Whew. Finally finished all 150 chapters of Psalms. By far the longest book of the Bible thus far … and yet the irony is … I’m left feeling like I have much less to say about this one than any of the others I’ve read.
I’ll explain that statement in a sec, but let me first start by describing what this book is and what it’s about. As Wikipedia describes it, “The word psalms is derived from the Greek Ψαλμοί (Psalmoi), perhaps originally meaning ‘music of the lyre’ or ‘songs sung to a harp,’ and later any piece of music.” There’s no music included with the Bible, of course, so each chapter is basically like reading song lyrics or a poem. The King James Bible doesn’t denote any specific section breaks in the book, but the New International Version breaks the book up into 5 sections:
Book I: Chapters 1 – 41
Book II: Chapters 42 – 72
Book III: Chapters 73 – 89
Book IV: Chapters 90 – 106
Book V: Chapters 107 – 150
The New International version also specifies that some of the psalms are written from the perspective of David, some are for/about Solomon, some are just general anonymous psalms, a few a ascribed to other people, etc. Most of Book I are psalms of David, as well as several of the psalms in other books. Book II (ch.72) ends with the following verse: “20. This concludes the prayers of David son of Jesse.” Despite this statement, a good number of the psalms after chapter 72 are also ascribed to David. Other than that, I’m not really sure what the logic is behind how the sections are split. But what I can tell you is that in terms of the content of the psalms themselves, I found that they seem to all consist of a few basic sentiments/topics:
You know, I knew before I started the book of Job that it was not going to be an easy read. I knew that the gist of the book was that it was all about a guy being tortured by God, and I knew that it was 42 chapters long. How could that possibly be pleasant? But even knowing all this going into it, I really was not prepared for just how torturous it would be. And more importantly, I was not prepared for the reason it would turn out to be so torturous, because said reason actually turned out to be not at ALL what I expected. I’ll just get right to summarizing the book and then you’ll see what I mean:
Job is the Best
Chapter 1 introduces us to Job, who lives in the land of Uz and is basically the best dude ever. He is “blameless and upright,” and he “fears God and shuns evil.” He has 7 sons and 3 daughters, and he’s rich. He has thousands of sheep and camels, hundreds of oxen and donkeys, and many servants. This chapter literally describes him as “the greatest man among all the people of the East.” Wow, those are some strong words. Sounds like Job’s life could not possibly get any better, right? Well, that’s right, because we quickly find out that it’s all downhill from here. It’s here that we are introduced to a little character named … mmmm Satan. This is only the second time Satan has been mentioned thus far in the Bible, and once again, he waltzes into the story with basically zero explanation:
There have only been two books in the Bible thus far named after women: Ruth, which was several books ago, and Esther, which I just finished. Given the relatively pleasant vibes of Ruth, and the tameness of Ezra and Nehemiah leading into this book, I expected Esther to be more of the same. At 10 chapters it’s a short book too, and all of the short books so far have been tame ones. So it was a bit of a surprise to find that the book of Esther gives us quite an unequivocal break to this trend.
Remember that time I called 1st Chronicles “coma-inducing” and Ezra a “snoozefest and a half”? I was wrong. I have now realized that I had no idea what the meaning of snoozefest was until I got to the book of Nehemiah. Well, to be fair, Nehemiah was another short one – 13 chapters, where as 1st Chronicles was 29 chapters. So overall I’d still say that Nehemiah was much less painful to read, since it was much shorter. So it has that going for it.
Nehemiah re-hashes a chunk of the events of Ezra, but from a different point of view. This is the first book so far that is written entirely in the first person p.o.v. (of Nehemiah, of course). Ezra started off in the third person, but switched to first person (Ezra’s p.o.v.) inexplicably about 7 chapters into the book. So that was fun and not at all infuriating. At least Nehemiah is consistent and much less confusing than Ezra.
Yeesh, if I thought the books of Chronicles were dry, I had another thing coming when I got to Ezra. This one was a bit of a snoozefest and a half. Luckily it was only 10 chapters long though, as opposed to the 20-something and 30-something of the past 6 or so books before this one. Actually I’m pretty sure it’s the second shortest book I’ve read thus far.
This is a book called “Ezra” which does not actually get around to introducing the character of Ezra until 7 (out of 10) chapters into the book. It takes its sweet … sweet time with that. No rush. It’s probably easiest to look at this book as two separate parts: The first 6 chapters before Ezra is involved, and then the last 4 chapters (7-10), after Ezra shows up. The book is not physically split into two parts, but I will split it and refer to them as “Part I” and “Part II” in my summary, just to make things more clear.
Whew. I’m finally starting to feel like I’m making a semi-decent dent in this Bible in terms of my reading progress. My Kindle claims that I’m 41% of the way through it, and I’m PRAYING (heh), that this is 41% of the entire Bible, not just the Old Testament. I think it is, but we’ll see. A lot of the upcoming Old Testament chapters are relatively short, but there are also a few ridiculously loooong ones as well. I’m looking at you, Job and Psalms (150 chapters aggh!!).
Look, not to brag or anything, but I’ve managed to get through 3 entire Bible books in one month so far in 2013, which is like, beyond breakneck speed for me. And none of these books were short either. My pace in 2012 was absolutely pathetic, so my goal in 2013 is to keep a much better pace so that I can hopefully finish this freaking thing sometime before I die. Let’s hope I don’t get hit by a bus or have some other terrible twist of fate befall me tomorrow.
Anywho. 1st Chronicles is the book this time around. 29 chapters, a pretty decent length. I’ll just go ahead and get straight to my summary right here and now: