The books of Job, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs belong to the category of writings typically termed “wisdom literature.” Biblical wisdom may be defined as the exposition of a fundamental order within the universe, and wisdom is to know and follow this order. The reality of life is that the affirmations of traditional wisdom often contradict the experience of the faithful. Bad things happen to good people; and, conversely, good things often happen to bad people. August H. Konkel confronts the tension in the book of Job between the idea that virtue has its own reward and the reality that the virtuous often suffer. In his commentary on Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs, Tremper Longman III explores the meaning of life and love.
“However, his thinking about life is restricted to what he sees happen on earth and is not based on what he learns from Israel’s prophets.” (Page 264)
“Toward the end of his life, we see how he was deserted by his broader group of followers and his closer circle of disciples, betrayed by Judas, and denied by Peter. Finally, as he was hanging on the cross, he cried out, ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’ (Mark 15:34). At this point, Jesus experienced the meaninglessness of this world in a way that Qoheleth could not imagine. Jesus did this in order to break the curse of that meaninglessness in our life. His resurrection infuses life with new meaning. In short, Jesus, the Messiah, is the answer to the problem expressed by the Teacher’s cry, ‘meaningless, meaningless, everything is meaningless.’” (Page 260)
“In light of God’s speeches, the restoration cannot be understood as a matter of divine blessing for righteousness. Rather, it shows that God provides for those who submit themselves to him. More importantly, the blessing is an expression of God’s grace toward those who trust him (Müller 1988b:231); it is not a reward on the basis of ethical obligation.” (Page 241)
“The theodicy of Job’s friends proved to be their liability. Job had no such answers for the moral problem of evil in the world, but he was rewarded for his uncompromising submission to the claim of God upon his life. This is true wisdom.” (Page 5)
“we simply do not understand justice the way God does, so our ideas of righteousness do not receive recognition from God” (Page 78)
An enormously helpful series for the layperson and pastor alike because it centers on the theological message of each book and ties it directly to the text. This approach has been needed for some time and will be an invaluable supplement to other commentary series.
A treasure house of insight into the biblical text. Written by some of the best scholars working today, it is an essential tool for pastors, students, church leaders, and lay people who want to understand the text and know how it relates to our lives today. Like the New Living Translation text it uses as its base, this commentary series is extremely readable.
August H. Konkel (Ph.D., Westminster Theological Seminary) has been professor of Old Testament at Providence Seminary since 1984 and president of the College and Seminary since 2001. A contributor to the New International Dictionary of Old Testament Theology and Exegesis, he has forthcoming commentaries on Chronicles (Herald Press) and on Kings (Zondervan).
Tremper Longman III (Ph.D. Yale University) is the Robert H. Gundry Professor of Biblical Studies at Westmont College. Tremper has authored or coauthored seventeen books, including A Biblical History of Israel. He was also one of the main translators of the New Living Translation and has served as a consultant for other well-known Bible translations as well.