Ack, this is bad. I was doing so well for the first half of last year, and I certainly slowed down in the second half, but still. I didn’t expect my progress on Isaiah to be this close to the speed of molasses. Slllooowly dripping molasses. It’s not entirely unexpected though. The last few books I’ve read have been in the short to medium length range, which spoiled me a little. Isaiah, however, was 66 chapters. Combine a long book with content quality that is somewhere between mind-numbing and nearly useless, and you’ve got me taking 4 full months to complete the damn thing (and then even longer to write this review). Well, and an extremely busy and stressful stretch at work certainly has not helped either.
But honestly, Isaiah felt like such a waste of time that it had me wondering where it would rank in a “Most Useless Bible Books” list. The books that have felt very useless to me thus far have been the ones that a) rehashed stories from previous books (e.g. 1st and 2nd Chronicles), and b) were very repetitive and added very little new information or revelations that hadn’t already been covered in previous books (e.g. Psalms). Isaiah, for the most part, is guilty of BOTH of these things (though I know Christians will disagree with me on this for one specific reason, which I address in the “Interesting Stuff” section a little ways down this review).
Why are Isaiah’s eyes so bloodshot??
This book is named Isaiah because it is supposedly told by the 8th century prophet Isaiah ben Amoz. Wikipedia has a good breakdown of the book’s story sections:
Proto-Isaiah (chapters 1–39), containing the words of Isaiah
Deutero-Isaiah (chapters 40–55), the work of an anonymous 6th-century author writing during the exile
Trito-Isaiah (chapters 56–66), composed after the return from exile.
O.k., I’m still not doing well with my productivity level here. I’ve been on an 8 chapter book for two full months now. And in the end it only took me two nights to read it. I just took a loooong time between each of those two nights. This time my excuse is a) an overseas vacation and b) work got really busy. And oh right, I’m a horrible procrastinator. Uggh.
Anyway, let’s discuss Song of Solomon. This book is … weird. Seriously, it has to be the strangest book I’ve come across in the Bible thus far, by a long shot. First off, like Psalms and Proverbs, it’s not told in story form. Rather it’s more of a collection of poems/songs … or maybe even just one long poem/song, for all I can tell. Second, this book has nearly zero intention of trying to teach any sort of life lessons about God or about anything really, save for maybe one or two lines here and there. And lastly, all the poems/chapters in this book are on the same topic: love, and sex.
Oh man. I really have not been doing well with these ever since Psalms, have I? At least I had an excuse with that one; it was 150 chapters. And then Proverbs was another 31. Ecclesiastes, however, was all of twelve chapters, and it took me a month and a half to get through it. Yikes. That pace is a liiiiiiiiiiittttle on the pathetic side. I’ve been blogging weekly on another blog on an entirely unrelated topic, which, I’ll be honest, has completely distracted me from this Bible Reviews project. I’m still on it though, as you can see. I’m just slow. Luckily the next few books are short.
Errgh. It’s been almost 2 months since my Psalms review … much more time than I had planned to take to get through Proverbs. I have no great excuse this time; this has just been one of those months (err, 2 months) where I’ve been distracted with dumb stuff. Plus I guess I did have a few really busy weekends in there where I was out doing stuff or out of town. Anyway, I’m done now. Finally.
You may recall that I wasn’t all that impressed or enthused by Psalms. I expected more out of it. Well, Proverbs, interestingly enough, wound up basically being the book that I thought Psalms was going to be. And that’s a good thing. In a sense, I feel like Proverbs is the book I’ve been waiting to get to the entire time I’ve been reading the Bible, because even though I knew to expect a hearty helping of disturbing and terrible things in the Bible, I thought there would also be more “good” stuff along the way than there has been. Finally, now, in Proverbs we’re getting some of that.
So what is the book of Proverbs about? Well, the summary of the book is pretty much all there in the title. The entirety of the book is … a long list of proverbs. 31 chapters worth, to be exact. The first chapter starts out with some proverbs attributed to Solomon. Later there’s some others that are attributed to various nameless “wise men.” There’s a few others that are attributed to someone named “Agur son of Jakeh,” and some in another chapter attributed to a guy named Lemuel (and/or his mother). Other than that, the rest of the proverbs are just listed in general, without any particular author named.
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.