Saturday, January 26, 2008

May Quick Guide (Poetic Literature)

The Writings (Ketuvim)
Part 1: Poetic Literature
(Psalms, Proverbs, Job)

The Psalms is a collection of songs, Israel's hymnbook. This psalm collection was compiled from older collections used in worship during the time of the second temple (the one built by Zerubbabel). The Psalms are classified as follows:

Hymns--acts of praise suitable for any occasion. They include:
  • Enthronement Hymns--celebrating the Lord's kingship, and
  • Songs of Zion--expressing devotion to Jerusalem, the Holy City,
  • Laments--an individual seeks deliverance from illness or false accusation, or the nation asks for help in times of distress,
  • Songs of Trust--individuals express their confidence in God's readiness to help,
  • Thanksgivings--individuals express gratitude for deliverance,
  • Sacred History--the nation recounts the story of God's activity,
  • Royal Psalms--these are used for a coronation or royal wedding,
  • Wisdom Psalms--meditations on the life and ways of God, and
  • Liturgies--these are of a mixed type and were composed for special occa-sions.
Some psalms have elements of two or more types. The Psalms are divided into five "books" in imitation of the Torah. The tradition that all of the psalms were written by David demonstrates the high regard for him as a poet. However, this tradition is quite late and evidence within the texts shows that they are a product of many people over many centuries. Spend
time each day with a few of the psalms and try to classify of which type each belongs.

The book of Proverbs is a collection of sayings and riddles designed to teach young people how to live wisely. Virtues such as fairness, honesty, diligence, and controlling one's desires are emphasized. Like the books from Deuteronomy through Kings, the basic assumption of is that "the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (9:10) Wisdom brings success and folly brings destruction. While ProverbsProverbs is attributed for the most part to Solomon (the wise king) and other figures, the poetry of Proverbs is the product of many centuries and sources, much like a collection of nursery rhymes or fairy tales. Proverbs was placed in its final form after the Exile.

Job is also a legend that challenges the theology of Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. The theological thread that runs through those books is that the good are rewarded and the wicked are punished. Job is a righteous man who suffers and therefore Job challenges the view of God promoted by his three friends who represent this theological tradition. Job warns us against speaking for God too quickly and self-assuredly in light of human suffering.

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