Friday, January 20, 2023

The Doctrine of Scripture Series: Jesus In All 66 Books Of The Bible - How He Is Personified In Job Through Song of Solomon


    Over the last several posts, we have explored how we see Jesus Christ illustrated, mentioned, or appearing in the 66 books of the Bible. We noted how He is patterned in the Torah or Books of the Law. We also observed how He was anticipated in the historical books (Joshua through Esther). For those who want to review these previous posts, you may click on the following links:

1. To see Jesus patterned in the Books of the Law, click here

2. To see Jesus anticipated in the historical books of the Old Testament, click here for how we see Him in Joshua to 2 Chronicles To note how we see Jesus in Ezra, Nehemiah, and Esther, readers may click on that link here

    In today's post we will explore what are referred to as "the poetic books" or "wisdom books". In the Hebrew Bible, these five books (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon) appear in a slightly different ordering (Psalms, Job, Proverbs), with Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs placed also in a different ordering with other canonical books of the Old Testament that the Jews call "The Writings" (or "Ketiviim").

Different names for the same five books

    It is worth understanding why Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon are referred to, as a collection, by different names. Most today refer to these five as "poetic books", due to their high content of poetry. Hebrew poetry, and poetry in the ancient world, differed from what we English readers may think of as poetry. 

    Hebrew poetry wasn't so much about rhyming words as it was in placing certain ideas in parallel lines to one another. Such "parallelism" served to either reinforce an idea, called synonymous parallelism (Psalm 23:1-2) or to contrast to ideas, referred to as antithetical parallelism (compare Ecclesiastes 3, with its contrasting ideas). Poetry in the Old Testament could also include painting word pictures (Isaiah 5), use of metaphor (implied comparison, Psalm 23), or speeches of judgment or blessing utilizing various figures of speech (the nine speeches given by "Job's friends" are put into this poetic form, mostly accusastory speeches). The purpose of Hebrew Poetry in the Old Testament was to evoke the imagination of the listener to connect with the truth of the text.
As for referring to Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon as "wisdom books", this designation refers to how wisdom was understood by the ancient Jews. "Wisdom" or "Chachma" (the "ch's" pronounced like "k's:) had to do with the skill of godly living or carrying out life as one applied God's truth to everyday situations. 

    In the wisdom literature, the emphasis tends to be more on the practical rather than the philosophical. With that said, there is no denying that books such as Ecclesiastes do indeed handle certain themes one would encounter in asking the "big questions of life", particular the area of life's meaning. Job tackles the problem of evil and God's Sovereignty. At times, the various Psalms will explore how sometimes the godly life is fraught with hardship (see Psalm 73). Still, even in probing such big topics often encountered in philosophical circles, the wisdom literature always drives at taking what is learned and applying it in life, to faith, and to relationships.

    Then as a final introductory note on these books, we come of course to that title of "writings" or "ketiviim" given by Jews as they recognized the inspired, canonical Old Testament in its Hebrew and Aramaic form. Jesus taught that He was mentioned in Old Testament through what He termed "The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings" (Luke 24:44). The Jews had Hebrew names for each division. The Law was the "Torah", meaning "that which guides, teaches". Then, they spoke of the prophets or "Neviim", using the Hebrew term for "prophet", ordering this section of the Hebrew Bible as "former prophets" (Joshua-Nehemiah) and "latter prophets" (Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and then the minor prophets, or what they called "the twelve". 

    The third section, "the writings" or "ketiviim", began with Psalms, Job, and Proverbs. Then would follow Ruth, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, corresponding to those books of the writings that referenced King David or his son Solomon. The next part of the writings, following Ecclesiastes, are read in Jewish festivals, are called "The Megilloth", meaning "scrolls" - namely Lamentations, Esther (the other aforemention books, Ruth, Lamentations, and Esther, are often put in along with Lamentations and Esther as part of the festival readings). Then rounding out the list of "the writings" are Daniel, 1 and 2 Chronicles.

    Whenever you consider how Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs are ordered in our English Bibles, they personify the Lord Jesus in the three titles we explored. He is personified as our Wisdom from above (compare 1 Corinthians 1:30-31), who came as the way, the truth, and the life for obtaining eternal life by faith and living the Christian life by His strength. He is also personified in the poetic content of these five books to bring to our attention the reality of His personality as foreshadowed, speaking, and acting in the history of his people and the future to come. Lastly, He is the fulfillment of these five as "writings", as "the Word", since He Himself is unfolded in every book of the Bible. What follows below is a quick summary of how we find Jesus in these poetic books.

Job = Jesus our man of sorrow.

    As we arrive at this third section of the Old Testament, we find further pictures of the Lord Jesus Christ. In Job, we find Job as a man acquainted with sorrows and heavy with grief. At one point, Job pleads in Job 9 for an intercessor between himself and God. For Job, I find Jesus our sufferer, since He too is described in Isaiah 53 as acquainted with sorrows.

Psalms = Jesus our praise.

    Psalms is composed in five installments or "books", cycling through the process of God's promise to sustain his people, restore Israel, and preserve His promises to David. Book one of Psalm is composed of Psalms 1-41, all written by David as he was getting established as King over Jerusalem. Book 2 of Psalms covers Psalm 42-72, detailing the times in David's reign when he would triumph, experience betrayal, and at times fail. Now of course, Jesus never failed at anything, however, like David, He did experience betrayal by his friends, attacks from his enemies, and ultimate triumph by achieving salvation for our sakes. In Book 3 of Psalms, Psalm 73-89, we find the David throne seen towards the end and after David's reign. Would the throne of David persist? Would God keep His promises to David and his descendants which He made in 2 Samuel 7:13-16? Jesus of course came as the final end and fulfillment of the Davidic line, coming as The Son of David to inaugurate his reign in heaven upon His ascension and completing the promises to David upon His soon return to earth.

    Books 4 and 5 of Psalms (Psalm 90-106 and 107-150) were mainly written in the time of Israel's remaining history in the Old Testament (Psalm 90 being composed by Moses as the exception). Here we see how God's people are portrayed in poetic form, with God promising to walk with them and restore them. Jesus came as the Savior and sustainer of His people. This is why Jesus is the praise of the entire Psalter. Finally, many, many Psalms are quoted in the New Testament as pointing to Jesus (Psalm 2; Psalm 16; Psalm 110, just to name a few.

Proverbs = Jesus our wisdom.

    When we arrive at Proverbs, here we find wisdom for living the godly life before the presence of the Lord. Wisdom is that skill to live for God in daily life. I find here that Jesus Christ is our wisdom, as stated plainly in 1 Corinthians 1:30.

Ecclesiastes = Jesus, the meaning of life.

    The general author of most of the Proverbs (Solomon), is the same author of Ecclesiastes. Proverbs is written by Solomon, advising his son, or what we could say from the stand point of middle age. Ecclesiastes represents a Solomon who is near the end of his life - full of regret. Whenever you read Solomon's life in 2 Kings, you find the tragedy of a man who started well for God, compromised, and nearly lost his soul. Only the preserving grace of God saved Solomon. It is here I find Jesus as the one who provides meaning, since He Himself is the meaning of life. Solomon repeatedly sought for meaning, crying out the refrain: "meaningless, meaningless". It is only that the end of the book that we find the source of meaning - God Himself.

Song of Solomon = Jesus, love of my soul

    Song of Solomon is literally love poetry between a husband and his wife. It begins with a young Solomon in love with perhaps his original wife. Psalm 45 aids greatly in interpreting this book, since there we see a young Solomon, presumably at the beginning of his reign as king in Israel and on his wedding day. Remarkably, Psalm 45 is quoted in Hebrews 1 as referring to the Lord Jesus Christ. As you read Song of Solomon, you find Solomon and his soon-to-be-wife pining for one another. We read in Ephesians 5:22-33 "husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church". Christ is the lover of His people, and calls us to love Him.

Closing thoughts:

    In the next post, we will see how we find Jesus in the prophetic books of Isaiah to Malachi.

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