In August we will be reading The Song of Solomon, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Obadiah, and II Kings. We will continue reading Chronicles and Psalms.
The Song of Solomon
The Song of Solomon also known as Song of Songs and Canticle of Canticles is the only love poem in the canon. If you have a Bible with the Apocraphya don’t confuse The Song of Solomon with the Wisdom of Solomon.
Sadly the text doesn’t give us any information about who wrote this poem and when they wrote it. The debate about this test is is it allegorical or is it a love poem between two people that made its way into the canon because it was a well-loved poem of the people. Is it a conversation between God and the Israelites (later God and the church) or a poem between two lovers? Most modern Biblical scholars argue for the latter.
Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Job are the books of wisdom. While Proverbs does contain some practical advice the main concern is in instilling good/appropriate/faithful character into the audience and future generations. Proverbs was drafted during the Exile and its final for some time during the post-Exilic period.
Ecclesiastes is another book of wisdom. It has a fascinating and somewhat scandalous history of being included in both the Hebrew and Christian canons. “Perhaps because of its radical ideas, it was a controversial book in antiquity. In Jewish tradition, the canonical status of Ecclesiastes was debated as late as the second century CE.
Although Ecclesiastes is included on second-century Christian canonical lists, Bishop Theodore of Mopsuestia (fifth century) questioned its sacred status.”* Scholars believe that this text was compiled after the Exile because of certain Persian words used in the text.
* Seow, Choon Leong, “Ecclesiastes,” The New Oxford Annotated Bible NRSV, Oxford University Press, 2010, pg 935.
Obadiah is the shortest book in the Hebrew Bible. We don’t know who wrote the book but we do know that the events in this text took place during the 6th c. BCE. “The tradition that Edom and Judah descend from the brothers Esau and Jacob is familiar to readers of Gen 25 and Mal 1:2-5, but only Obadiah uses the expectations of brotherhood to bolster criticism of Edom’s behavior.”*
* O’Brien, Julia M., “Obadiah,” The New Oxford Annotated Bible NRSV, Oxford University Press, 2010, pg 1298.
As previously stated in our earlier discussion on I Kings, I and II Kings were historically one book that told the narrative of the Israelite monarchy. The narrative in Kings begins with the death of David and concludes with King Jehoiachin being released from prison and serving in the Babylonian court.
Psalms is a collection of poetry that expresses the human condition in all of its holy messiness. There are Psalms of praise and lament. Some Psalms are written from a communal perspective, while others are written from an individual perspective. Some Psalms are peaceful and others contain violent images of God’s wrath.
Psalms is unique in the canon because it is the only book we have that is composed solely of poetry/hymns. As we read through Psalms you’ll notice the word Selah. Scholars do not know how to translate this word and we don’t know what it means, but scholars posit that it is evidence that Psalms was used as a sort of hymnal. We will also come across the word shehol. Don’t confuse shehol with a Christian hell; Shehol was where all of the dead went. The authorship and dating of Psalms is tricky. Modern scholars are confident that David wrote few if any of the Psalms and that the order our canon has for Psalms was likely not put together until sometime in the first century CE.
Below are a few questions to help guide you as you read. There are no right answers to any of these, they are here to help us reflect.
Questions to Guide Us Throughout This Practice
- What stood out to you in the readings?
- What did you notice about God?
- Did anything in the readings make you feel uncomfortable?
- How does what you read impact your life and your faith?
Questions to Guide us Through Psalms
- What is the role of community in Psalms?
- How do we use the Psalms in our community?
- As we read through Psalms, think about which themes you resonate with. Why do you think you resonate with that theme?
Questions to Guide Us Through Kings
- What do you think the theology is at the heart of both I and II Kings?
- How are the Kings presented throughout this narrative?
- What is the role of the prophets in this narrative?
Questions to Guide Us Through The Song of Solomon
- Do you think this poem is an allegory or a conversation between two lovers? If you have a reading partner take some time and talk about your response with them.
- Why do you think this poem is included in both the Hebrew and Christian canons?
Questions to Guide Us Thorugh Proverbs
- If you had to summarize the theology of Proverbs in one sentence to someone unfamiliar with its contents what would you say?
- If you had to pick one piece of wisdom from this text to pass on to future generations what would pick and why?
Questions to Guide Us Through Ecclesiastes
- Do you think Ecclesiastes is radical? If so, why/how?
- What wisdom from Ecclesiastes would you pass on?
Daily Reading and Podcast Links
The hyperlink for the reading will take you to Bible Gateway*. The hyperlink “podcast” will take you to the podcast that matches the reading.
August 10|First Reading|Second Reading|Podcast
August 11|First Reading|Second Reading|Podcast
August 12|First Reading|Second Reading|Podcast
August 13|First Reading|Second Reading|Podcast
August 15|First Reading|Second Reading|Podcast
August 20|First Reading|Second Reading|Podcast
August 24|First Reading|Second Reading|Podcast
August 25|Frist Reading|Second Reading|Podcast
August 28|First Reading|Second Reading|Podcast
August 30|First Reading|Second Reading|Podcast
*Bible Gateway has updated to the Updated Edition of the NRSV. If you would like to use the old NRSV you can find it online at oremus.