February 13, 2014

Deeper Still: Wisdom Literature (Bible Tour)

Another genre we find heavily in our Bibles is wisdom literature. The five books that are classified are the following (many of which also fit under the poetry genre too, and so interpretation tools for poetry apply to them as well)...

Job. Usually, Job gets boiled down to suffering, and how wisdom comes to play in terms with it. Like Ecclesiastes (see below), it's helpful to read it in one sitting first to grab the bigger picture (the context), examines bigger life questions in detail (whereas Psalms and Proverbs have a more general nature to them), and lean less on the practical side of wisdom and more onto the speculative side.

Psalms. Are songs, written by numerous authors, to numerous audiences, about numerous themes and topics. Some were sung during feasts, others to teach, to lift up praise or cry laments, tell of the coming Messiah, and so much more. They show us characteristics of God and how we can relate to Him emotionally as well as honestly no matter what season of life we're in.

Proverbs. Proverbs are short phrases that reflect or rather observe life that are meant to be memorable. The context is a father imparting his wisdom down to his son so as to warn him to avoid folly (the two, wisdom and folly, are constantly contrasted throughout the book). Other characteristics and tips for Proverbs...
  • They're not promises of God, but rather advice for wise living, and are therefore practical in their nature.
  • They allude to a grander teaching/theme/lesson. Much of what we read in Proverbs isn't to be taken literally, but rather we have to know the meaning behind the figurative language. 
  • Culture considerations have to be thought of so we can translate them into our own time in history
  • Sometimes a proverb will use a specific literary technique (ex. hyperbole, an exaggeration) to really make their point stick out.

Song of Solomon (Song of Songs). This is easily one of the top books of the Bible that scholars debate and argue over. Despite a long history of the church teaching it as an allegory for loads of years, it is not an allegory. It is pretty much the longest love song written... to my knowledge... um... ever, about the celebration of a God-glorifying, joyful marriage, intimacy and sex included. And while poetic, figurative language is used heavily, it is rather explicit about sex and how God designed it.

Ecclesiastes. Most scholars concur that the book is written by King Solomon near the end of his life, which in part explains why he talks about gaining everything, and yet finding it all to be meaningless. Of course there's more to it than just that... which is why you have to read it *hint, hint*. But the whole book is a monologue of wisdom on life being passed down. I like how Matt Chandler likens it to listening to a grandparent over coffee.

Further Study...


  1. Hi Natalie! I like that image of being at the feet of a grandparent reading Ecclesiates. I think I will assign myself that chapter for the next week. I didn't realize it was written at the end of Solomon's life. That gives the word such rich context.

    I am always so enlightened here. Bless you!

    1. It's such a great analogy from Matt Chandler

  2. This practical teaching is so needed in our Bible studies, and personal studies! Its grieved my heart on more than one occasion when people take the Proverbs as promises, only to be heartbroken and disappointed when the "formula" doesn't work.

    I've been really hungry for some sermons to listen to lately. I'm thankful for Piper's ministry, and that all his resources are free. But I've been wanting to add some variety! It just occurred to me that Chandler's sermons would be on your church website. Thank you for sharing! If you have any favorites/recommendations in addition to this one on Ecclesiastes, I welcome them. :)

    1. I can recommend anything from Chandler =) Although, I don't go to his church

    2. Oooh hmm, for some reason, I thought you attended there. But thank you for the recommendation! :)

    3. Chandler's church is in TX, I attend Darrin Patrick's church =)

    4. Heh heh, oops! I did know that, just got my pastors crossed. :)


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