Old Testament Survey
Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon are not studied very much today. A few verses are known from Proverbs. About the only people who study Ecclesiastes are Jehovahs Witnesses. They often take verses out of context to try to prove their false doctrines. Because the Song of Solomon has sexual references in it, many are embarrassed by it. However, these three books are a part of Gods inspired Word to man. He expects us to study them (Romans 15:4).
King Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba, is the writer of these books. Some believe Solomon wrote the Song of Solomon in his youth, the books of Proverbs in his middle age, and the book of Ecclesiastes when he was old.
Most of the proverbs were written by Solomon (Proverbs 1:1). However, chapter 30 is credited to Agur. Chapter 31 was written by Lemuel. Many Bible students believe that Agur and Lemuel were names used by Solomon. If this is correct, this means that Solomon is the author of the entire book.
Solomon was one of the greatest kings of Israel. During the time he ruled, Israel was a powerful and rich nation. Solomon was given great wealth by God (1 Kings 10:7, 14, 23). God also made him the wisest man in all the earth (1 Kings 3:11, 12; 10:24). He wrote 1,005 songs and 3,000 proverbs (1 Kings 4:32). Too, God allowed Solomon to build His temple in Jerusalem (1 Kings 5 and 6). Solomon served God until his old age. He disobeyed God by marrying many foreign women (Deuteronomy 17:14-17). When he was old, his pagan wives turned him away from worshiping the true God (1 Kings 11:1-8).
During Solomons rule, the people of Israel were very prosperous. When people have plenty, they often forget God. They forget the important rules of righteous living. The book of Proverbs was written to help people remember God and the right way to live.
Proverbs are short, wise sayings. They usually make just one point. They are easily remembered. Most nations have proverbs which are commonly repeated among them. The wise sayings in the book of Proverbs were given by the inspiration of God (2 Timothy 3:16,17). They were meant for all people in all nations.
There are four sections in the book of Proverbs. Chapters 1-9 teach the importance of wisdom. Chapters 10-24 teach the principles of wisdom. Chapters 25-29 contain various proverbs by Solomon which were collected by the wise men of Hezekiahs day. Chapters 30 and 31 are the sayings of Agur and Lemuel.
Ecclesiastes has been called The search for happiness under the sun. The writer of this book is Solomon (Ecclesiastes 1:1). There are some who think Ecclesiastes was written much later than Solomons day. They say the book was credited to Solomon so it would be accepted. There is no evidence for this. If one believes all the Bible was inspired by God, he cannot accept this view, for the book itself claims to have been written by Solomon.
The book of Ecclesiastes deals with the purpose of life. It seeks to answer the question: What should man do during his time under the sun (on the earth)? Solomon had the opportunity to test the various ways men seek happiness. He had great riches, and therefore could buy anything he wanted to buy. He also had great power, and therefore could do anything he wanted to. Besides this, he was the wisest man in all the earth. He knew how to test things to see which was best.
Solomon tried many different things. First, he looked for worldly wisdom (education, learning, and philosophy). Many people try to find happiness today by going to school and ever continuing their learning. Education is good if it is used right. However, it must never become the reason for living (Ecclesiastes 1:16-18; 2:12-16; 1 Corinthians. 1:22-26; 2:1-5).
Solomon also tried to find the meaning of life in pleasure. Many people do this today. They are only interested in fun, games, parties, drinking, dancing and such things. It is good for one to rest his body. There is nothing wrong with having fun if one does not do anything sinful such as drinking or dancing. But having fun is not the purpose of mans life on this earth (Ecclesiastes 2: 1-3; 1 Timothy 5:6).
Solomon next tried to find the meaning of life in wealth (Ecclesiastes 2:4-11). He was a very rich man. He worked to become richer. Many people spend their whole lives acquiring wealth. When they die, they must leave it all behind. It is not wrong to have wealth if one uses it correctly. But seeking money and the things money can buy is not the reason God put man on this earth. Those who are interested only in material things will be unhappy in this life. They will lose their souls in eternity (Matthew. 6:19-21; 16:26; Luke 12:15-21; 1 Tim. 6:6-10).
After Solomon tried all of these things, he realized what the true purpose of mans life on earth was: Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is mans all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether it be good or evil (Ecclesiastes 12:13,14).
The Song of Solomon is known by other names also. In the Catholic Bible, it is called Canticles. It calls itself the song of songs (Song of Solomon 1:1). Some have doubted that this book should be in the Bible. They do not understand the purpose of the book. They do not like the plain sexual references. They also point out that Gods name is not mentioned.
If we understand the meaning of the book, we will see why God included it in the Bible. The purpose of the Song of Solomon is to show the joys and blessings of love between a husband and wife. The sexual relationship was created by God. It is holy and good when engaged in by a husband and wife who truly love one another. God intended it for mans happiness (1 Corinthians 7:1-5). God uses the love of the husband and wife to illustrate the love that Christ has for His church (Ephesians 5:22-33).
Solomon wrote the Song of Solomon (Song of Solomon 1:1). It is only one of more than one thousand songs he wrote (1 Kings 4:32). It was probably written when Solomon was a young man. Too, it was probably written before Solomon had married many wives. It shows the love between him and one wife.
We must understand the Song of Solomon is poetry. The persons who appear in this poem are: King Solomon who is the bridegroom, the Shulamite maid who is his bride, the daughters of Jerusalem, and the brothers of the Shulamite maid.
Two great lessons can be learned from the Song of Solomon. First, it teaches us that monogamy (one husband and one wife) is best. This was Gods original plan for marriage (Genesis 2:21-25). It is still Gods plan for marriage today (Matthew 19:3-9). Second, it teaches that sexual love is right in marriage, but sinful outside of it (Hebrews 13:4).
The books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon have wonderful teachings in them. They should not be neglected in our study of Gods Word (Romans 15:4). We must remember, however, that when we study them, we must consider the type of writing (proverbs and poetry). We must also consider the context of each statement. If we do these things, we will not draw false conclusions from them as do many false teachers.
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