theme and purpose of the book of Proverbs.
  5. Literary clues in an individual passage are also helpful in interpretation.
  6. The rest of scripture should always balance problematic passages in proverbs.
Life Application of Proverbs
                   Every Christian must read the book of Proverbs, daily and systematically, so that he may acquire the skill of leading his life and profession successfully as well as spiritually.
Thological Problem of Proverbs – 8 : 30, 31
                   These two verses are mostly and frequently misunderstood by many readers of the Bible.  There are two views.
View One : It refers to wisdom.  Many scholars believe this view.
View Two : A few think that the personal pronoun “I” refers to Jesus Christ.
                   Which one of the above two views is correct?  If we carefully examine chapter 8 of the book of proverbs, along with proverbs 4 : 7, 8 and proverb 9 : 1-5, we can understand that the writer of these Proverbs uses wisdom as a personified one.  He writes wisdom as if it were a person.  He attributes  a few qualities of person to wisdom.  Hence he writes as “wisdom speaks”.  However, In these passages, not only the personal pronoun “I” refers to wisdom but also, pronoun “She” is also referring to wisdom (4 : 7,8 ; 8 : 2, 3 ; 9 : 1,2,3).  Read the following
          8 : 1            =       Does not wisdom  Cry . . . . lift up her voice?
          8 : 2            =       She takes
          8 : 3            =       She cries
          8 : 4            =       . . .  I call
          8 : 12          =       I, wisdom dwell
          8 : 17          =       I love
          8 : 22          =       The Lord possessed me (wisdom) . . .
          8 : 23          =       I (wisdom) have been established . . .
          8 : 30          =       I (wisdom) was beside him
          9 : 1            =       Wisdom has built her house
          9 : 2            =       She (wisdom) has also furnished her table
                   Now we understand, that Solomon the writer of this passage, refers wisdom as person.  So he uses the personal pronoun, I, She, her etc. for referring wisdom.
                   If the personal pronoun “I” refers to Jesus, it cannot be used with feminine pronoun “she, or her”.  Pronoun “He” must be used for Jesus.  Since feminine pronouns (She, her) are used, it is very clear that chapter 8, especially verses 30, 31 refers to “wisdom” by pronoun “I”.  In English language, wisdom is often used by feminine pronoun.
                   In vernacular, wisdom is substituted with pronoun “It” in neuter gender.  Wisdom is never referred with masculine gender.
                   Having read the scriptures in Proverbs 4 : 7,8 ; 8 : 1-36 ; 9 : 1-5 ; we can safely conclude, wisdom is spoken by using pronoun “I”.  Hence pronoun “I” does not refer to Jesus Christ.  So view  one is preferred.
                   The Hebrew title is Qohelet (Meaning one who calls an assembly together.  This has been translated in Greek Septuagint  “Ekklesiastes” (One who gathers an assembly).  From this Greek title we get the English title “Ecclesiastes”.  The Latin vulgate uses the title ‘Liber Ecclesiastes”  (The Book of Ecclesiastes).  In simple meaning Qohelet means “Preacher”.
                   Traditionally it is accepted that Solomon was the author of Ecclesiastes.  But, some scholars (Franz Delitzsch – a conservative scholar) suggest, this book must have been written during Postexilic Period (350 – 250 BC).  They suggest this view based on Linguistic reason, that this book has some Aramaism (Aramic words).  This view of Aramaism,  is answered by some scholars by saying that the so called Aramaisms are really Phoenician loan words.  Hence we believe this book was written by Solomon about 930 BC.  We give the following supporting reasons for Solomon’s authorship.
  1. In 1 : 1, the verse states that Qohelet (Preacher) was the son of David who ruled in Jerusalem.
  2. Solomon appears to fit most closely the description of being the wisest man who had taught in Jerusalem (1 : 16 ; 1 King 4 : 29, 30).
  • The term “Fear of the Lord” in 3 : 14 ; 5 : 7, 7 : 18; 8 : 12-13 ; 12 : 13 is parallel with the concept in the book of proverbs (Pro. 1 : 7).
  1. Jewish tradition strongly supports Solomon’s authorship.
  2. Christian tradition strongly supported for Solomon’s authorship until Luther.
                   For these reasons we conclude that Solomon was the author of Ecclesiastes.
Historical Purpose
                   Solomon was  a wise king.  He searched all things including the universe.  He had achieved a lot.  For example,
  • Extensive Building Programmes (2 : 4-6)
  • Tremendous number of servants (2 : 7)
  • Unequalled wealth (2 : 8)
                   After having achieved all these achievement, he did not find real satisfaction in life.  Hence he searched for meaning and purpose in life.  As a result of his search, he found everything and every  achievement is meaningless.  He also found that true meaning and purpose in life is “Belief in God”.  He brings this conclusion in 11 : 9, 10 and 12 : 1-14, especially in 12 : 13,14.  Yes.  True purpose of life will be achieved by “Fearing God and keeping God’s commandments” (12 : 13, 14).
The Word “Vanity”
                   Vanity is a translation of the Hebrew word “hebel”.  Hebel literally means “breath” or “vapor” or “breathing air”.  It denotes the uncertainity of life and of earthly things.  Hence “hebel” is used with a meaning puzzle or enigma.  “Life is puzzle”.  In king James Version, hebel is translated “vanity” with an idea “meaningless”.  However, the life is not meaningless but it is full of puzzles.
                   The metaphorical rendering of hebel can be traced back to Septuagint translation of Ecclesiastes where hebel was rendered as “emptiness” “futility “ or “purposelessness”.
                   Though it would appear that no English term provides an equivalent to “hebel” the closest of the options  is probably “incomprehensible” or a synonym such as “enigma” or “mystery”.  However, a limitation of “incomprehensible” is that it does not necessarily account for the motive connotations of “hebel”.  This is expressed in 2 : 17, where Qohelet (Preacher) states that he hates life because his work had been grievous.  We would grant that this is hard to comprehend, but it is more than that.  Life with its difficulties and vicissitudes as a result of the fall is a puzzle that finite man can not figure out and it frustrates Qohelet in his search for meaning and purpose.  In his attempt to master life, Qohelet (Preacher) eventually realizes with defeated expectations that he cannot understand God’s scheme of things.
                   Qohelet (Preacher) generally says the life is vanity and it has no value.  So, Qohelet’s general idea is that life has no value.  This general idea arises further questions.
                   If life has no value, how can we harmonize this with Qohelet’s positive exhortation about life?  At climatic points in this work (Ecclesiastes), Qohelet gives us advice to enjoy God’s gifts (2 : 24; 3 : 12,22 ; 5 : 17, 18 ; 8 : 15 ; 9 : 7-10).  These gifts include food, drink, work, wealth, possessions, marital relationship and youth.  Though wisdom is not the panacea for all of life’s adversities, Qohelet (Preacher) commended it as a solution to many of life’s problems (2 : 13, 4 : 13 ; 7 : 11-12, 19 ; 9 : 13-18).  These positive exhortations certainly suggest that life has some value.  Yes.  Life has value when it is led by God and His principles.
                   Our life has its true value when we do God’s will which is revealed in His written word, the Bible.
Outline of Ecclesiastes (Poem)
  1. Contrast between finite man and cyclical cosmos. 1 : 1-11
  2. Finite man’s lack of ultimate gain. 1 : 12 – 6 : 9
  3. Lack of gain of human achievement. 1 : 12 – 2 : 26
  4. Lack of gain in Events with appropriate time. 3 : 1-22
  5. Lack of gain in Difficult times of Life. 4 : 1-16
  6. Lack of gain of the value of riches. 5 : 1 – 6 : 9
  • Finite man’s inability to understand  Past / Future. 6 : 10 – 11 : 6
  1. Man’s inability to understand God’s Plan. 6 : 10 – 8 : 17
  2. Man’s inability to understand God’s Future. 9 : 1 – 11 : 6
  3. Final Exhortation to man to enjoy life with fear of God. 11 : 7 – 12 : 14
                   The Hebrew title is “Sir hassirim” and Greek title is “Aisma aismaton” for “Song of Songs” Latin Title is “Liber Canticum Canticorum” meaning “the book of the Song of Songs”.  However, its title is “Song of Solomon” in English.
                   It is generally accepted that Solomon was the author.  He wrote it between 971 – 931 BC.  However some object Solomon’s authorship.  But the following reasons support Solomon’s authorship.
  1. The superscription (1 : 1) support this.
  2. Solomon’s name is mentioned in these verses (1 : 5 ; 3 : 7, 9, 11 ; 8 : 11-12).
  • Solomon wrote many proverbs and Songs (1 Kings 4 : 32). Song of Solomon was probably one of such writing.
View Concerning the Theme
                   “Song of Solomon” is a love Song, every scholar agree on this point.  But scholars vary as to how this love related with.  Hence there are many views concerning Song of Solomon.  Here we discuss briefly the most popular views.
View – 1 : God’s Love for Israel
                   This is the traditional interpretation of this book.  Since some Jewish scholars thought that this book had no religious value, they looked for a deeper meaning in the Song of Solomon viz., God’s love for Israel.
                   But many scholars disagree with this view.  They say this Song narrate the love between a husband and wife in its earthly relationship, specifically the love between  Solomon and Shulamite not between God and Israel.  So they reject this view.
View – 2 : Christ’s Love for the Church
                   This view is a modification of the first view.  This view advocates that Song of Solomon explains the love between Christ and Church.  This view is also objected by many scholars.  They give the following reasons for rejecting this view.
  1. Song of Solomon explain the pure love between married couple.
  2. Since the names Solomon and Shulamite are clearly mentioned, it expresses about the love between them (Not of Christ with church).
  • No Old Testament writer had the idea of church. Only Christ first revealed about church (Mt. 16 : 18) in the New Testament.
  1. Though Solomon was a Old Testament writer, Solomon was never a prophet, but only a king. So he could not predict about church.
  2. Since, Solomon had no idea about church as a Old Testament writer, he could not write about Christ’s love for the church.
                   For these reasons, many good scholars reject the second view.
View – 3 : A Song of Wedding Celebration
                   This view is opposed to the first two views.  According to this view, Song of Solomon was a collection of love songs.  As such, this may be taken as a description of a wedding celebration or that it was composed to be used in Jewish wedding celebrations.
                   The advocates of this view suggest the following reasons for their support.
  1. Jewish wedding celebrations lasted for many days, at least seven days.
  2. Jews used to Sing songs in honor of a bride or bridegroom during wedding celebration. (Eg. Ps. 45)
  • Song of Solomon was also one of such songs which were sung during wedding celebration.
                   Hence, these scholars say this songs clearly describe the beauty and sanctity of marriage as intended by God (Heb. 13 : 4).  Hence song of Solomon deals with the pure love that is to be practiced between a husband and his wife.
Application of the Message
                   As we have seen that Song of Solomon   describes the love of married couples, we should encourage newly married couples in the church to read this book.  This song has many good instructions on how one must love one’s life partner.  Such love would keep their married life fruitful and joyful.
  1. The Superscription – 1 : 1
  2. The Expressions of longing, insecurity and praise – 1 : 2-11
  3. The Growth of love and its intensity – 1 : 12 – 3 : 5
  4. The wedding celebrations – 3 : 6 – 5 : 1
    1. The wedding procession – 3 : 6 – 11
    2. The wedding Night – 4 : 1 – 5 : 1
  5. The Maturation of the Marriage – 5 : 2 – 8 : 4
  6. The Nature and Power of Love – 8 : 5 – 7
  7. The Epilogue – 8 : 8 – 14.
Note : Please read the poetical books twice along with this note.  If you have any questions or doubts, write it down and send it to CALS.