Friday, September 18, 2015

86. The Books of Poetry: Introduction

Don't Be So Technical

The books we are going to study next are called the books of poetry.  The word "poetry" is, of course, used in its broadest sense. The five books in this group deal with philosophical, psychological and theological observations, and how these relate to a person's emotional experiences.

Because these books treat of the emotional, not the historical or technical, aspect of humanity, it is important not to take literally those things which are meant to be similes, metaphors, figures of speech, hyperbolas, etc.  These tools, and many others fill up the writer's tool bag so that the reader will become interested in the presented material and hopefully the reader's life will be enriched by the subject matter proffered.

An example of this kind of "poetry" is found in Job 6:6, Can that which has no taste be eaten without salt?  Of course, it can!  Still, the answer the writer would expect is, no, it can not, because it does not taste good.

We know that there are two distinct types of people when it relates to how they see given facts.  There are those who see the technical, mechanical side of things.  To them, everything must be logical and the given facts must mean what they say.  They read the Bible and believe that, when possible, it must be accepted as it is written.  This outlook leads to a shallow appreciation of the books of poetry.

There are also the creative people, the artists, those who are not as involved with facts; they rather ask the question, "what does it mean to me"?  They delve into the poetic books and gather a goldmine of spiritual truths; things that encourage, guide, lead to worship.  For them, these books can be a very emotional experience.

Unfortunately, for me, I belong to the first category.  For example, I notice that even when I read the Jewish hymns, the Psalms, or any other book of poetry in the Bible, I get involved with questions about the logistics of any given phrase.  I can get hung up with the question, how can this be when in another psalm the exact opposite was stated.  

Because these are emotional writings, written from the depths of the writer's soul, it is imperative to read them, not as a how-to book, but rather as, how will the reading of this help me to more fully worship Jehovah; how will my meditation help me live my Christian life more fully in tune with Christ's plan for me?  Because I tend to see the technical aspects of a statement I miss out on many of the spiritual truths found in the biblical books of poetry.

If a Bible teacher were to do a very detailed study and presentation of the five books of poetry, it is easy to see that it would take many years of that teacher's life.  I have no intention of going that route and so I will pick out only a few of the thoughts presented; some of those which have caught my eye in each one of the books.

The Book of Job

"Job" is pronounced with a long "o" as in "home".

The purpose of the book is to answer the question, Why do good people suffer? This is done by presenting a series of debates.  

Many Bible students insist that the Book of Job is actual history.  However, if one carefully looks at the things presented as facts it becomes quite clear that it is a fable, written to teach a basic spiritual or philosophical truth.   

Notice some of the illogical facts presented if this book is history.  

Before his problems came on him, Job had seven sons and three daughters. Job 1:2.  It is interesting that after his first ten children died He had also seven sons and three daughters. 42:13.  If he did have ten children again after his first ten died it is certainly more than probable that there would not again be exactly seven sons and three daughters.

His possessions also were seven thousand sheep, three thousand camels, five hundred yoke of oxen, five hundred female donkeys. 1:3.  However, after his ordeal was over He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and a thousand female donkeys. Job 42:12. His possessions were all exactly double to what he had before.  The chances of that happening are infinitely small - except in a fiction book?  

Bible scholars explain the similarity this way.  These exact double numbers may be the nearest "rounded up" or "rounded down" numbers and the writer was trying to keep the numbers to an even thousand.  This reasoning sounds so illogical and shallow.  

If, in the first place he had seven thousand sheep, what is the likelihood that in the second setting he would not have had, perhaps, eleven or twelve thousand, rather than fourteen thousand?  Even if the exact double happened in one or two cases, it is unbelievable that it would have happened in the case of every kind of animal he possessed.

Notice another set of improbabilities:
1. there came a messenger to Job, and said, “The oxen were plowing, and the donkeys feeding beside them, and the Sabeans attacked, and took them away. ... I alone have escaped to tell you.” 

2. While he was still speaking, there also came another, and said, “The fire of God has fallen from the sky, and has burned up the sheep ... and I alone have escaped to tell you.” 

3. While he was still speaking, there came also another, and said, “The Chaldeans made three bands, and swept down on the camels, and have taken them away, ... I alone have escaped to tell you.”  

4. While he was still speaking, there came also another, and said, “Your sons and your daughters were eating and drinking ... and ... there came a great wind from the wilderness, and struck the four corners of the house, and it fell on the young men, and they are dead. I alone have escaped to tell you.” Job 1:13-14.

In each of the four cases the speaker says, I alone have escaped to tell you.  Four out of four - unlikely!

In the last three cases, we are told that while the messenger was still speaking the next messenger came to bring bad news.  The law of averages would not look kindly on that happening - except in a fable, perhaps, written for the purpose of answering a philosophical question.

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