Poetry from The Height of Hebrew History The Pentateuch: Birth of a nation. Birth of law. The deuteronomic history (The deuteronomic hypothesis – obey and be blessed, disobey the law and be cursed) • Often, this philosophy seems to be overlaid by later redactors. • God is very involved with his people. Yes and no. Sometimes very human and very close. Sometimes very distant and arbitrary. Noah- chosen as upright in his generation Abraham- chosen and tested. Father of the Jews and Arabs. faithful Moses- greatest prophet. He spoke with God face to face. Joshua- military leader. Always victorious (God close) Judges- fragmented tribal groups (God not close) Saul- appealing but doomed from the beginning. (You wanted a king, so here you are, but you’re not gonna like it!) David- a passionate and righteous man, a musician, a shepherd, sins but asks forgiveness. • We know him through his relationships with others. • Abner, Joab, Saul, Jonathan, Michal, Goliath, Absalom, Bathsheba With David’s life, comes a lot more complexity and variety. The deuteronomic hypothesis is less easy to enforce. Poetry and wisdom books confront human and religious issues from very different angles. Poetry (Song of Solomon & Psalms) • Expressions of emotion and possibilities. • Song of Solomon- poetic celebration of love. Gives religious blessing to love and romance. Possibly allegorical. • Psalms. Praises, questions, prayers, instruction. Wisdom (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, & Job). • God looks very different. • Religion of Israel hardly mentioned. • They all deal with various behaviors and its consequences. Based on what you have read and what we have talked about in class… 1. What are some common themes found in various parts of the Bible? 2. How should people live? 3. What are the consequences of various actions? 4. What makes a person “good” or “bad”? 5. What are some aspects of God’s character? 6. How does God treat his chosen people? also called “Song of Songs” and “Canticles” and “the Song” The only erotic poetry in the Bible • It’s very hard to classify or interpret It’s often called a religious allegory (a fictional narrative in which characters, objects, and actions symbolize some higher truth.) • To Jews: an allegory of Yahweh’s love for Israel • For Christians: an allegory of Christ’s love for his “bride” the church. But otherwise, taken directly, it appears to be an affirmation of the human capacity for sexual pleasure. Sung yearly at Passover Sung at Weddings Many other interpretations and guesses The Jerusalem Bible (a Catholic version) has divided the Song into parts to be spoken by bride, groom, and others. CHAPTER 1 1 Solomon's Song of Songs: 2 BELOVED: Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth, for your love-making is sweeter than wine; 3 delicate is the fragrance of your perfume, your name is an oil poured out, and that is why girls love you. 4 Draw me in your footsteps, let us run. The king has brought me into his rooms; you will be our joy and our gladness. We shall praise your love more than wine; how right it is to love you. 5 BELOVED: I am black but lovely, daughters of Jerusalem, like the tents of Kedar, like the pavilions of Salmah. 6 Take no notice of my dark coloring, it is the sun that has burnt me. My mother's sons turned their anger on me, they made me look after the vineyards. My own vineyard I had not looked after! 7 Tell me then, sweetheart, where will you lead your flock to graze, where will you rest it at noon? That I may no more wander like a vagabond beside the flocks of your companions. 8 CHORUS: If you do not know this, O loveliest of women, follow the tracks of the flock, and take your kids to graze close by the shepherds' tents. 9 LOVER: I compare you, my love, to my mare harnessed to Pharaoh's chariot. 10 Your cheeks show fair between their pendants and your neck within its necklaces. 11 We shall make you golden earrings and beads of silver. 12 DUO: -While the king rests in his own room my nard yields its perfume. 13 My love is a sachet of myrrh lying between my breasts. 14 My love is a cluster of henna flowers among the vines of EnGedi. 15 -How beautiful you are, my beloved, how beautiful you are! Your eyes are doves. 16 -How beautiful you are, my love, and how you delight me! Our bed is the greensward. 17 -The beams of our house are cedar trees, its paneling the cypress. The environment is full of allusions to nature, fruits, flowers, animals, geography, architecture, and is lush and scented, Lots of sensation. A private paradise to enjoy love Terms like “king” and “sister” are not meant literally, but are ways to show esteem. The lovers sometimes address each other in the third person. The female lover is often called “The Shulammite” (“the perfect one”)(6:13) Terms like vineyard, garden, orchard allude to womanhood. There is much talk of growing into a mature woman. No mention of God. Toward the conclusion, the context of the love is made more broad when it is compared to death 6 Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is strong as death, passion fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, a raging flame. 7 Many waters cannot quench love, neither can floods drown it. If one offered for love all the wealth of one’s house, it would be utterly scorned. Greek term meaning “song” The Hebrew term “Tehillim” means, specifically “hymns” or “songs of praise” 150 individual poems composed over (possibly) 600 years. It’s hard to know when any particular one was composed. Some seem very old while others are clearly from after the exile. David probably wrote many, but not all those that are ascribed to him. The superscriptions, don’t necessarily tell authorship. These were probably added after composition. Sometimes they refer to musicians or melodies, or specific musical ideas that are now unknown. Smaller collections were formed and later placed into larger collection. The Psalms are divided into five books probably to reflect the five books of Moses’ Law. The name means “praise songs” Laments: Biggest category. For individuals or nation seeking help in distress. Emphasize sorrow, grief, mourning, regret. (14, 22, 42, 51, 74) Psalms of Thanksgiving: show gratitude to God for his saving the psalmist from danger. (23, 30,) Hymns (songs of praise): Cites specific reasons God deserves Israel’s worship, such as noting his creative work or citing his work in Israel’s history. ( 8, 84, 104) Psalms of Blessing and Cursing: Wishes for horrible fate for enemies and wonderful blessings for friends. (109) Royal Psalms: Content more important than form. Used to commemorate events such as coronation (2, 72, 100) or wedding (45). Psalms of Wisdom and Instruction: Often use words such as “law,” “wisdom,” “instruction,” “teaching,” “Fear of the lord.” (1, 119) Used in temple worship and many still are used by both Jewish and Christian believers. Songs that came from a specific situations have been generalized, stylized, and made metaphorical in ways that loosen these prayers from their original settings making them applicable in the life of the community over long periods of time and for different situations. The poetic character is seen especially in the balance or symmetry of each line. Usually, each line (often one verse) has two or three parts. The balance between these parts is evident in three ways 1. sound or rhythm (accented or stressed syllables) 2. length of line (the number of syllables) 3. parallelism of meaning (ideas or words in one colon are seconded or paralled in some fashion in another) synonymous meanings contrastive meanings Lots of figures of speech, personification, metaphor, similes, figurative language, etc. Divide into groups of 4 and each group take one Psalm. Take 15 minutes to talk about this Psalm. 1. Read the whole Psalm 2. Look for figurative language. What ideas and feelings are being conveyed? How do they change from the beginning to the end? 3. Choose 2-4 verses to look at more carefully. 1. 2. What ideas are being conveyed? What emotions are being expressed? 4. From what you know about Israel's history, in what situation might someone want to read or think about this psalm? 5. In today’s world, in what kind of situation might people want to read or think about this psalm? Share with the class. One person do each of the following 1. 2. 3. 4. Give a one to two sentence summary or description of your psalm. Read 2-4 verses out loud to the class (read loudly) Tell one or two ideas, and one or two feelings these verses convey Tell who (in Israel’s day and/or our day) these verses or this Psalm could apply to. 1. We think that this Psalm is a prayer for help for someone who is in a very bad situation. Remembering God’s help in the past gives hope and assurance. (He starts by complaining and describing his terrible situation and then he seems to talk himself into trusting God and that makes him feel better.) 2. 14I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; 15my mouth* is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. 3. It sounds like this person is so exhausted and worried that he feels it in his whole body. By telling God his strong feelings, it may make God more willing to offer help. 4. We think this verse might fit the sitaution that David felt when he was kicked out of his kingdom by his son, Absalom. But it could also relate to anyone who has really felt strong despair. This could be encouraging to someone who feels hopeless because the psalmist felt hopeless at first and then, by remembering and thinking about God, he seems to feel better even though his situation didn’t improve. 8 A hymn of praise to God for exalting the human creation. Awareness of God’s creation raises the question of what value humans have. See how Psalm 144:3 and Job 7:17 pose the same question and answer it differently. 14 A palm expressing confidence in God’s protecting help for the poor and innocent even in the face of rampant and unrelenting wickedness and evil. (See similarities in Psalm 53). Fools and the wicked are synonymous in the wisdom tradition of the Hebrew scriptures. 22 A prayer for help from someone in great distress, followed by a song of thanksgiving and praise. Remembering God’s earlier deliverance of his people, gives the psalmist strength and assurance. 23 A song of trust during an ordeal that seems to be evoked from a specific experience of deliverance. The image of God as a shepherd is an important metaphor in the Bible. The Psalm is often read at funerals. 42 An individual prayer for help by one who is cut off from god’s presence and is oppressed by enemies. The psalmist seeks to be led into the sanctuary (God’s presence) and saved from enemies. 51 A prayer for god’s help by an individual who is deeply aware of sin and guilt and needs God’s forgiveness. 74 A community prayer for help that seems to assume the destruction of Jerusalem and so may date between 587-520 BCE 84 A song of Zion, for one who makes a pilgrimage to the temple and rejoices at being in the presence of God. 110 A Royal Psalm declaring God’s establishment of the ruling and priestly office of the king. The Psalm probably originally had to do with rights and traditions given to the king at his enthronement in Jerusalem. 121 A song of confidence in God’s providential care. The psalmist asks a question about the source of help when one is in trouble of any sort and then answers it. 127 A wisdom Psalm Instruction about the Lord as the sources of security and of the gift of children. Human building is useless unless god is involved. 137 A prayer of the community for God to destroy its oppressors and enemies. Although it refers to the exile in Babylon, it is probably a a later recollection of the event. (Songs of Zion such as 46, 48, 76, 84) 148 A hymn of praise consisting mainly of a long series of calls to the elements of creation and the inhabitants of the earth to praise the Lord.