By James H. Brookes
The Poetry Books
That such a man really lived is sufficiently proved by the testimony of the Holy Ghost in Ezek. xiv. 14, 20; James v. 11. It is probable that he was born long before the days of Moses, as he ministered in the priest's office for his family, and makes no allusion to the law given from Sinai, and attained a far greater age than any who are mentioned after the exodus from Egypt. His name means "persecuted," and "Human Perfection Tested," may be suggested as the proper title of the book. First, we have an account of his severe trials and bitter complaint, i.-iii. Second, the debute with his three friends, who charge him in three successive assaults with hypocrisy and falsehood and secret sins, as the real cause of his troubles, iv.-xiv.; xv.-xxi.; xxii.-xxvi. Third, Job's passionate vindication of himself, in which the personal pronouns "I" and "me" and "my" constantly occur, showing that his thoughts were occupied with his own goodness, and therefore inevitably leading to the mournful conclusion, "Let thistles grow instead of wheat, and cockle instead of barley. The words of Job are ended," xxvii. xxxi. Fourth, Elihu, meaning "My God is He," i. e., the Lord, appears upon the scene, acting according to Job's wish "in God's stead," and as a type of the days-man for whom Job longed; and he teaches the doctrine that if a man will confess his sinfulness, instead of asserting his righteousness, God will say, "Deliver him from going down into the pit; I have found a ransom," xxxii. xxxviii. Fifth, the Lord answers Job out of the whirlwind, and displays His glory and majesty, xxxviii.-xli. Sixth, Job takes his right place before God: "I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes," xlii. 1-7. Seventh, Job's deliverance, restoration, enlargement, and blessing, receiving double for all he had lost, and the same number of children he had before, as those who had died were still his. The general teachings of the book arc, (1) the personality and malice of Satan; (2) the world by wisdom knows not God, not knowing grace; (3) the folly of self- righteousness; (4) the need of a daysman between God and sinners; (5) the unsearchable perfections of Jehovah; (6) the vileness of the most perfect man in His sight; (7) "the end of the Lord, that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy."
This remarkable collection of inspired writings, one of which at least was composed 1500 years before Christ, has ever been regarded by the saints of God as a most suitable vehicle for the expression of their varied experience. So wonderful is the range of thought and emotion they embody, we are not surprised at the strong language of Edward Irving, " Every angel of joy and of sorrow swept, as he passed, over David's harp;" and "the hearts of a hundred men strove and struggled together within the narrow continent of his single heart." This is owing to the fact that they describe so largely in prophecy the inner life of the Lord Jesus Christ, who "was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin;" and unless the fact is kept constantly in view, they can not be read intelligently. Of the seventy-five quotations from the Psalms found in the New Testament, more than fifty represent Christ as the speaker, or are directly applied to Him, while He Himself affirms that He is the theme of their testimony, (Luke xxiv. 44; John Y. 39). Hence those who see in these beautiful songs only David and his circumstances, or David and the church, or, in the words of certain recent expositors, the "Jewish remnant " as their leading topic, are equally mistaken. Their main purpose is to set forth the sinless and suffering Messiah, first in His relations to Israel, especially Israel in the last days; and, second, in His relations to His redeemed of all lands and all ages. But they can not be understood, unless "dispensational truth "is known. The medley of interpretation in nearly all the commentaries, which identifies Israel with the church, the earthly people with the heavenly, the place of responsibility among the nations with separation from the world, tends only to confuse rather than to enlighten. Nor can they be perused with profit, until the Christian has learned to distinguish things that differ, remembering that he is not under law but grace, that he is no longer a servant but a full grown son, linked to the risen Christ, and having his place and portion in the heavenlies.
The entire collection is divided into five books. First, Ps. i.-xli., closing with a doxology and double Amen. Second, Ps. xlii.-lxxii., closing with a doxology and double Amen, and adding, "The prayers of David, the son of Jesse, are ended." Third, Ps. lxxiii.-lxxxix., closing with a doxology and double Amen. Fourth, Ps. xc.-cvi., closing with a doxology. Amen, and Hallelujah. Fifth, Ps. cvii.-cl., closing with a rapid succession of Hallelujahs. Book I, Christ in covenant relation to His people, walking in communion though in the midst of trials; "Jehovah,'' the covenant title in redemption, occurring more than 270 times; "God," creation title, not 50 times. Book II, Christ in connection with His people, viewed as out of the land; "Jehovah" occurring about 30 times, and "God "more than 200 times. Book III, Christ in connection with Israel from the beginning of their history; "Jehovah" occurring about 50 times; "God" about 60 times. Book IV, Christ coming to take the kingdom, and to bless the Gentiles, the progress and results of His advent being celebrated; "Jehovah" occurring more than 100 times, and "God" about 20 times. Book V, Christ ruling over all to prepare the Jews for His earthly reign; "Jehovah "occurring more than 230 times; "God" about 30 times.
This book views Christ, as the Wisdom of God, governing the affairs of men, and guiding in the practical details of life. It exhibits the connection between sowing and reaping, guarding particularly against evils that are prominent in our own day, as (1) disobedience to parents, (2) bad company, (3) licentiousness, (4) falsehood, (5) indolence, (6) intemperance, (7) a contentious and envious spirit. It is divided into four parts; First, the general principles that should control the conduct, i.-ix.; Second, aphorisms, or brief sentences, or proverbs, containing a world of wisdom to direct in every event and at every step of our journey here, x.-xxix.; the last five chapters of this section consisting of "proverbs of Solomon, which the men of Hezekiah king of Judah copied out;" Third, the words or prophecy of Agur, summing up human experience and observation, xxx.; Fourth, the words of king Lemuel, giving us a beautiful picture of a just ruler, and of the church, under the figure of a woman, loyal to her Bridegroom.
The opening verse gives the title of the book, "The words of Koh-heh-leth, the son of David, King in Jerusalem." Koh-heh-leth occurs seven times, but is not found elsewhere in the Bible, and was translated' into Greek by the word Ecclesiastes, loosely rendered in English "the Preacher." The second verse gives the key-note of the book, "Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity." But it must be remembered that he treats only of that which is "under the sun," and hence he leaves us a most valuable, because inspired, record of the bitter disappointment which awaits those, whose faith and hope and love do not soar above the sun, "where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God." He gave himself (1) to study, exploring the depths of philosophy and science; (2) he proved what is in mirth and pleasure to impart happiness; (3) he tested the power of wine to dispel care and sorrow; (4) he engaged in great works, building houses, planting vineyards, setting out garden and orchards, with pools of water; (5) he got him servants and maidens, and had sons born in his house, and great possessions above all that were in Jerusalem before him, gathering gold and silver, and the choicest works of art; (6) he summoned about him men singers and women singers, and the delights of the sons of men, as musical instruments, and that of all sorts; (7) he was crowned with fame; and found that all the ambitions and enjoyments of the world turned to ashes in his grasp. "Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil."
This is indeed the song of songs. It celebrates the love of the divine Bridegroom and the bride, who is here restored Israel, with the converted Gentiles as the attendant virgins. "Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth: for thy love is better than wine.'' The book contains expressions of mutual affection and admiration, with confessions of failure on the part of the bride, but there is no change in the love of the Lord Jesus Christ. If she exclaims, "I am black," He responds, "Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee." All He desires is to look upon one whom He has so loved, that He gave Himself for her. "O my dove, that art in the clefts of the rock, in the secret places of the stairs, let me see thy countenance, let me hear thy voice." He wants to see the countenance before hearing the voice. There is also a growing experience on her part of His deep and unchangeable love. At first she can say with a bounding heart, "My beloved is mine, and I am his;" but at last she can declare in fuller trust, "I am my beloved's, and his desire is toward me." During the night of His personal absence she cries, "Until the day break, and the shadows flee away, turn, my beloved; and be thou like a roe, or a young hart, upon the mountains of Bether," division, or separation. But as the time draws near, when she is to come up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved, her desire for His appearing is more intense. The last words of the book, like the last words of Revelation, form an earnest prayer for His speedy advent; '' Make haste, my beloved, and be thou like to a roe, or to a young hart, upon the mountains of spices."