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How To Read the Bible Series

Solomon the Cynic & the Job You Never Knew

Welcome to our final episode discussing Wisdom literature in the Bible! In this episode, Tim and Jon cover two books: Ecclesiastes and Job.
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Episode Details

July 15, 2019
65 min

Episode Details

July 15, 2019
65 min

Show Notes

In part 1 (0-24:15), Tim and Jon discuss the book of Ecclesiastes. This book can most easily be described as a portrait of “foolish Solomon,” who looks back at his accomplishments as failure and hevel.

Tim points out that the start of the book begins by creating a “Solomon-like” persona. Ecclesiastes 1:1 “The words of the preacher son of David, king in Jerusalem...” (NASB, ESV, KJV) “The words of the teacher, son of David, king in Jerusalem...” (NIV, NRSV) However, there is a translation problem: This word does not mean “teacher” in the original Hebrew. Hebrew noun (קהלת (qoheleth, from the verb qahal (קהל ,(meaning “to assemble, convene.”

The Hebrew word is Qoheleth—the one who holds or convenes an assembly, i.e. the “leader of the assembly” (Heb. qahal). So this word is best understood as an assembler or convener. The word is also used in 1 Kings 8:1, “Then Solomon assembled the elders of Israel and all the heads of the tribes... to bring up the ark of the covenant of the Lord from the city of David, which is Zion. All the men of Israel assembled themselves to King Solomon at the feast.” Tim’s point is that there are multiple leaders who assemble or convene Israel in the Bible. Who holds assemblies in Israel’s story? • Moses (Exod 35:1; Lev 8:1-3) • David (1 Chron 13:5; 15:3; 28:1) • Solomon (1 Kings 8:1; 2 Chron 5:2-3) • Rehoboam (Solomon’s son, 1 Kings 12:21; 2 Chron 11:1) • Asa (2 Chron 15:9-10) • Jehoshaphat (2 Chron 20:3-5) • Hezekiah (2 Chron 30:12-13)

Tim cites scholar Jennie Barbour for additional clarification: “The name Qoheleth ‘the one who convenes the assembly’ is a label with royal associations— after Moses, only kings summon all-Israelite assemblies, and those associations take in more kings than just Solomon. Qoheleth’s name casts him as a royal archetype, not an ‘everyman’ so much as an ‘everyking.’” (Jennie Barbour, The Story of Israel in the Book of Qoheleth, p. 25-26) Any generation of Jerusalem’s kings could be called “son of David,” and the author tips his hat in Ecclesiastes 2:9, “I increased more than all who preceded me in Jerusalem.” (And the only person who reigned before him in Jerusalem was his father David.) Tim explains that the jaded king-author of Ecclesiastes brings a realism in light of Genesis 3, framing the world as life “under the sun,” or life outside of Eden. This king is realizing the curse of Genesis 3: painful toil and dust to dust.

Tim further points out that Ecclesiastes offers a Solomon-like profile of the wealthy sons of David, who discovered that riches, honor, power, and women do not bring the life of Eden. Further, while many people assume that the descriptions solely describe the life of Solomon, Tim points out that they also map very closely onto the life of Hezekiah. Take a look at these two passages:

Ecclesiastes 2:4-8 I made great my works: I built houses for myself, I planted vineyards for myself; I made gardens and parks for myself and I planted in them all kinds of fruit trees; I made ponds of water for myself from which to irrigate a forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves and I had homeborn slaves. Also I possessed flocks and herds more abundant than all who preceded me in Jerusalem. Also, I collected for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I provided for myself male and female singers and the pleasures of men—many concubines.

Hezekiah in 2 Chronicles 32:27-30 Now Hezekiah had immense riches and honor; and he made for himself treasuries for silver, gold, precious stones, spices, shields and all kinds of valuable articles, collection-houses also for the produce of grain, wine and oil, pens for all kinds of cattle and sheepfolds for the flocks. He made cities for himself and acquired flocks and herds in abundance, for God had given him very great wealth. It was Hezekiah who stopped the upper outlet of the waters of Gihon and directed them to the west side of the city of David. And Hezekiah prospered in all his works.

Tim cites Jennie Barbour again: “In all of these ways [building projects, riches, royal treasuries, pools, singers] the royal boast in Eccles. 2:4-10 displays a king’s achievements in terms that show an author of the Second Temple period reading an interpreting the earlier stories of Israel’s kings...the writer has pulled together texts and motifs from Israel’s histories...to show that the paradigm king, Solomon, set the mould that was continually replicated through the rest of Israel’s monarchy down to the exile.” (Jenny Barbour, The Story of Israel in the Book of Qoheleth, 23-24) In part 2 (24:15- 31:45), Jon asks how the narrative frame of Ecclesiastes being about all of Israel’s kings—not just about Solomon—affects someone’s reading? Tim says he thinks it makes the story more universal. All rulers and all humans struggle with the same things that Solomon and other rulers have felt throughout history.

In part 3 (31:45-50:15), Tim and Jon turn their attention to the book of Job. Tim notes that he’s recently learned of some new and fascinating layers to the book. Tim notes that Job is positioned as a new type of Adam. He actually is portrayed as being righteous and upright. So he’s an ideal wise person who has prospered during his life. Tim focuses on the beginning and end of the book. Specifically the ending of the book, Tim finds new insights to ponder. Tim notes that Job is portrayed as the righteous sufferer. Everything that has happened to him is unfair. Then Tim dives into Job 42:7-10: “And it came about after Yahweh had spoken these words to Job, and Yahweh said to Eliphaz the Temanite, “My anger is kindled against you and against your two friends, because you have not spoken of Me what is right as My servant Job has. “And now, take for yourselves seven bulls and seven rams, and go to My servant Job, and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves, and My servant Job will pray for you. For I will lift up his face so that I may not commit an outrage with you, because you have not spoken of Me what is right, as My servant Job has.” So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and they did as Yahweh told them; and the Lord lifted the face of Job. And Yahweh restored the fortunes of Job while he prayed on behalf of his companions, and Yahweh added to everything that belonged to Job, two-fold.”

The operative phrase Tim focuses on is “while he prayed.” Tim says this is a better translation of the original Hebrew phrase. Tim notes that it’s as if Job’s righteous suffering has uniquely positioned him to intercede on behalf of his friends to God. In part 4, (50:15-60:00) Tim shares a few quotes from scholar David Clines regarding Job’s intercession in 42:10.

“[W]e must remember that Job has not yet been restored when the friends bring their request to him for his prayer. He is presumably still on the ash-heap. He has no inkling that Yahweh

intends to reverse his fortunes. All he knows is that he is still suffering at Yahweh’s hand, and, if it is difficult for the friends to acknowledge the divine judgment against them, it must be no less difficult for Job to accept this second-hand instruction to offer prayer for people he must be totally disenchanted with; he certainly owes them nothing... Is this yet another ‘test’ that Job must undergo before he is restored? “The wording of Job 42:10 makes it seem as if Job’s restoration is dependent on his prayer on their behalf, as if his last trial of all will be to take his stand on the side of his ‘torturer- comforters.’ It is true that this prayer is the first selfless act that Job has performed since his misfortunes overtook him—not that we much begrudge him the self-centeredness that has dominated his speech throughout the book. Perhaps his renewed orientation to the needs of others is the first sign that he has abandoned his inward-looking mourning and is ready to accept consolation. In any case, in the very act of offering his prayer on the friends’ behalf his own restoration is said to take effect: the Hebrew says, “Yahweh restored the fortunes of Job while he was praying for his friends” (not, as most versions, “when (or after) he had prayed for his friends”).” David J. A. Clines, Job 38–42, vol. 18B, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2011), 1235.

Tim notes that the point of the story of Job is that he suffers unfairly, but the righteous sufferer is someone that God elevates to a place of authority, someone who God listens to when they intercede for others.

In part 5 (60:00-end), Tim and Jon briefly recap the series as a whole.

Thank you to all our supporters!

Send us your questions for our Wisdom Q+R! You can email your audio question to info@jointhebibleproject.com.

Show Produced by: Dan Gummel, Tim Mackie

Show music:

Defender Instrumental by Tents Sunshine by Seneca B Surf Report by Cloudchord Soul Food Horns levitating by intention_ In Your Heart by Distant.Io

Show Resources:

Jennie Barbour, The Story of Israel in the Book of Qoheleth.

David J. A. Clines, Job 38–42, vol. 18B, Word Biblical Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2011).

The Bible Project video, The Books of Solomon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJgt1vRkPbI

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