I propose that the book of Proverbs as a whole is a poetically theological rich book that calls for us to not only be hearers of the word; rather to be appliers of the word. There is a call within the pages to learn from and apply to our lives that which we learn; therefore its contents while not seemingly overtly theological – indeed are deeply theological, for theology is the study of God and his ways and we are called to live a life that reflects his ways.
In listening to an audio recording of Job yesterday – I noted the exilic language that was used. The ending of Job is very similar to that of what is said in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes… “Fear God”
We read God rebuking Job’s friends for speaking wrongly of him. This follows the same theme of Proverbs and Ecclesiastes. In Proverbs we see Lady Wisdom as being shown as the purist and highest way of living… submerged within the book are references to Torah – (which for the Israelites stands as God’s wisdom) – and rebukes the current wisdom of the day.
Ecclesiastes follows the same – rebukes the then current wisdom of the day and exhorts the son (same theme in Proverbs)to fear God.
Within this context – we then see that the wisdom of Job’s friends is shown to be false and that there is a clear mention of Torah – Genesis in the ending of Job… “in the beginning I am created!”
Could it be that Job in repenting in dust and ashes for seeing God as he truly is – is a picture of the Hebrew people repenting before God as a nation – And that God blessing him once again seven fold is a reference to them being put into exile for 70 years and their subsequent endeavours to re-build the nation into a mighty empire once again?
This morning I was fortunate and blessed to be able to visit Koorong and add a few books to my library.
- Brueggemann, Walter. Theology of the Old Testament – with CD-Rom.
- Lasor, Hubbard, Bush. Old Testament Survey.
- IVP. Dictionary of the Old Testament, Wisdom, Poetry and Writings.
- IVP. Dictionary of the Old Testament, Historical Books.
- Dumbrell, William. J. The Faith of Israel, A Theological Survey of the OT.
- NICOT. Job.
- NICOT. Proverbs 1-15 & 15-31.
- Wiersbe, Warren W. Be Skillful, OT commentary Proverbs.
- Tyndale. Cornerstone Biblical Commentary Psalms & Proverbs NLT translation.
- BST. Proverbs.
- Kidner, Derek. The Wisdom of Proverbs, Job and Ecclesiastes.
- Goldsworthy, Graham. The Tree of Life, Reading Proverbs Today.
- Ironside, H.A. Proverbs and Song of Solomon.
- Estes, Daniel J. Handbook on the Wisdom Books and Psalms
- Fee, Gordon. Revelation.
- Fee, Gordan. Paul & the Spirit, & the People of God.
- Grey, Jacqueline. Them, Us and Me, How the OT Speaks to People Today.
- Hirsch, Alan & Ford, Lance. Right Here, Right Now, everyday mission for everyday people.
Over time, I would like to collect more ‘Wisdom’ books. Particularly Job, Ecclesiastes and Proverbs. I have a theory that I am working on regarding Proverbs and believe that the current research on Ecclesiastes has given a key and the basis of a foundation to follow it through.
This is a copy of a post; which I wrote for Unsettled Christianity.
I am currently studying Wisdom Literature – Proverbs, Psalms, Job, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes and even Sirach and been loving it. We often do these books and therefore the information within a disservice when we try and read bits from them here and there. In reality to grasp hold of the wisdom that it offers, we need to read them as a whole.
Not only do we need to read them; we need to live it out. For the Wisdom books teach us that the information revealed within them is God’s ways worked out in and through life…and to keep and live a balanced life we need to read the books together.
With the Song of Songs we learn the language of love. Psalms teach us about relationship and how to pray. Job, Ecclesiastes and Proverbs teach us how to live… Proverbs that rightful living should produce certain blessings…Job though counteracts this by saying…”Crap happens” and Ecclesiastes provides the frame work, and balances this out for us to have and express our doubts and pessimism about life; while maintaining an integrity in the way we live.
I made the following comment to Jeremy who made the observation that the list of names in Chronicles is just a long list of names…
We might think of them just as names Jeremy; but to the Jewish people each one of those names represented a story in and of themselves.
I don’t think the genealogies are meant to be rushed through as being boring lists – rather they are meant to be read in a reflective way about the stories of each and in doing so it builds up to a climax of belonging.
One of the striking things that appeared to me in reading chapters 1-4 is how the themes of the 10 Commandments – fear God, honour your parents, don’t kill, steal, covet, commit adultery (both spiritual and physical), don’t bear false witness etc., are all covered within the guidance given within these proverbs.
Dell presents an Exilic / Post Exilic date for the writing of Proverbs; while maintaining the tension an oral authorship from a much earlier time frame – though doubts the authorship coming from King Solomon himself. He speaks of the various ways in which the book of Proverbs was taught; and my favourite being that it could be linked to the School of prophets in Kings. – My reasoning for this is that the prophets had a keen sense of being able to tell a story and weave the story within their prophecies. Such as Nathan; whose message convicted David of adultery through his telling a story of a stolen lamb which was killed!
I need to think through the idea of an Egyptian influence on the methodology of Proverbs. Surely this would either link Proverbs to Solomon who had much diplomatic ties with Egypt; or even an earlier date – such as 40 years wilderness experience in the desert, where the older generation instructed the younger…admittedly this latter thought has little to support it within the actual book of Proverbs- take “Wisdom calling out in the market place…” what market place was in the desert.
While Murphy’s doesn’t directly support my hypothesis regarding the 10 commandments; the reading does support it. Both Wisdom and the Law are referred to as being a gift of God. The reading makes the connection of the woman in Chap 2:16 and Chap 5-7 as possibly referring to idolatry and not physical adultery. If so – again this has connotations of prophetic warnings…and supports the idea of the proverbs being first taught within the school of prophets.
Finally Murphy’s concluding reflections on 1:1-6 in regards to them shaping a theological reflection on life / salvation within a Jewish context – is a reminder to the reader that Wisdom is a gift from God and in doing so again reinforces my idea in that the basis for the proverbs is the outworking of the 10 Commandments in day to day life.
I have chosen Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 as the passage to exegete as part of my current studies and these are a few of my rambling thoughts on the passage.
2 “Meaningless! Meaningless!”
says the Teacher.
Everything is meaningless.”
You can imagine this speaker throwing his hands into the air, perhaps throwing something, or even replacing the words Meaningless with a few well chosen cuss words. Perhaps you can sympathise with these words as you think of times you have uttered the same intent; even if not the exact words…of What is the point!
The author continues
3 What do people gain from all their labors
at which they toil under the sun?
4 Generations come and generations go,
but the earth remains forever.
What is the point of working hard. What am I really gaining from it. What is the real meaning of life. These are deep questions to ponder. In effect he is reflecting on what is his purpose in life in the here and now. He reflects on the fact of the many generations behind him and in looking at the future generations ahead of him; perhaps he is thinking of his small place on earth in comparison… and in the same way perhaps the song Monday Monday is coming to your mind when you think of your own responsibilities.
5 The sun rises and the sun sets,
and hurries back to where it rises.
6 The wind blows to the south
and turns to the north;
round and round it goes,
ever returning on its course.
7 All streams flow into the sea,
yet the sea is never full.
To the place the streams come from,
there they return again.
He reflects on how the sun continues to rise and set and rise and set in a continual circular motion. How the wind continues to blow to the south and comes from the north and never ceases. How the rivers and streams continually flow towards the oceans and yet they are never full…they are never satisfied and yet the streams continue to flow and flow and flow. Its a reminder to him of his own toil and labour that seems never to cease. No matter what he does, no matter how much he will do; there will be work to be done tomorrow and the next day and the day after that and he seems to be asking what will really satisfy me in life?
8 All things are wearisome,
more than one can say.
The eye never has enough of seeing,
nor the ear its fill of hearing.
9 What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.
You can hear the despair within this cry. Perhaps he is bored. Perhaps he is sick of the routine of life and needs a holiday of some description. He is sick of what he see’s. Tired of hearing the same old, same old and thinks that tomorrow will bring the same. And despairs of the possibility that this is his lot in life and nothing will ever change.
10 Is there anything of which one can say,
“Look! This is something new”?
It was here already, long ago;
it was here before our time.
11 No one remembers the former generations,
and even those yet to come
will not be remembered
by those who follow them.
He has a longing in his heart for something new; for something different. But deep within he believes there is nothing new, because what exists today exists because it was here yesterday. And so his routine continues as he routinely does what ever it is he does. You can imagine his sigh… as he thinks about the former generations who toiled before him and he sighs even deeper as he ponders his lot in life and asks himself the question… will what I have done and who I am, be remembered in the future, when I am gone?
Perhaps you too, have asked yourself these questions? I know I have!
I have had a somewhat eclectic few months of blogging while enjoying the summer break from study. Before then I had a regular blogging theme on the Minor Prophets, a subject that I really enjoyed. Today marks the return to college; in which I am studying the “Wisdom Literature”
Having experienced a crisis of faith over the last few years and come out of it with a stronger focus on the centrality of the cross; I look forward to engaging with the book of Job in class, who along with King David was a friend of mine during this time of crisis.
Our main text book for the semester will be Murphy, R.E. The Tree of Life: An Exploration of Biblical Wisdom Literature. 3rd. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002, which I hope to purchase sometime during the next fortnight.
A couple of quick notes about why we should study the Wisdom literature.
- The poetical books find us where we live.
- They engage us in a holistic way.
- It can be a starting point for engaging with our world and non-believers.
- It’s my belief that the wisdom books are among the most wrongly interpreted and applied scriptures within the modern church culture for today and those excesses need correction.
During the lecture, one potential research issue came to mind which I raised; though I had to leave early before we could unpack it more was in regards to Proverbs. There is very little reference to God; which is easily explained in that they are a explanation of how to live within a theocratic society.
The point I was thinking is if the final form of Proverbs came out of the “Exilic Period” and was a way for the Hebrew people to live within the frame work of their law; whilst having to live under the greater umbrella of the Babylonian law. This raises some more points about how it seems within the OT there is a reflection of 2 Exiles…and just as Solomon is credited as being the wisest man on earth… Daniel within the exilic period is also credited as being among the wisest of the young men in Babylon…and therefore is there a possibility of Daniels influence on the final redacted state within the book of Proverbs.
Arhhhhh the joys of more thinking and research!
I have been reading and enjoying the Books of the Bible. It has no chapter and verse numbers to get in the way of reading the text and it seems to flow more readily.
I finished reading Genesis this morning and made the following notes.
- Abraham allowed the King Abimeleck take his wife…telling him she was his sister… his Son Isaac does the same thing.
- Isaac and Jacob both had twins… who both fought about who would be the first out of the womb… Both Isaac and Joseph’s first born were prophesied over that they would serve their youngest brother.
- I found it interesting that the Egyptian’s found it detestable to eat with the Hebrew people and would eat apart from them… is there where the Hebrews originally got their own cultural practice from in doing this?
- Canaan the land of milk and honey was in famine / drought conditions during Josephs time… and his family made the first recorded exile from the promised land in Josephs time…
- There is no record of Simeon being released from when Joseph had him bound… Did Joseph really forgive him… or did he leave him rotting in some dungeon?