Poetry and Wisdom Literature
Poetry Books (Psalms, Song of Solomon)
The poetry books comprise two books within this category. Poetry has a very earthy way of giving concrete images in our minds as we read it. Whether the poems or songs are energetic and filled with praise, or a song of sorrow like a funeral dirge, poetry gets into our souls and includes our emotions, making us participators in the poet’s experience. No other form of genre can take us to new heights or sink us to the depths of depression than poetry, and Hebrew poetry portrays such a brilliant and fine art that does just that for its readers.
The Psalms and much of the poetry in Israel was sung, not recited. This helped people to remember the wording, the concept, and then be able to memorize them. These songs and prayers to God are useful to start our prayers, and then continue on our own. Many of them rhyme in Hebrew. The Song of Solomon can be taken in order, but there are scenes that tell the whole story. Each Psalm stands on its own. Don’t be concerned with the order of the Psalms. But they also use three types of parallelism:
- Synonymous Parallelism – a concept said twice but with different words (Psalm 121:6)
- Antithetical Parallelism – two statements in contrast (Psalm 1:1-2)
- Synthetic Parallelism – say half the concept in the first line and the other half in the other line (Psalm 7:10)
Wisdom Books (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes)
Wisdom, as defined by the Hebrew understanding, is not about a philosophy or some far-off idea that isn't very applicable. It's not about useless information. It's exactly the opposite, focusing on knowledge that we can use to make the best choices and choose the best lifestyles to be successful. But this is success defined by godly living. Wisdom is not about academia, but about using what a person knows to make decisions, to succeed where the rubber meets the road. There are two ways of wisdom: the way of wicked folly and the way of godly wisdom. Wisdom is seeking to live life with the principles that God the Creator put in place when He designed the world.
Author: Unknown (perhaps Moses)
Date: 2000 BC
Purpose: To offer wisdom on how to handle suffering in this lifetime, whether it is from God, and how to deal with our relationship with God in suffering and pain.
Key People: Job, Bildad, Elihu, Eliphaz, Zophar, God, Satan
Key Passages: Job 2:10; 19:25-26
I. Satan Attacks Job (1-2:10)
II. Debate between Job and His Friends (2:11-31)
III. Elihu’s Speech (31-37)
IV. God Answers Job (38-42:6)
V. Job’s Conclusion (42:7-17)
Believed to be written concerning one of the oldest narratives in human history, the book of Job highlights how God can use our faithfulness to him as a witness even against the devil. Taking place over a short season of Job’s life, the book shows how God challenges Satan by allowing Satan enough power to put his righteous servant Job through a terrible list of trials. Job’s faithfulness demonstrates that a vibrant relationship with God can conquer even the darkest of trials.
Job’s friends come to his aid and try to explain why this righteous man suffers these trials. The friends themselves become a trial to Job as they accuse him over and over of being wicked before the Lord. Job continues to be righteous as he defends himself before his friends.
When adversity comes into our lives, running to God as our shelter and shield is our best defense. Though God sometimes seems silent, He walks with us through every trial as we remain faithful to Him. The wisest course of action in the midst of trials is to trust God as He walks with us. God may not explain why we’re going through it but He is working in and through us.
Author: David, Asaph, sons of Korah, Solomon, Moses, Ethan, 50 Unknown
Purpose: The songbook and prayer book of the Israelites showing them how to interact with God on a personal and corporate level.
Key People: David, Asaph, sons of Korah, Solomon, Moses, Ethan
Key Passages: Psalm 23; 42:11; 103:1-5
I. Book I (Psalms 1-41)
II. Book II (Psalms 42-72)
III. Book III (Psalms 73-89)
IV. Book IV (Psalms 90-106)
V. Book V (Psalms 107-150)
Known as the songbook of Israel, the Psalms contain 150 songs for celebration of Israel’s relationship with its sovereign King, God the Almighty. Mostly written by David and the sons of Cora, these different songs are categorized with different purposes. Psalms is full of various types of specific psalms, such as psalms of lament, wisdom psalms, royal psalms, psalms of trust, psalms of thanksgiving, hymns, and psalms of praise.
Each one of these 150 songs was sung by Israel to music as worship to God. Some demonstrate His kingly relationship with the people. Others are used as songs of ascent as they approached Israel to celebrate different feasts. Others demonstrate how a relationship with God is sometimes trying and other times all of blessing and bliss. As we travel throughout the mountains and valleys of our life we can always trust in God is our Savior and King and celebrate our relationship by singing these hymns of praise to our Lord.
Author: Solomon, Lamuel, Various Writers
Date: 970-930 BC
Purpose: To dispense godly situational wisdom that brings success and practical application to life.
Key People: Solomon, Lamuel
Key Passages: Proverbs 1:7; 3:6-7
I. Proverbs about Attaining Wisdom (1-9)
II. The Proverbs of Solomon (10-22:16)
III. Studying Wisdom from “The Wise” (22:17-24:34)
IV. Solomon’s Proverbs Collected by Hezekiah’s Men (25-29)
V. Instructions of Agur and Lamuel (30-31)
The book of Proverbs concerns a collection of wise sayings mostly composed by King Solomon. Throughout the book Solomon gives fatherly wisdom to his son as his son prepares to live his own life. Solomon tells each of us at the beginning of wisdom is to fear the Lord. Revering God and living by his standards produces the most successful life for each of us. This book provides situational wisdom that guides the young man through the course of his life. This book provides godly wisdom to God’s people even today.
Date: 955 BC
Purpose: To attempt to find pleasure and happiness in ventures outside of seeking God and find in everything is vanity empty without the fear of the Lord.
Key People: Solomon, the Preacher
Key Passages: Ecclesiastes 1:2
I. Emptiness of Human Pleasure and Wisdom (1-2)
II. Emptiness of Earthly Happiness (3-5)
III. Practical Wisdom (6-8:15)
IV. True Wisdom for a Person (8:16-10)
V. Conclusion (11-12)
The book of Ecclesiastes contains wisdom from the other side of the tracks. Most likely toward the end of his life, Solomon turned away from the Lord and experienced life without godly wisdom as his guide. He discovered what happens when we do not revere God and live for him. Solomon’s life becomes a mess as he tries every other kind of earthly wisdom on the planet. Solomon discovers that only living a godly life will yield successful results. Only when we live life God’s way will life hold meaning and not be void of purpose.
Song of Solomon
Date: 971-965 BC
Purpose: To describe the romantic love between a man and a woman from courtship through marriage.
Key People: Solomon, the beloved woman, the beloved man
Key Passages: Song of Solomon 2:11-13
I. The Bride in Solomon’s Garden (1:2-2:7)
II. The Bride’s Memories (2:8-3:5)
III. The Betrothal (3:6-5:1)
IV. The Couple at the Palace (5:2-8:4)
V. The Bride’s Home (8:5-14)
This love song is written to teach us about romantic love and marriage. Some scholars believe this book should be interpreted purely as Jesus’ relationship with his people. Other scholars notice the erotic nuances of this poetic book and prefer to interpret it purely as a romantic love song. The interpretation of the song of Solomon is most likely between these two interpretations. It should be interpreted as a book concerning godly wisdom as you search for a marital partner.
The first three chapters concern Solomon’s relationship with a peasant woman. It shows godly dating practices. From chapter 4 through the end of the book Solomon teaches us by example how to nourish our marriage relationship with our spouse. It shows us how to keep the physical and emotional passion burning as we celebrate life together between one man and one woman in marital bliss.
It shows the importance of maintaining one’s physical appearance and enhancing the whole marital relationship to have a godly and blessed marriage. There are also insights into our relationship with Jesus as the New Testament depicts that relationship as Jesus the husband and the church as his bride.