MARKHAM LUTHERAN CHURCH
Baptized to serve.
Baptized to serve.
More About the Books of the Bible: Tanak/Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament)
Old Testament: The Torah
More About the Books of the Bible: Tanak/Hebrew Scriptures (Old Testament)
Old Testament: The Torah
The Book of Genesis
The book of Genesis was compiled from oral and written traditions probably brought together during the time of the kingdoms of Judah and Israel. Later parts may have been written down after the fall of Judah during the Babylonian exile (the promise of God to Abraham, joined with the stories about Jacob and Joseph, for instance, which would have given hope to the Jewish captives). It wasn't until the Greco-Roman period when Genesis and the other writings of the Pentateuch began to be attributed to Moses, one of the major figures in the stories of these writings. This reflects the custom among the Greeks of identifying authorship, which they believed conferred more authority and prestige on a work. Genesis combines old writings about creation and the flood with later priestly writings which relate Israel's experience of and relationship with God through the centuries.
The Book of Exodus
Exodus can be divided into thematic and literary sections. Many scholars consider Exodus to be the most important book in the Old Testament. It explains God's name of YHWH, which we pronounce Yahweh, and core ideas about God, especially that God hears, responds to and saves his people. Our God is not blind to our suffering nor deaf to our cries! In Exodus, we understand that all the major institutions and festivals of Judaism are expressions of liberation. Like all of the Penteteuch (the first five books of the Bible, attributed to Moses), Exodus is a composite of traditions by several different storytellers and authors. This was a common practice in ancient times: the redactor, or editor, did a wonderful job in putting the different sources together, but he (or she) didn't worry about overlapping storylines or conflicting details or differences in vocabulary and style.
The Book of Leviticus
The title "Leviticus" comes from the Greek and Latin and means "the book of the Levites." They were the tribe of Israel assigned to be priests. The Hebrew name for this book is wayyiqra (vay-yik-RAH), which means "and he called," because the book begins with Moses being summoned from the tent of meeting by God. The book contains the "statutes and ordinances and laws" that God gives to Israel using Moses as his messenger. In chapters 1-16 we read about rituals, offerings, and rites for the priests and people alike. Chapters 17-26 contain the laws called the Holiness Code, and are probably from older sources and collections of material. They warn the people that, through their sin and rebelliousness against God, they could face judgement and exile. The final editors of the Holiness Code, working after the Babylonian exile, knew, of course, that that's exactly what had happened. The kingdoms of Israel and Judah had been scattered among the nations, and only a remnant had returned. Israel is commanded to maintain its identity as God's "holy" people in part through the complex system of sacrifices described in Leviticus. One of the High Priest's sacred responsibilities was to enter the Most Holy Place (Holy of Holies) in the Tent of Meeting and, later, the Temple, on the Day of Atonement (only the High Priest could enter, and only on that day) to sprinkle the blood of the sacrificial animals and burn incense on behalf of himself and his family, the other priests and their families, and the people. Christians believe that we are no longer bound by the system of sacrifices. Jesus has replaced the high priest as our representative before God. (It is significant that when Jesus cried, "It is finished!" and died on the cross, the veil, or curtain, which hid the Most Holy Place from view, "...was torn in two, from top to bottom" (Mark 15:38).
The Book of Numbers
In the Hebrew Bible the title of the Book of Numbers is In the Wilderness. The English title Numbers comes from the Greek Arithmoi and Latin Numeri and refers to the organization and numbering that takes place in this book. The individual stories, some of which are quite fantastic, were written down by the Yahwist, Elohist and, especially, the Priestly communities and reflect their interests. They were put together in about the 6th century B.C.E. Think of Numbers as a continuation of Exodus. The main point is that, as we journey through life, God is with us as he was with the Israelites throughout their history, guiding, sustaining, and disciplining. Though we may sometimes see it differently, we are utterly dependent upon God. Only in him do we find true freedom. NOTE: When the title LORD appears, it represents the name of God, Yahweh.
The Book of Deuteronomy
The Book of Deuteronomy presents a series of speeches delivered by Moses to the people of Israel. The book was written by scribes and priests about 700-640 B.C.E., around the time of the Assyrian ascent. The authors' goal was that the people would remain faithful to God. Apparently the book was "lost" for a time; a shorter version was found when repairs were being made to the temple in the time of King Josiah (640-609 B.C.E.). (See 2 Kings 22-23.) Deuteronomy tells its readers about God and God's relationship with us and the world. It is also very much of its time, written for seventh century Judah at a time when the Assyrian Empire was very much in control and the people feared for their nation and themselves. Some people had fallen under the sway of Assyrian culture, including their gods, worshiping both Yahweh and Baal. The wealthy lorded it over the poor. Slavery was widespread: it was common in Assyria to sell debtors into bondage, and Judah had adopted that vile practice. The writers of Deuteronomy addressed these violations of God's law, encouraging the people to be loyal to God and God's laws. They stressed the special relationship between God and God's people, initiated by God, which they were to share with the world and future generations. They stressed that God's people were to be beacons of justice and mercy. They were to love as God loved them. The choice is clear between disobedience that leads to death and obedience that leads to life (Deuteronomy 30:15-20).
The Historical Books
The Book of Joshua
The book of Joshua describes the entry of God's people Israel into the promised land of Canaan after their time of wandering in the wilderness. The events in Joshua take place in about the thirteenth century B.C.E., but the book was completed/finalized in about the seventh century B.C.E. Joshua is part of the Deuteronomistic History (Deuteronomy-2 Kings). Before Moses died, Joshua was chosen to lead the people into Canaan, under the direction of the Lord, their true leader. (Joshua means "the Lord saves.") The people are admonished to remember that the promised land was a gift to them from the Lord. Keeping it would depend on them being faithful to the Lord and living according to God's law. In the seventh century, when the book was finalized, the people had turned away from the Lord, placing their faith in earthly rulers and powers, and were conquered by the Babylonians. But the book of Joshua offered them hope. Even in the time of Jesus, the book of Joshua would have given hope and encouragement to the people under the Roman yoke. In part because of the violence of Joshua, Jesus (Greek form of Joshua) was expected to behave like an earthly warrior-ruler; but Jesus' way of salvation contrasts starkly with Joshua's violence. Again and again, Jesus shattered expectations. Jesus ushered in the Kingdom of God, open to all, of which he is temple, priest, king, and sacrifice.
The Book of Ruth
People love stories. Telling a story is an excellent way to teach almost anything. Many people who think they hate history because they were forced to memorize dates of battles fought years, maybe centuries, before they were even born, come to love it when they realize that it is full of exciting, or at least interesting, stories about people and events that impacted the world. Marginalized people, who are more often than not left out of history books, or belittled in them, can tell the truth in their stories. Almost all of us enjoy stories about our own family members, especially if they turn out to have been heroic and special in some way. Ancient people used stories to tell their history, national and personal. Ruth is an example of such a story. Ruth, her mother-in-law, Naomi, and their kinsman Boaz, who became Ruth's husband, were sheroes and hero to the ancient Israelites. They have become sheroes and heroes of Christianity, too, and are included in Jesus' genealogy recounted to us in Matthew 1. It is significant that Ruth (and Rahab and Tamar) is included in the earthly genealogy of the Son of God. She was a gentile, a non-Jew. So this brings home the point made throughout the Bible that God loves everyone, Jew and Gentile, male, female, whatever their circumstances in life. There are no second class citizens in the Kingdom of God.
The book of Ruth may have been written as early as the time of David; however, it is far more likely to have been written shortly after the peoples' return from exile in Babylon. At that time, the returnees developed a deep suspicion of foreign women, encouraged by the priest, Ezra, concerned more with the Jewish purity laws than with people and relationships. He encouraged Jews who were the descendants of those left behind in the land when many were taken into captivity in Babylon to get rid of their non-Israelite wives and half Israelite children. Not a great guy. Some of them were probably Samaritan women, who also worshiped Yahweh, but were not considered to be "orthodox."
1 Samuel and 2 Samuel
Originally 1 and 2 Samuel were one book, which was divided when it was translated into Greek. Samuel was probably written by many different people with differing opinions about monarchy. It (they) recounts a time of great change in Israel when the government of the judges came to an end and they were granted a king, as they had demanded. Samuel, as you might expect, is a leading figure in the book, especially 1 Samuel. He was a Nazirite, dedicated to the Lord by his parents, and a judge, a prophet, and a Levitical priest (descendant of Levi) at Shiloh in the days before worship was centralized in the Temple at Jerusalem and only the Aaronic priesthood (descendants of Aaron) was allowed to sacrifice, the Levites reduced to the roles of assistants. 2 Samuel recounts God's unwavering love for and faithfulness to his people through good times and bad. David, anointed king by Samuel, is the star of 2nd Samuel. David was a great king, yet he made some very bad decisions and committed the heinous crimes of adultery and murder. But God still loved him, as he loves us even at our worst; and when David repented, he received forgiveness, just as we do when we kneel at the foot of the cross. We are called to live faithful lives in an unfaithful world.
The Books of 1 and 2 Kings
The books of 1 and 2 Kings, Joshua, Judges, and Samuel were all written from the same point of view as Deuteronomy. The book of 2 Kings continues the story of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. It considers two issues of concern in Deuteronomy: 1) Centralized worship in the temple in Jerusalem; and 2) The worship of the one God. It also keeps going back to God's promise to David that his throne will be eternal.
In the Septuagint (the Greek Bible), the books of 1 and 2 Kings (originally one book) and 1 and 2 Samuel are linked because these books tell the stories of the Israelite and Judean kings. 1 Kings begins with the death of David, who figures so prominently in the books of Samuel. Most scholars call the books of Deuteronomy through Kings the "Deuteronomistic History" because of their stylistic similarities.
The Book of Isaiah
The name Isaiah means "The Lord saves," a fitting description of the contents of the Old Testament Book of Isaiah, which deals with God's sovereignty, judgment and restoration of Israel and the world. It is named after Isaiah, son of Amoz, or Isaiah of Jerusalem, a prophet who lived in the late 8th century B.C.E., and to whom the first thirty-nine chapters are attributed. Most scholars believe that the book of Isaiah was composed and edited over three or four major periods over several hundred years. All of the various authors attempt to persuade their readers to repent and choose justice and righteousness. As proclaimed throughout the book, the Lord's desire is not punishment but restoration. Chapters 1-33 contain warnings of judgments, but promise restoration. Chapters 34-66 are written as though judgment has taken place and restoration is imminent. The book of Isaiah has been referred to as a "fifth gospel," because of it's promise of a Messiah who comes as a suffering servant, laying down his life for his people. Isaiah is quoted many times in the Christian scriptures, which proclaim that the Messiah is realized in Jesus.
The Book of Isaiah contains what are known as the four Servant Songs. They are found in Isaiah 42:1-9; Isaiah 49:1-13; Isaiah 50:4-11; and Isaiah 52:13-53:12. Christians tend to identify the servant as Jesus, but taken in context, the servant refers to Israel; however, the Messiah, whom Christians believe to be Jesus of Nazareth, as an Israelite, could certainly represent his people, who had not lived up to God's call. As Christians, we believe that Jesus was the One who restored the relationship between God and his creation on the cross.
The Book of Jeremiah
The Book of Jeremiah is attributed to Jeremiah who was "only a boy" when he received God's call to be a prophet. He played his major prophetic role during the last forty years of Judah's history; however, there is no clear chronological ordering of material in the book. It also jumps from topic to topic. It is written in both poetry and prose, with biographical narratives thrown in for good measure, the latter which are attributed to Jeremiah's secretary, Baruch. It seems to be a collection of varied material. This could be, in part, because when Jeremiah died in about 586 B.C.E., Baruch retold some of Jeremiah's sermons. This underscores that pre-exile prophets tended to be preachers rather than writers; many of Jeremiah's teachings were most likely passed down in oral form. Furthermore, what we have today reflects two forms, the Masoretic text (Hebrew) and the Greek text (Septuagint), which differ from one another. For example, the Septuagint Jeremiah is about 2,700 words shorter than the Masoretic text's Jeremiah. Jeremiah seems to be an "outsider," not part of the Jerusalem religious establishment as is his rival Hananiah. They do not preach the same message, the inference in Jeremiah being that Hananiah does not speak for God and is, therefore, a false prophet. Jeremiah believes that a prophet must challenge the people's collective conscience. He admonishes the nation to repent and assures them that God wants healing and reconciliation, not punishment. There is hope for a future beyond disaster and captivity (which Christians believe became a reality in Jesus Christ). Chapters 30–31 are often called the “book of consolation” because in them are gathered Jeremiah’s oracles of hope for an eventual renewal and restoration for Israel.
The Book of Lamentations
The Book of Lamentations is a collection of five poems which mourn the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians in 586 B.C.E. We don't know who the author was (for a time it was thought that it might have been Jeremiah). Whoever it was, he/she believed that the Lord had allowed the Babylonians to conquer Jerusalem because of their unfaithfulness. The writer accuses God of having forsaken his promised steadfast love for the city and her people. We often confuse lament with despair, or a lack of faith; however, it is in the depths of despair and suffering that we find God. In our greatest desperation, in the most difficult times and places, God is there.
The Book of Ezekiel
Ezekiel, whose name means "God strengthens", was the son of Buzi. He was an Israelite priest, possibly a descendant of Zadok, who prophesied to his fellow exiles. His prophetic activity began in 593 B.C.E., about four years after the first exiles arrived in Babylon, and lasted to at least 571 B.C.E. (Jerusalem submitted to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in 597 B.C.E. At that time many political and religious leaders, and even the king, Jehoiachin, were exiled to Babylon. Ezekiel may have been among them. Johoiachin's uncle, Zedekiah, became the Babylonian puppet-king. When he rebelled in 587 B.C.E., Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed and the next wave of exiles were carried off to Babylon.) Ezekiel's beloved wife died in exile. Like Jeremiah, Ezekiel prophesied before and after the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple.
Ezekiel's prophecies are delivered as poetry, he sees visions, or he performs some symbolic, dramatic action. Ezekiel is not a "comfortable" book: it is filled with troubling and violent images, including violence against women, who personify Judah and Israel in chapters 16 and 23. (On occasion, Ezekiel does protest or appeal to God in the face of what is communicated to him [4:14; 9:8; 11:13].) His call to proclaim Judah's doom seems to have caused him profound distress (3:14-15). Though writing in Babylon and focused on Jerusalem, Ezekiel comes across as a man of wide learning; he has a sophisticated worldview and awareness of the larger world, commerce, and politics.
Ezekiel, as a priest, was very concerned with the Holiness Code, which dealt with idolatry, ritual purity, and the temple. He castigates Israel for her unfaithfulness to God, her true husband, by going after other lovers, i.e., seeking political alliances with the surrounding nations and for falling into idolatry. He addresses the question of why God allowed God's people to be exiled and the temple razed to the ground. Ezekiel's answer: God is above all a holy being (36:23) who transcends human comprehension, manipulation, and calculation. God's holiness forces God to act to protect God's name. God's allowing the exile is his judgment of Israel's unholiness: faithlessness, idolatry, violence, injustice, lack of mercy. In spite of God's love and care for them, they rebelled against him and went their own way, bringing their ruin on themselves. God does not take pleasure in it. Their future restoration is completely the Lord's action, that the holiness of God's name may be restored and Israel and all the world will know that YHWH (Yahweh) is the Lord. God is holy beyond our understanding and control.
The Book of Daniel
Christian tradition places Daniel among the Prophets, following Ezekiel. Like Ezekiel, the book of Daniel contains sometimes strange symbolic visions. It is in Daniel that we read about Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, some of the elites taken into exile by Babylon. The book is written in both Hebrew and Aramaic. The book of Daniel is a book of stories. Many of us grew up hearing these stories from our parents at home and in Sunday school. They're exciting and sometimes scary, with brave heroes who stand up for their faith and the God they trust no matter the cost. The book has been misinterpreted and is often used to support the false teaching of a secret rapture of God's people before a time of great tribulation for those "left behind" and the eventual return of the Lord. The book of Daniel is a book of prayer; it's true purpose is consolation and assurance that evil will not win! Though we live in the kingdom of this world, yet, the kingdom of our God and of his Christ has overcome it. We are Advent people. Our God has redeemed us and promised to come back for us, and like Daniel and his friends, we trust that in our flesh we shall see God!
The Book of Zechariah
The book of Zechariah offers an ideal of restoration that places Jerusalem at the center. The early Church and New Testament writers drew on Zechariah to explain their understanding of Jesus, placing him at the center. Christians interpret "the one whom they have pierced" as Jesus, whereas Zechariah was probably thinking of Jerusalem itself. Zechariah is studied as though it were divided into two parts, and Chapter 12 is in what is known as Second Zechariah. This second part (Chapters 9-14) is different in character from First Zechariah (Chapters 1-8) and contains messages and oracles. It is harsher and more cynical in tone.
The Book of Hosea
Hosea prophesied during the reigns of five kings of Judah (the southern kingdom) and Israel (the northern kingdom) approximately 769-697 B.C.E. The Israelites were tempted by the gods and worship of their neighbors. The Canaanite fertility cult was especially attractive. The God of Israel could not be manipulated by his people, whereas the gods of the other religions practiced in the land seemed to bow to the whims of their worshipers. It didn't help that Assyria and Egypt were the powerhouses of the domination systems of the day. Rather than trusting God, the Israelites and their rulers looked to the rulers of Assyria and Egypt and their gods for help. The book of Hosea emphasizes that God longs to be in relationship with God's people. God also requires that God's people be righteous and loyal and deal justly with one another and others.
The Book of Joel
The name "Joel" means "Yah (weh) is my God." The book seems to have been written after the exile, probably around the time of Ezra and Nehemiah. Joel may have been a temple prophet, although we don't really know. The signs in Joel echo the Exodus story. They also show that it is the LORD who is God and the LORD who is in control. Joel also promises an outpouring of the Spirit. God acts in the world for God's people. "God is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love...." (2:13).
The Book of Amos
The prophecies of Amos date to the first half of the 8th century B.C.E., some of the earliest prophecies found in the Bible. Amos calls himself a farmer, but he must have been an educated one, because his well structured reasoning and use of the Hebrew language is striking. Amos was not one of the official "State Prophets" of Israel, and at least one of them, Amaziah, had it in for the southern upstart and tried to run Amos out of Israel by reporting him to the king and using intimidation. But Amos knew that his calling was from God. He could not be deterred from his mission of winning the northern tribes of Israel back to faith in Yahweh only, and warning them that their lack of mercy and justice to the poor and other unfortunates would bring a heavy penalty down on their heads. He also wanted to see the northern kingdom of Israel reunited with the southern Kingdom of Judah. The Book of Amos is about unity, justice and righteousness. It condemns the acquisition of wealth at the expense of others, a timely message for Western Christians.
The Book of Micah
During the 8th century when Micah was written, several other prophets were active, as well: Isaiah, Amos, and Hosea. Israel and Judah seemed to be flourishing in worldly terms, but had become indifferent to God and what it meant to be his people. They were caught up in acquiring wealth, ignored the plight of the needy at best, and treated them unjustly and without mercy at worst. They depended on earthly powers to defend them from the aggressive Assyrian Empire; but in the mid-8th century, the Assyrian ruler, Tiglath-pileser III, conquered Damascus and laid siege to Samaria, Israel's capital. In 722 B. C. E., he conquered the city, laid waste to the northern kingdom of Israel, and dispersed its people throughout his empire. In 711 B. C. E., the Assyrian king Sennacherib attacked the southern kingdom of Judah. Many towns and cities were destroyed; the fighting came very close to Micah's home town of Moresheth. About 10 years later, after Micah was active, the Assyrian king laid siege to Jerusalem; however, he was defeated by the faithful king of Judah, Hezekiah. Even those who aren't particularly well-read in the Old Testament/Hebrew Scriptures seem to be aware of him! Isaiah wrote about Hezekiah and his faithfulness.
Micah preached messages of judgment and hope. His messages of judgment are invariably followed by messages of hope. The judgments were directed toward the elite: officials of the kingdom, or politicians, as we'd call them; ungodly priests; and greedy merchants. His word of hope were for the downtrodden people, those without power, who remained faithful to God in spite of their suffering. Hope always wins!
The Book of Habakkuk
Habakkuk was a prophet living in Judah around 600 B.C.E. He sees his small country of Judah sandwiched between the colliding super powers of Babylon and Egypt. Habakkuk calls out to God to rescue God's faithful people. Habakkuk questions God for allowing suffering to last so long. He sees a vision of a day when God will act to save God's faithful people. Each of the three chapters traces a step in Habakkuk's movement from fear to hope. *
The Book of Zephaniah
The message of Zephaniah is a call for trust in God. The book was probably written during the reign of Josiah, king of Judah (640-609 B.C.E.), but possibly before he had begun his religious reforms. Zephaniah has harsh words for the priests who have strayed from the proper worship of God and followed after false gods. He also speaks out against the wealthy who fail to care for the poor. He refers to Jerusalem as an oppressor. Yet, the book ends peacefully and with singing. A restored, reconciled Jerusalem is told to rejoice. The poor, oppressed, and the outcast are promised help and security.
The Book of Malachi
We don't know anything about the author of the book of Malachi, which simply means "my messenger;" so the title assigned to this book may not be someone's actual name. The book is set in the time after the return to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon and calls for reforms in the priesthood and a renewal of devotion to God. It seems to have been written after the books of Haggai and Zechariah. They chronicled the rebuilding of the temple, which was completed and functioning by 515 B.C.E. Malachi is concerned about the quality of the rituals conducted and worship rendered there. Malachi stresses the supremacy of God and the importance of God's people remaining faithful even when things aren't going well and the future looks bleak. At the heart of the book is the age-old question that rings down to our time: "Where is the God of justice" (2:17)? Malachi reassures his/her readers that their faith in God is not misplaced. God will be faithful, and expects faithfulness in return--which not only includes right worship, but treating others with justice.
Wisdom and Poetry Books
The Book of Job
The Oxford Companion to the Bible says, "The book of Job is the most consistently theological work in the Hebrew Bible, being nothing but an extended discussion of one theological issue, the question of suffering." The author of Job is unknown, but he was probably a Jew writing to a Jewish audience during the Babylonian exile (sixth century B.C.E.). He quotes from other biblical books and calls God Yahweh.
The book of Job isn't history but rather a meditation on the problem of undeserved suffering. It asks the age-old questions, "Why do the innocent suffer?" "Where is God in my suffering?" "The suffering of the world?" It offers no clear-cut answers, making it one of the most intellectually, and maybe spiritually, challenging books in the Bible.
The book of Job makes certain statements about suffering, God, and the world:
Suffering isn't always the result of sin, a widespread belief in ancient times, one which Jesus had to combat during his ministry, and which we are still fighting today. That's the belief voiced by Job's "friends," which the victim himself refuses to accept. Prayer is the proper response to suffering. Prayer is powerful. Prayer can be lament as well as thanksgiving and praise. Job is the only human in the story who ever speaks directly to God. His so-called friends talk about God, but never to God. The "patience of Job" is a misnomer. Job does not hesitate to cry out in anger to God and pour out all his grievances and sadness. Yet, we're told that his is a faithful prayer. We can be authentic selves with God, no matter what. God cares for his creation so much that he gives it freedom. Being given a glimpse of the "big picture," Job chooses to remain faithful to God. "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him" (Job 13:15).
The book of Job is an invitation to encounter and enter into relationship with God, who, through the cross, enters fully into the suffering of that world and redeems it.
Job 19:25-27 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
25 For I know that my Redeemer lives,
and that at the last he will stand upon the earth;
26 and after my skin has been thus destroyed,
then in my flesh I shall see God,
27 whom I shall see on my side,
and my eyes shall behold, and not another.
My heart faints within me!
The Book of Psalms
The book of Psalms contains one-hundred-fifty prayers, songs, liturgies, and poems divided into five books: Psalms 1-41; Psalms 42-72; Psalms 73-89; Psalms 90-106; and Psalms 107-150. Within those books are other divisions. There is a tradition of attributing authorship of the Psalms to King David, and it's possible that some may have been written by him; however, they were also composed by many other authors. Those marked "of David," or "of Asaph," don't necessarily mean that they were written by David or Asaph, but that it is associated with them. Some of the notations in them may have been musical instructions for the Temple cantors and musicians. The famous "selah" may have been a musical or liturgical notation. We still don't know what it means. The Hebrew name for the book of Psalms is "Tehillim," which means "praises." The Psalms include prayers for help, hymns of praise, Liturgies, instructional psalms, Songs of thanksgiving, Royal psalms, trust psalms, acrostic poems, festival psalms, and historical psalms. Martin Luther wrote that the book of Psalms "Might well be called a little Bible. In it is comprehended most beautifully and briefly everything that is in the entire Bible. It is really a fine enchiridion or handbook. In fact, I have a notion that the Holy Spirit wanted to take the trouble himself to compile a short Bible and book of examples of all Christendom or all saints, so that anyone who could not read the whole Bible would here have anyway almost an entire summary of it, comprised in one little book" (LW 35:254). By this Luther obviously did not mean that the Psalms teach Christian beliefs, since they were all written before the time of Christ. Rather, Luther was referring to the fact that the Psalms explore the highs and lows of the life of faith. They sing with joy and trust from the mountaintop moments and cry out with pain "out of the depths" (Ps 130:1). The Psalms weep with those who suffer, laugh with those who celebrate, and teach all of us about the long journey of faith. (Commentary from Lutheran Study Bible, Augsburg Fortress, pgs. 847-848)
The Book of Proverbs
The book of Proverbs is one of the "wisdom" books of the Bible, along with Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes. Traditionally Proverbs is attributed to King Solomon of Israel, but Proverbs includes wisdom writings and instructions collected over several centuries in Israel and from surrounding cultures. In the ancient world, wisdom was popular among intellectuals. It was taught in schools and by tutors. Yet, Proverbs emphasizes "the fear of the Lord" as essential for gaining true wisdom. The book of Proverbs teaches right living and wise dealing. It contrasts human wisdom with God's wisdom, which seems like foolishness to the world.
The Book of Ecclesiastes
Ecclesiastes was probably written only a few hundred years before the birth of Christ. Martin Luther called it "a very beautiful and useful book." He believed that Christians should read and take Ecclesiastes to heart because it can teach us some valuable truths about ourselves. The author, called "the Teacher", holds a mirror up before us in which we can see our propensity to selfishness, our desire to be always in control and our inclination to trust in ourselves rather than God.