Week 24: Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon

“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven”         Ecclesiastes 3:1

What’s Going On?

The two books we’ll be reading this week will finish up the group of books known as The Writings, or the literature books. Like Proverbs, both are attributed to King Solomon. While we can’t say with certainty that Solomon authored any of these books, his wisdom is definitely collected in the passages. You can almost hear old King Solomon reflecting at the end of his life in the book of Ecclesiastes. He had lived a life of wealth, fame, splendor, and had opportunities few others ever would. His father, the Great King David, had left him the throne of Israel and, like his father, he was able to lead the nation with few obstacles for forty years. His wisdom was known the world over and ambassadors from other nations would visit and send gifts that will be the subject of much folklore. But at the end of his life, he recognizes that human pursuit of wisdom is nothing more than chasing after the wind. True wisdom can only belong to the One who is Creator and Author of all things, even life itself. But, while man may not be able to grasp true wisdom, faith teaches him that he is in good hands. Our role, as created beings, is to simply trust the One who watches over us, keep His commands, and live a life that honors and pleases Him. Where Proverbs gave us catchy sayings, Ecclesiastes is the epitome of philosophy and the meaning of life. As far as I can tell, the word Ecclesiastes actually means “philosopher, preacher, speaker, or teacher.”

Song of Solomon or Song of Songs, is also included in the wisdom books but focuses the subject more on love than on wisdom. It is called a song because of its structure and use of recurring refrains. There is a love theme that runs through the whole book that at first sight seems odd that it would be included with the other books of the Bible. But, when you recognize that God IS love, you can see why the love of God can so easily be understood in the comparison to the closest thing we humans can appreciate, the love shared between a man and a woman. Human love, like wisdom, is a gift from God and reflect Him in the sharing of that gift. Some have painted the picture of the love song as the reflection of love between God and man, of God and Israel, of Christ and the church. A case can be made for that. But there is also room to just call it love poetry and leave it at that. Remember, Solomon was the guy with three hundred wives and seven hundred concubines. I think his understanding of love might be hard for some of us to appreciate. In fact, in many places, the poetry is written from the woman’s perspective! While it might seem odd for us to find nature so sensuous, this was a pretty common form of poetry back in the day. So, light some candles, open the wine, and enjoy the romantic moment.  

While I can’t say this about all of the books of the Bible, the wisdom books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon just seem to sound better in the King James version. Read them any way you like, but for me, only King James will do.

When and Where Are We?

The era of King Solomon was about 900 BC. Remember, when we started this section of books, we did a time jump backwards to the era of the United Kingdom of Israel. Solomon ruled from the newly constructed Temple in Jerusalem. Although it is likely that the words were likely compiled during the time of the Exile or the Return when all of Israel is reflecting back on a time when Israel was in a much better state and lessons of old were treasured and appreciated in a whole new way.

Who’s Who?

Solomon (the teacher), a bridegroom, and his beloved are the only people named in these two books. Although, a case could be made that both Wisdom and Love take on human characteristics through the use of personification so they could technically be listed here in the Who’s Who section.

 “Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it”                                    Song of Solomon 8:7a

Weekly Reading Assignment:

  • Monday: Ecclesiastes 1-3
  • Tuesday: Ecclesiastes 4-6
  • Wednesday: Ecclesiastes 7-10
  • Thursday: Ecclesiastes 11-12
  • Friday: Song of Solomon 1-4
  • Saturday: Song of Solomon 5-8
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