Old Testament Poetic Books, 6


In my Old Testament Poetic Books on April 19 & 26, we initially completed the book of Psalms and then went through key issues in the book of Proverbs. These issues include the following.


Authorship & Date

Growth of the Book of Proverbs


The Relationship Between Proverbs 22:17???24:22 and The Instruction of Amenemope

Characteristics of Proverbs

Literary Forms

Theme and Purpose

Theological Emphases

Interpreting Proverbs

When I went through my notes on Interpreting Proverbs, I focused on six considerations that need to be factored into our hermeneutical framework (for more on this, go to “Interpreting the Book of Proverbs“). The most important guideline is the analogia Scriptura, Scripture interprets Scripture. What this means is that the entirety of Scripture is the context and the guide in interpreting specific passages in Scripture. In reference to Proverbs, this means that problematic passages in this book should be interpreted by the rest of Scripture (to see the essence of my presentation, go here, here and here).

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Old Testament Poetic Books, 5

Ps1 1

In our previous Old Testament Poetic Books’ classes, we covered the introductory issues for the Psalter. These issues included the title for the Psalter, other items related to the individual authors for each psalm, the development of the book of Psalms from the earliest psalm (the superscription of Psalm 90 indicates that Moses was the author) to the post-exilic psalms (e.g., Ps 137), editorial notes (such as the superscriptions and Selah), the nature of the Psalms, and the classification of the Psalms.

Let me give a few more details about the nature of psalms. We looked at psalms being made up of religious lyric poetry, evocative language, parallelism, the historical setting for some of the psalms, and the three part structure for each psalm.

For example, in examining a psalm as religious lyric poetry, we observed that poetry is a language of images and the use of comparisons. It is more highly concentrated and its structure is more highly structured than prose. In addition, lyric poetry is characterized by its abbreviated nature. Finally, religious lyric poetry is the communication of a poets thoughts and feelings as prompted by his understanding of God and His work. These sing of Yahweh???s creation of the earth and His past deliverance. They rejoice over the Law and celebrate various aspects of worship.

Again, in treating the three-part structure for each psalm, a psalm is made up of these parts: subject, development of the subject, and conclusion. (1) The subject (also called ???topic???) is generally contained in the first few verses of a psalm. For example, the subject of Psalm 23 is found in v. 1: because the Lord is David’s shepherd, he lacks nothing. This is to say, v. 1 focuses on David???s theological thoughts about God???s rich provisions for him. (2) The development of the subject is the major part of a poem???s structure. There are a few ways that the subject may be developed in a psalm. One of these ways involves listing items that develop a subject. Psalm 23 is the most familiar example of this. In supporting David???s subject of God???s rich provisions for him, he itemizes a number of God???s provisions such as rest (v. 2a), restoration (v 2b), moral direction (v. 3), and protection (vv. 4-5). (3) The conclusion of a psalm may be found in a summary, as in Psalm 1:6, a prayer, Psalm 19:14, an exhortation, Psalm 19:14, or even a climax as in Psalm 23:6b: ” I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.”

With our next class, we will analyze a few key psalms according to their genre and begin looking at Proverbs.

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Old Testament Poetic Books, 4


In my Old Testament Poetic Books class, we finished Job a few weeks back and began looking at the Psalms last week. This post will summarize both classes.

After examining the interchange between Job and his “friends,” including Elihu, none of the friends provide the solution to Job’s dilemma. Only God can provide the resolution. So God responds in Job 38-42. In the final analysis, God demonstrates that this is a theocentric world. He is its sovereign who freely and accurately administers justice. And, his servants must faithfully submit to his sovereign control. Job got the point and I trust that we do, as well.

As we began to look at Psalms, we looked at introductory issues such as title, authorship, and the historical development of the book of the Psalter. I developed in class the our book of Psalms is composed of five books that were collected between 1400 to 400 B.C. The fivefold collection breaks down like this.

Book 1 Psalms 1???41 (in Greek text, 1???40)

Book 2 Psalms 42???72 (in Greek text, 41???71)

Book 3 Psalms 73???89 (in Greek text, 72???88)

Book 4 Psalms 90???106 (in Greek text, 89???105)

Book 5 Psalms 107???150 (in Greek text, 106???150, with the addition of Ps 151)

With our next class or two, we will further a fuller understanding and greater appreciation of the Psalms.

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Old Testament Poetic Books, 3

Job 2

With our last two class sessions in OT Poetic Books, we covered most of the book of Job. As far as books, which I cover in our entry level courses, go, Job is my favorite book to cover. While one may get lost in the disputation between Job and his friends, if one can step past the repetitive, vitriolic exchange, the book’s overall argument is discernible and I enjoy developing its arguments (I have an interest in Job because of my study of Job; more significantly, my dissertation was on the Elihu Speeches; I wrote a condensed form of it for the Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal: “Elihu’s Contribution to the Thought of the Book of Job.”

After looking at some introductory issues, such as title, authorship and dating, location, literary composition, I developed the message of Job. Many interpreters have understood that the message of the book of Job is primarily dealing with the subject of the righteous suffering. However, this approach is myopic for the suffering Job is never told either who was immediately responsible for his suffering or the reason for his suffering. In dealing with the book???s message, it would be more precise to view Job???s suffering as a catalyst to explore the central concern of the book, viz., God???s administration of justice. To read more fully on my understanding of the message of Job, you can read five posts that I did on this subject. Click here, here, here, here, and here. When classes resume after our winter recess, I will finish Job’s message and then begin covering Psalms.

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Old Testament Poetic Books, 2


With our second and third class sessions on Old Testament Poetic Books, we covered our introduction to this material on pp. 14???31 of our syllabus. With this presentation, we looked at five introductory issues for this class: (1) characteristics of the Poetic Books, (2) general information about the Poetic Books, (3) Wisdom in the Old Testament, (4) the Poetic Books & Wisdom, and (5) theology in the Poetic Books.

I will briefly expand on the last two subjects. In examining the Poetic Books & Wisdom, we looked at the books covered in our class as they relate to poetry and wisdom literature (Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon and Lamentations). Only three of the books treated in this class as well as a few psalms can be classified as wisdom: Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and a few psalms (1, 15, 36, 37, 49, 73, 112, 119, 127, 128, 133). The wisdom literature is only a portion of the material that we cover in OT Poetic Books. The rest of the material we cover is the majority of the Psalms that are not wisdom, Song of Solomon, and Lamentations.

As far as the wisdom material goes, there are two broad categories of wisdom: contemplative and practical. Contemplative wisdom focuses on the seeming inequities of life, like Job, and the solution to the enigmas of life, like Ecclesiastes. Practical wisdom, as in Proverbs and a few psalms, is down-to-earth, how to succeed living under the terms of the Mosaic Covenant.

In dealing with theology in the Poetic Books, we initially looked at a brief introduction to biblical theology. This was followed by looking at what the Poetic Books present about God and man. In examining God, we looked at God’s attributes (such as infinity, wisdom, freedom, incomprehensibility, holiness), his relationship to the universe (such as his plan for the universe, creation, preservation, and providence), his sovereign control of the universe. To mention one of God’s attributes, Job and Ecclesiastes strongly affirm his freedom. This attribute means that God’s will is not bound by anything outside of Himself. God is only limited by His nature and will.

The poetic books presents man as being finite and sinful. They also deal with man???s death and immortality. Finally, they stress a number of man’s responsibilities. We noted three of man’s duties: his obligation to fear God, to be diligent in his work, and to judiciously enjoy life.

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Old Testament Poetic Books, 1


This semester I am teaching a class entitled “Old Testament Poetic Books.” In order to give you a glimpse of what an entry level course is like at DBTS, I wanted to do a series of blog posts summarizing most of my lectures. With this post, I provide the course requirements, a few sources and a link to the complete bibliography.

Here are the course requirements.

Course Descriptions: A study of the key elements of Hebrew poetry, the argument of the book of Job, key Psalms as they relate to their literary genre, the book of Proverbs as it relates to skillful living, the message of Ecclesiastes, an interpretation of the Song of Solomon, and the book of Lamentations.

Objectives: In this course the student should

1. understand the basic nature and expression of Hebrew poetry in its setting;

2. have an understanding of the basic message of Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, Lamentations, and the key Psalms studied;

3. acquire a basic knowledge of the figures of speech employed in the poetic books;

4. have an understanding of the historical background for each book; and

5. gain an appreciation of the richness of the theology and practicality contained in the Poetic Books.


1. Tests: There will be three major tests. The first exam will cover pp. 1???49 of the syllabus, the second exam, pp. 50???106, and third pp. 107???154-???90% of grade.

2. Reading Requirement: If the student completes all the assigned reading in accordance with the reading schedule, he will receive a 98%-???10% of grade.

4 Key Sources

Berry, Donald K. An Introduction to Wisdom and Poetry of the Old Testament. Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1995.

Bullock, C. Hassell. HAn Introduction to the Old Testament Poetic Books: The Wisdom and Songs of Israel. Rev. ed. Chicago: Moody Press, 1988.

Estes, Daniel J. Handbook on the Wisdom Books and Psalms. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2005.

McCabe, Robert V. ???Old Testament Poetic Books.??? Unpublished syllabus, Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary, 2011.

To download the complete bibliography for OT Poetic Books, go here.

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