Month: August 2016

71. The Holy Bible. The Old Testament. The Book of Psalms.

71. The Holy Bible. The Old Testament. The Book of Psalms.

150 prayers and songs of praise, about half of these doubtfully attributed to King David.

My thoughts : It is probably a truism that the best of a large set of anything will inevitably also be the best known to the novice. Beethoven’s Fifth, Shakespeare’s Macbeth, da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. And in this case, Psalm 23. It is so superior to the rest of the Psalms, in both a literary and emotional sense. For anyone not knowing it by its number, you will surely recognize it from the image at the top of the post.

I must admit myself hugely disappointed with most of the rest of the Psalms. Many seem to exist just as much to beseech God’s protection from enemies as to praise Him. Indeed, the praising of God in these Psalms seems to be largely a means to winning His assistance in raising up the author and bringing down his adversaries. Psalm 13 is almost petulant while Psalm 44 is quite demanding in their appeals to God. Psalms 96-100 and 145-150 do solely offer up praise but it is a long read to get to them, and I admit after the first hundred, I started to skim over the remaining Psalms and skipped those which focused on seeking retribution or salvation from enemies.

Some also switch back and forth addressing both the Lord and David’s enemies in the same Psalm, or seem to change voice from the psalter to the Lord and back, making the reading more difficult and causing much re-reading on my part.

No doubt I could have learned more by studying each Psalm with the help of one of hundreds of online Bible study websites, but I think I got the overall flavour of the Book of Psalms,  and am now ready to move on.

Favourite lines/passages: Other than Psalm 23, my favourite Psalms were 104 and 121. Psalm 104 was my overall favourite probably because it dwells on the creation and wonders of the natural world. Psalm 104 is one of the longer Psalms but well worth the read and I couldn’t pick out particular lines to highlight so I simply recommend it to you.

Psalm 121 starts with

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. My help cometh from the Lord, which made Heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved; he that keepeth thee will not slumber ….. The sun shall not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil; he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall preserve thy going out, and thy coming in, from this time forth, and even for evermore.”

The beginning of Psalm 69 resonated for me as well from its depiction of sheer despair…

“Save me, O God, for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing; I am come into deep waters, where the floods overflow me. I am weary of my crying; my throat is dried; mine eyes fail while I wait for my God.”

… but then it too began to seek relief from enemies.

“They that hate me without a cause are more than the hairs of mine head ; they that would destroy me, being mine enemies wrongfully are mighty….”

Diversions and digressions:  The word selah appears many times within individual Psalms. The meaning of the word is not known for certain, but a case can be made for either “pause”, being an instruction to the singers or musicians, or “praise”, or a practical combination of the two.

Personal rating varied from many 1 or 2 to a very few 6, so I will give it an average of 3.

Next : I was going to continue with The Old Testament, specifically The Book of Proverbs, but I think something else might be more palatable right now so I will draw a deep breath and opt for the early Socratic dialogues of Plato, comprising Charmides, Ion, Laches, Lysis, Hippias Major and Hippias Minor, and Euthydemus . Frying pan? Fire?

 

70. The Holy Bible : The Old Testament : The Book of Job

70. The Holy Bible : The Old Testament : The Book of Job

This post and the next few will cover the Books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and The Song of Solomon. For the earlier books of the Old Testament, see posts 22 and 47.

My thoughts

After Genesis and Exodus, these are probably the books I was most looking forward to. Which makes my initial foray into Job such a disappointment as I found it very hard going.

Job is the most righteous man alive, worshiping God and shunning evil. He is also very wealthy, blessed with family and large numbers of livestock and slaves. God asks Satan if he has seen anyone in his travels as worthy, and Satan remarks that if  all of Job’s wealth was removed, Job would soon turn to cursing God. God allows Satan to take everything away from Job and kill his sons, yet Job remains worshipful.

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away – blessed be the name of the Lord.”       Job, 1:21

Again Satan asks God to test Job by taking away his health, and God allows Satan to cover Job with boils, and yet he still stays faithful.

“Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?”      Job, 2:10

Job is then visited by three ‘friends’ : Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar, who remonstrate with him that he must have sinned against God and he should now repent, as God would not punish the innocent so.

And here is where I started to lose the thread of the arguments, for now Job appears to question God’s actions and demand an explanation. God’s voice comes out of a whirlwind and describes His own wisdom and omnipotence without explaining why Job has been made to suffer. Nevertheless Job repents and admits his lack of wisdom and is restored to health, wealth and family.

Since Job is synonymous with patience, I expected some sort of superhuman endurance and resistance by Job to all the misfortune suffered, which he does demonstrate until his ‘friends’ arrive on the scene. The arguments of his three ‘friends’ and the mysterious fourth commentator Elihu are confounding and I had to look for explanation elsewhere. Luckily one of my staff is a Bible scholar and happened to be studying Job this week, so we have had a few chats about it.

I found it interesting that Satan could tempt God into allowing him to test Job. Surely God would be immune to Satan’s tricks and temptations?

Favourite lines/passages

“for the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit ; the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me”                                                  Job, 6:4

“For we are but of yesterday, and know nothing, because our days upon earth are a shadow”                                                                                                                                                    Job, 8:9

and the rather obscure pronouncement from Job

“I am a brother to dragons and a companion to owls”                                                       Job, 30: 29

Diversions/digressions

Who was the shortest man in the Bible?  Bildad the Shuhite 😉

Personal rating : 3

Next:  The Book of Psalms

 

Delay in posting

Apologies for the delay in a new post – my library is going through a workplace change process and there is not as yet a clear outcome for me. Either I will have a whole lot more free time to read and post in the near future, or I will find myself in a new role which might require some time to adjust. Please bear with me. bear