Understanding The Bible Part Five Psalms, Isaiah, Tobit, Judith, and Esther


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Part Five presents the classification of Psalms as well as the possible borrowing of textual material from the Ugaritic culture. The Book of Isaiah is discussed as three separate texts with three different authors. Also discussed are the Books of Tobit, Judith, and Esther.

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Understanding The Bible Part Five Psalms, Isaiah, Tobit, Judith, and Esther

  1. 1. Understanding the Bible<br />A Six Week Bible Study Program Using the Historical-Critical Method<br />Edward J. Hahnenberg, BA, MA, MA, Ed.S<br />
  2. 2. The Psalm Genres & The Book of Isaiah<br />PSALMS, the book you can find in the middle of your Bible, has five sections that match closely with the five sections of the Pentateuch.<br />Section 1: Psalms 1-41<br />Section 2: Psalms 42-72<br />Section 3: Psalms 73-89<br />Section 4: Psalms 90-106<br />Section 5: Psalms 107-150<br />
  3. 3. Psalms – section 1- Nos. 1-41<br />Book I of Psalms has themes that match up with many of those in Genesis (including creation). God is just and fair , and in this book he is praised for being such a wise judge. The psalmists understand God’s compassion, so they lift their problems to Him and ask him to deliver them from the troubles their enemies have cast upon them. God, the caring shepherd, is seen as the one who leads them away from danger.<br />
  4. 4. Psalms – Section 2 – Nos. 42-72<br />Book II is like Exodus. It is the tale of a nation (Israel) that is destroyed and rebuilt. It begins with Psalm 42, which carries the message that when we are in times of need, we must call on the Lord; we must pray for rescue. Though we may stray away from time to time, we must come back, realizing that God knows the path we should take.<br />
  5. 5. Psalms – Section 3 – Nos. 73-89<br />Book III is similar to Leviticus. It begins with psalm 73, which reveals the temporary prosperity of some of the wicked who violate God’s laws, but the everlasting rewards of ALL who remain faithful to Yahweh. Those with a short-term focus may be rewarded in the short term; those with a long-term focus will gain higher rewards. This may not refer to the afterlife but to the experience of God’s presence in the Temple.<br />
  6. 6. Psalms – Section 4 – Nos. 90-106<br />Book IV is like Numbers. It clearly speaks of the difference of God's kingdom compared to man's on Earth, and shows how to focus on the eternal reward while still being caught up in this human world of ours. It is a bold statement against Carpe Diem—“live for the day!” This book begins with Psalm 90, which states that, because our time on earth is limited, we must make the best use of it, not by being caught up in what pleases us today, but on what will be pleasing to God.<br />
  7. 7. Psalms – Section 5 – Nos. 107-150<br />Book V is similar to Deuteronomy. These two books both focus on God's word, and many of these psalms of praise have inspired music throughout the ages--even today. The section begins with Psalm 107, which is a reminder that thanksgiving should always be on our lips for the grace of God and for all that he has blessed us with.<br />
  8. 8. Language forms in the book of psalms<br />Parallelism<br />Identifying parallelism in the Psalms helps us interpret the Psalms correctly. One thought can be clarified by another either because it is a repeated idea or because some other pattern of relationships provides the clue to an obscure meaning. <br />Types of parallelism: Synonymous, Antithetic, Synthetic, Inverted, Stair-step, and Emblematic.<br />
  9. 9. Synonymous Parallelism<br />The idea in the first part of a line/verse is repeated in the second part of a line or in a following verse. <br />Examples:Ps 113:1-41 When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a barbarous people:<br />2 Judea made his sanctuary, Israel his dominion.<br />3 The sea saw and fled: Jordan was turned back.<br />4 The mountains skipped like rams, and the hills like the lambs of the flock.<br />
  10. 10. Antithetic parallelism<br />The idea in the first part of a line/verse is the opposite of the idea in the second part of a line or opposite of the idea in another verse. <br />Example:Psalm 1:6 For the Lord guards the way of the just, but the way of the wicked leads to doom. <br />Antithetic parallelism is very common in Proverbs and provides wonderful antithetic structures.<br />"The curse of the LORD is on the house of the wicked, but the dwelling of the just he blesses." Proverbs 3:33. <br />  <br />
  11. 11. Synthetic parallelism<br />The idea in the first part of a line/verse is expanded or developed into a fuller thought in the second part of a line or another verse. <br />Examples:Psalm 99:3<br />Know ye that the Lord he is God: he made us, and not we ourselves.<br />We are his people and the sheep of his pasture.<br />
  12. 12. Inverted Parallelism<br />"The lines are arranged so the 1st and 4th verses parallel and the 2nd and 3rd verses parallel." Also called “chiastic” parallelism.<br />Example:Ps 124:7<br />Our soul has escaped as a bird out of the snare of the trapper;The snare is broken and we have escaped. <br />Grammatical structure: A B B A<br />
  13. 13. Stair-step Parallelism<br />The thought is repeated in series of progressions or developments.<br /> Psalm 121:5-85 The Lord is your keeper;The Lord is your shade on your right hand. 6 The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. 7 The Lord will protect you from all evil;He will keep your soul. 8 The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in, from this time forth and forever. <br />
  14. 14. Emblematic parallelism<br />An idea is illustrated with an image, metaphor, or simile, or after an image, simile/metaphor the idea is stated directly. <br /> Ps 42:1As the deer pants for the water brooks,So my soul pants for You, O God. <br />In the above example, a simile is used "As the deer... so my soul." <br />
  15. 15. Who Wrote the Psalms?<br />Many modern scholars see them as the product of several authors or groups of authors, many unknown. Most Psalms are prefixed with introductory words “superscriptions” ascribing them to a particular author or saying something, often in fairly cryptic language, about the circumstances of their composition or use; 73 of these introductions claim David as author.<br />
  16. 16. Davidic Authorship?<br />Modern scholars generally conclude that Psalms is a post-Exilic (after 538 BC) collection of poems, the work of several authors from differing dates. <br />
  17. 17. What about the Davidic “Superscriptions”?<br />The first book comprises the first 41 Psalms. All of these are ascribed to David except Psalms 1, 2, 10, and 33, which, though untitled in the Hebrew, were also traditionally ascribed to David. While Davidic authorship cannot be confirmed, this probably is the oldest section of the Psalms. <br />There are claims that Adam was an author…Moses another author…Solomon… Asaph, etc.<br />No Psalm can definitely be said to have been composed by King David.<br />That David wrote some of the Psalms is possible.<br />
  18. 18. Were any of the Psalms Pagan in origin?<br />Psalm 29 is so similar to Ugaritic poetry that some scholars think that this psalm was originally an Ugaritic poem about Baal, the storm god. <br />In Ugaritic Baal is called "Rider of the clouds." This is the same title that Yahweh is called in Psalm:68:4. <br />Coincidence or incorporation?<br />
  19. 19. Psalms and the afterlife - 1<br />It is a commonly held belief of scholars that no hope of survival after death is expressed in the Old Testament before the latest passages written two hundred years before Christ.<br />Most of the Psalms were composed prior to then.<br />Much of the phraseology in the Psalter was current in Palestine long before the writing prophets . . . On the other hand, the inadequate knowledge of biblical poetic idiom and, more importantly, of biblical images and metaphors by the third century BC translators of the LXX (Septuagint), bespeaks a long chronological gap between the original composition of the psalms and their translation into Greek<br />
  20. 20. Psalms and the afterlife - 2<br />Mitchell Dahood, S. J. has defended his claim that as many as forty psalms contain allusions and references to eternal life.<br />His commentaries on the psalms (Psalms I, II, and III) are significant contributions to their understanding and their basic methodological principle . . . the importance of ancient Near Eastern and Canaanite material for the Psalms.<br />The first group of psalms contain the termchayyimtranslated either as "life" or "life eternal." Drawing from Ugaritic, Dahood concludes thatchayyim meant everlasting happiness. (All translations in the next section are taken from Dahood's work on the psalms.)<br />
  21. 21. Psalms and the Afterlife - 3<br />Psalm 16: 11: You will make me know the path of life eternal, filling me with happiness before you, with pleasures at your right hand forever. <br />Psalm 21: 5: The life eternal he asked of you, you gave him… length of days, eternity, and everlasting life. <br />Psalm 27: 13: In the Victor do I trust, to behold the beauty of Yahweh in the land of life eternal. <br />Psalm 36: 10: Truly with you is the fountain of life. In your field we shall see the light. <br />
  22. 22. Psalms and the Afterlife - 4<br />Psalm 56: 14: Would that you rescue me from Death, keeping my feet distant from Banishment, that I might walk before God in the Field of Life. <br />Psalm 69: 29: Let them be erased from the scroll of life eternal, and not enrolled among the just. <br />Psalm 116: 8-9: For you, my soul, have been rescued from Death, you, mine eye, from Tears, you, my foot, from Banishment, I shall walk before Yahweh in the Fields of Life. <br />Psalm 133: 3 For there Yahweh confers the blessing  life for evermore.  <br />Psalm 142: 6 My portion in the land of life eternal. <br />
  23. 23. Types of Psalms<br />Praise – 8, 19, 29, 33, 65, 100, etc.<br />Lament (largest category – 40 psalms) - 3, 4, 5, 7, 9-10, 13, 14, 17, 22, 25, 26, 27, 28, 31, 36, 39, 40:12-17, 41, 42-43, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 59, 61, 64, 70, 71, 77, 86, 89*, 120, 139, 141, 142.<br />Trust– In Lament Psalms – 3, 5, 22, 28, 44, etc.<br />Thanksgiving – 9-10, 30, 32, 34, 41, 92, 103, 116, etc.<br />Royal – Psalms in which the king is speaker – 2, 21, 45, 110, etc.<br />Wisdom – 1, 34, , 37, 49, 112, 128, etc.<br />Liturgical – 15, 24, , 134<br />Historical – 78, 105-106, 135-136, etc.<br />
  24. 24. The importance of the Ugaritic and the old testament<br />The ancient Canaanite city-state of Ugarit is of utmost importance for those who study the Old Testament. The literature of the city and the theology contained therein go a very long way in helping us to understand the meaning of various Biblical passages as well as aiding us in deciphering difficult Hebrew words. Ugarit was at its political, religious and economic height around the 12th century BC and thus its period of greatness corresponds with the entry of Israel into Canaan.<br />
  25. 25. The Ugaritic language<br />The style of writing discovered at Ugarit is known as alphabetic cuneiform. This is a unique blending of an alphabetic script (like Hebrew) and cuneiform (like Akkadian); thus it is a unique blending of two styles of writing. Most likely it came into being as cuneiform was passing from the scene and alphabetic scripts were making their rise. Ugaritic is thus a bridge from one to the other and very important in itself for the development of both. <br />
  26. 26. The Ugaritic Language – Cont’d<br />One of the most, if perhaps not the most, important aspect of Ugaritic studies is the assistance it gives in correctly translating difficult Hebrew words and passages in the Old Testament. As a language develops the meaning of words changes or their meaning is lost altogether. This is also true of the Biblical text. But after the discovery of the Ugaritic texts we gained new information concerning the meaning of archaic words in the Hebrew text. <br />
  27. 27. The Ugaritic God “El”<br />The prophets of the Old Testament rail against Baal, Asherah and various other gods on nearly every page. The reason for this is simple to understand; the people of Israel worshipped these gods along with, and sometimes instead of, Yahweh, the God of Israel. This Biblical denunciation of these Canaanite gods received a fresh face when the Ugaritic texts were discovered, for at Ugarit these were the very gods that were worshipped. <br />
  28. 28. The Ugaritic God “El” – Cont’d<br />El was the chief god at Ugarit. Yet El is also the name of God used in many of the Psalms for Yahweh. Yet when one reads these Psalms and the Ugaritic texts one sees that the very attributes for which Yahweh is acclaimed are the same for which El is acclaimed. In fact, these Psalms were possibly originally Ugaritic or Canaanite hymns to El which were simply adopted by Israel, much like the American National Anthem was set to a beer hall tune by Francis Scott Key. El is called the “father of men”, “creator”, and “creator of the creation”. These attributes are also granted Yahweh by the Old Testament.<br />
  29. 29. Is “El” the “elohim” of the OT?<br />The Hebrew word translated "God" is the word El or Elohim. Elohim is the plural form of El. The plural form is used 2607 of the 2845 times the word "God" is used in the Old Testament. Not only is the word for God usually used in the plural form, but several verses refer to God as "Us":<br />Then God said, "Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth." (Genesis 1:26)<br />Then the LORD God said, "Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, lest he stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever"-- (Genesis 3:22)<br />
  30. 30. Is “el” the “elohim” of the OT? – Cont’d<br />"Come, let Us go down and there confuse their language, that they may not understand one another's speech." (Genesis 11:7)<br />Then I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, "Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?" Then I said, "Here am I. Send me!" (Isaiah 6:8)<br />An example of how the Hebrew word Elohim is used in the plural is that it is translated "gods" (referring to idols) 235 times in the Old Testament. It is exactly the same word that is translated "God," referring to the Almighty. An example is given below:<br />"I am the LORD your God [Elohim], who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. "You shall have no other gods [Elohim] before Me. (Exodus 20:2-3)<br />
  31. 31. “El” in names of Archangels<br />All Archangels end with the "el" suffix.  "El" meaning “God” and the first half of the name meaning what each individual Angel specializes in.    The most popular Archangels are Michael, Raphael, Gabriel and Uriel who are depicted in the Christian Bible.<br />Michael - Meaning - "Who is like God"<br />Raphael - Meaning - "Healing power of God"<br />Gabriel - Meaning - "Strength of God"<br />Uriel - Meaning - "God is light"<br />
  32. 32. Psalms from Pagan hymns?<br />Were some of the Psalms reworked pagan hymns?<br />Did David write some of the Psalms?<br />“Probably” to both questions.<br />Do you see the importance of the prophets of Israel trying to discourage a rural country people, the Hebrews, from worshipping the pagan gods of their neighbors?<br />
  33. 33. The Prophet Isaiah<br />Isaiah lived during the reigns of Kings Uzziah, Jothan, Ahaz, and Hezekiah - kings of Judah. Isaiah must have begun his career a few years before Uzziah's death, probably in the 740s BC. He lived till the fourteenth year of Hezekiah (who died in 698 BC), and may have been contemporary for some years with King Mennaseh. Thus Isaiah may have prophesied for a period of at least forty-four years.<br />
  34. 34. The Book of Isaiah<br />In the first 39 chapters, Isaiah prophesies doom for a sinful Judah and for all the nations of the world that oppose God. The last 27 chapters prophesy the restoration of the nation of Israel. This section includes the Songs of the Suffering Servant, four separate passages that Christians believe prefigure the coming of Christ, and which are otherwise traditionally thought to refer to the nation of Israel. This second of the book's two major sections also includes prophecies of a new creation in God's glorious future kingdom.<br />
  35. 35. More than one author<br />There is considerable debate about the dating of the text; one widely accepted critical hypothesis suggests that much if not most of the text was not written in the 8th century BC.Tradition ascribes the Book of Isaiah to a single author, Isaiah himself. Modern scholarship concludes the text has two or three authors. This later author or authors, and their work or works, are known as Deutero- or Second Isaiah and Trito- or Third Isaiah respectively<br />
  36. 36. From Chapters 1-39<br />Chapters 1-5 and 28-29 prophesy judgment against Judah itself. Judah thinks itself safe because of its covenant relationship with God. However, God tells Judah (through Isaiah) that the covenant cannot protect them when they have broken it by idolatry, the worship of other gods, and by acts of injustice and cruelty, which oppose God's law.<br />Some exceptions to this overall foretelling of doom do occur, throughout the early chapters of the book. Chapter 6 describes Isaiah's call to be a prophet of God. Chapters 35-39 provide historical material about King Hezekiah and his triumph of faith in God.<br />
  37. 37. More from Chapters 1-39<br />Chapters 24-34, while too complex to characterize easily, are primarily concerned with prophecies of a “Messiah," a person anointed or given power by God, and of the Messiah's kingdom, where justice and righteousness will reign. This section is seen by Jews as describing an actual king, a descendant of their great king, David, who will make Judah a great kingdom and Jerusalem a truly holy city. It is traditionally seen by Christians as describing Christ.<br />
  38. 38. Deutero-Isaiah 40-55:13<br />The prophecy continues with what some have called “The Book of Comfort”. In the first eight chapters of this book of comfort, Isaiah prophesies the deliverance of the Jews from the hands of the Babylonians and restoration of Israel as a unified nation in the land promised to them by God. Isaiah reaffirms that the Jews are indeed the chosen people of God in chapter 44 and that Yahweh is the only God for the Jews (and the only God of the universe) as he will show his power over the gods of Babylon in due time in chapter 46. In chapter 45:1, the Persian ruler Cyrus is named as the person of power who will overthrow the Babylonians and allow the return of Israel to their original land.<br />
  39. 39. Trito-Isaiah<br />The difference between chs. 56-66 and those which precede them is too great for the former to be considered as in any way the continuation of the latter. Throughout the greater part of Trito-Isaiah we continually find ourselves in the community of the restoration: there is mention of the temple and of rebuilding it. The Temple was destroyed in 586 BC, whereas the prophet Isaiah had been dead at least 100 years. There is emphasis on observance of the Sabbath and the laws of the Torah, and this observance is considered to be an essential qualification for membership of the community. None of these arguments appears even once in Deutero-Isaiah. Besides, the setting of Deutero-Isaiah is Babylon. <br />
  40. 40. The Suffering Servant<br />Isaiah 53 is the last of the four Songs of the Suffering Servant, and tells the story of the Man of Sorrows or "The Suffering Servant", which became a common theme in medieval and later Christian art. The passage is known for its interpretation by many Christians to be a prophecy of the coming of Christ, being written over 700 years before his birth.<br />
  41. 41. Isaiah 53<br />NAB Isaiah 53:1 Who would believe what we have heard? To whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 He grew up like a sapling before him, like a shoot from the parched earth; There was in him no stately bearing to make us look at him, nor appearance that would attract us to him. 3 He was spurned and avoided by men, a man of suffering, accustomed to infirmity, One of those from whom men hide their faces, spurned, and we held him in no esteem. 4 Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, While we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. 5 But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, Upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed<br />
  42. 42. Isaiah 53 – Cont’d<br />. 6 We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; But the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all. 7 Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; Like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth. 8 Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away, and who would have thought any more of his destiny? When he was cut off from the land of the living, and smitten for the sin of his people, 9 A grave was assigned him among the wicked and a burial place with evildoers, Though he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood. 10 (But the LORD was pleased to crush him in infirmity.) If he gives his life as an offering for sin, he shall see his descendants in a long life, and the will of the LORD shall be accomplished through him.<br />
  43. 43. Kinds of Prophecy <br />An interpretive method is prospective if it attempts to show that a prophecy has meaning for the future. An interpretive method is retrospective if it attempts to show that a prophecy fits a subsequent event but can only do so post hoc (i.e. something unexpected before the fact but undeniable afterward).<br />
  44. 44. Prospective Prophecy<br /> Prospective prophecy is the prediction of future events based on biblical passages. Such passages are widely distributed throughout the Bible, but those most often cited are from Ezekiel, Daniel, and Revelation. <br />
  45. 45. Retrospective Prophecy<br /> Retrospective prophecy is an ancient technique for gaining credibility. It involves generating a prediction that appears to predate the event that it foretells. Biblical scholars generally accept that the Old Testament book of Daniel is an example of this type, written centuries after it was purported to have been written. <br />It was a fundamental belief of Jews at the time of Jesus that no important event could come to pass unless the scriptures had foretold it. Early followers of Jesus and later, the Church Fathers, used this technique.<br />
  46. 46. Similarities between OT Proverbs and Pagan proverbs<br />In the Instruction of Ameneonope, an Egyptian papyrus with 30 chapters of proverbs, written around 1200 BC, there are examples of virtually the same proverbs in both works:<br />
  47. 47. Samples - 1<br />Proverbs: Direct your ear and hear wise words. Set your heart to know them. For it is pleasant if you keep them in your inmost self. (22:17-18a)<br />Ameneonope: Give your ears and hear what is said, give your mind over to their interpretation: It is profitable to put them in your heart. (3,10)<br />
  48. 48. Samples - 2<br />Proverbs: Have I not written for you thirty counsels and teachings to teach you what is right and true? (22:20)<br />Ameneonope: Mark for your self these thirty chapters: They please, they instruct, they are the foremost of all books. (27,7)<br />
  49. 49. Samples - 3<br />Proverbs: Do not make friends with people prone to anger. With the hotheaded person do not associate. (22:24)<br />Ameneonope: Do not fraternize with the hot-tempered man, nor approach him to converse. (11,12)<br />
  50. 50. Samples of Fictional Historical Wisdom books of the OT<br />The Protestant canon of the Old Testament excludes Tobit and Judith. Esther is in the Protestant Canon. The Catholic and Orthodox canons include all three. The Jewish canon omits Tobit, and places Judith and Esther in a grouping called the Writings.<br />Tobit<br />Judith<br />Esther<br />All three books are written in an historical setting.<br />Were they historical?<br />All three are considered historical fiction by historical-critical scholars.<br />
  51. 51. Book of Tobit (and Tobias wedding to Sarah)<br />This book tells the story of a righteous Israelite  named <br />Tobit living in Nineveh  in 721 BC.<br /> The story centers more on his son Tobias who seeks a cure for his father’s blindness<br />Meanwhile, in faraway Media, a young woman named Sarah prays for death in despair. She has lost seven husbands to the demon Asmodeus who abducts and kills every man she marries on their wedding night.  <br />
  52. 52. Book of Tobit – Cont’d<br />Tobit is an example of Hebrew romantic writing, with its composition dated as late as 180 BC. It contains historical inaccuracies as well as manipulation of "history" as regards its characters.<br />Tobias and Sarah are married, the demon is driven away, while Raphael follows him and binds him. Meanwhile, Sarah's father has been digging a grave to secretly bury Tobias (who he assumes will be dead). Surprised to find his son-in-law alive and well, he orders a double-length wedding feast and has the grave secretly filled. Since he cannot leave because of the feast, Tobias sends Raphael to recover his father's money.<br />After the feast, Tobias and Sarah return to Nineveh. There, Raphael tells the youth to use the fish's gall to cure his father's blindness. Raphael then reveals his true identity and returns to heaven. Tobit sings a hymn of praise<br />
  53. 53. Book of Judith<br />Remember the story? <br />"Nebuchadnezzar" dispatched Holofernes to take vengeance on the nations of the west that had withheld their assistance to his reign. The general laid siege to Bethulia, and the city almost surrendered. It was saved by Judith, a beautiful Hebrew widow who entered Holofernes' camp and seduced him. Judith then beheaded Holofernes while he was drunk. She returned to Bethulia with the disembodied head, and the Hebrews defeated the enemy. <br />
  54. 54. Book of Judith – Cont’d<br />Judith is didactic fiction, complete with many historical inaccuracies, probably composed less than a century before Christ's birth by an unknown author.<br />
  55. 55. Book of Esther<br />Esther, composed in the 400s BC "may reflect remembrances of a real or threatened pogrom against the Jews in the Persian Empire or even an historical Mordecai and Esther with influence at the Persian court...however, the story as it now exists is a fictional narrative..." (JBC 38: 52)<br />