Ecclesiastes

The Book of Ecclesiastes in the BibleThe book of Ecclesiastes, likely written by King Solomon, the wisest man ever (I Kings 10:23) is a curious book. It’s essentially his ponderings into the age-old question, “What is the meaning and purpose of life?”

In this regard, Ecclesiastes records the meanderings of Solomon’s stream of consciousness. It bizarrely bounces between doubt and faith, along the way being fatalistic, pessimistic, skeptical, and rational, but yet still respectful of God.

As such, it takes on a decidedly dreary tone, but those who stick with its reading are rewarded with a fitting and profound conclusion, which ends the final chapter (Ecclesiastes 12:9-14).

A reoccurring theme throughout is that “all is vanity,” of which Solomon despondently laments. Yet he works his way through this, ending up focusing on God as his final answer.

Job

The book of Job (rhymes with robe) has often been called the literary masterpiece of the Bible and is part of the collection of wisdom/poetic writings. Job powerfully and poignantly delves into the question of suffering and explores various understandings and responses to it, along with the help of his so called friends.

The book of Job in the BibleThe bulk of the book (chapters 3 through 41) are a series of verbal exchanges between Job and his friends, who turn out to be not too good of friends after all. This is preceded by an introduction (chapters 1 and 2) that sets the stage for the dramatic dialogue that follows. The book ends with a conclusion (chapter 42) showing Job’s steadfast faith and God’s grace. Don’t get so focused on the discourses in the middle of the book that you miss this fitting conclusion.

You may have heard the phrase, “the patience of Job” (think “longsuffering”). That saying originates from this book and Job’s stellar example. Perhaps an even better synopsis of this book would be “the love of Job.” Indeed, Job conclusively shows what real, unwavering love is towards God. We generally love others because of what they do for us or give to us. We rarely love in spite of what they do or how they treat us. In the same way, most people approach God for what he will do for them. But when they don’t feel his love or when he doesn’t make sense, their love for him waivers, fades, or even goes away. Job shows us a different way: We should steadfastly love God in spite of what is happening in our lives and what struggles we are going through.

Proverbs

The Old Testament book of Proverbs is another wisdom/poetry book in the Bible. It contains the wise sayings of King Solomon, King David’s son. Solomon’s sage advice is formatted in a series on concise and direct statements of truth and fact.

Some of these sayings are religious in nature, whereas others are more earthy, resulting from experience and observation.

Psalms

The Book of Psalms the BibleThe book of Psalms is a collection of songs (poetry) of the Hebrew people. It boasts a multitude of authors over many centuries, some unidentified, though many are attributed to King David.

There are three basic styles of Psalms: hymns of praise, laments, and songs of thanksgiving.

Some Psalms mention not only the author but also the time or circumstances under which they were written. Others even include musical notations and names of tunes, both of which have little significance at this time.

Many people adore the Psalms, while others remain unaffected. In English translations, the wording often tends to be smooth and flowing, while in Hebrew they come out as more worldly and rough. The Message version of the Bible best captures the original intensity of Psalms.

Interesting trivia: Psalms has more chapters than any book of the Bible (150 chapters) and has the greatest length. It also contains the longest chapter (Psalms 119), as well as the shortest (Psalm 117). The oldest Psalm was written by Moses (Psalms 90). Psalms is frequently quoted in the New Testament (the other most quoted books are Isaiah, Deuteronomy, and Genesis).

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Sirach

The Book of the Sirach in the BibleThe book of Sirach, also called Ecclesiasticus (not to be confused with Ecclesiastes), is another piece of wisdom literature. It is a compilation of sayings similar in style and content to Proverbs. As such, it’s a valuable collection of practical advice and wise sayings. It’s concluding chapters (44 through 50) pay tribute to some of the notable figures in Jewish history, providing additional insight into each one.

The author is a sage named Jesus (not to be confused with Jesus the Christ). This Jesus is the son (or perhaps grandson) of Sirach (Sira), hence the name of the book. The alternate title, Ecclesiasticus, means Church Book.

The book of Sirach was probably familiar to the early Christian church, being read in church gatherings. The original version was assumedly lost, with this being a translation made by the author’s grandson; the book opens with his notes and comments.

Sirach is an Apocrypha book and not included in all versions of the Bible. The New Jerusalem Bible, Revised Standard Version (RSV), New American Bible (NABRE), Wycliffe Bible (WYC), Common English Bible (CEB), Good News Translation (GNT), and Douay-Rheims (DRA) all include Sirach. Interestingly, the original Authorized King James Version (KJV) contains Sirach, but the text was removed almost two centuries later. The Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Jewish scriptures, which was widely used in Jesus’s day, also includes the book of Sirach.

For more information, see why “Christians Should Consider the Entire Bible.”

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Song of Solomon

The Book of the Song of Solomon in the BibleThe Song of Solomon, also called the “Song of Songs,” was written about King Solomon. It’s content is perhaps a bit too explicit for some people’s sense of appropriateness and certainly not what many would expect to find in the Bible.

On the surface, it is a frank poem exalting courtship, sexual desire, and marriage. On a deeper level it becomes a metaphor for the love and yearning that Jesus has for his followers and his desire and longing to connect with them on an intimate spiritual level.

In the gospels, Jesus sometimes metaphorically calls himself the bridegroom; his followers are implied to be his bride (John 3:29, Mark 2:19-20, and Luke 5:34-35).

Wisdom

The book of Wisdom, sometimes called “The Wisdom of Solomon” is patterned after the other wisdom literature in the Bible.

The Book of Wisdom in the BibleWisdom is an Apocrypha book and not included in all versions of the Bible. The New Jerusalem Bible, Revised Standard Version (RSV), New American Bible (NABRE), Wycliffe Bible (WYC), Common English Bible (CEB), Good News Translation (GNT), and Douay-Rheims (DRA) all include the book of Wisdom. Interestingly, the original Authorized King James Version (KJV) contains Wisdom, but the text was removed almost two centuries later. The Septuagint, an ancient Greek translation of the Jewish scriptures, which was widely used in Jesus’s day, also includes the book of Wisdom.

For more information, see why “Christians Should Consider the Entire Bible.”