The Writings Division
There are eleven books in the Third Division of the Old Testament. The first three are what might be called poetic books. These are the Psalms, the Proverbs and the Book of Job. All are basically in poetic meter form.
The next five books of the Third Division are called in Hebrew the Megillot, and they were known as Festival Books. This was because the first book (the Song of Songs) was read each year at the Passover season. The second book (Ruth) at Pentecost. The third book (Lamentations) was read on each 9th of Ab which was the eve of the anniversary date for the destruction of both the Temple in the time of Nebuchadnezzar in the 6th century B.C.E. as well as the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans in 70 C.E. The fourth book (Ecclesiastes) was read each Feast of Tabernacles. And finally, the fifth book (Esther) was read each Purim festival (which always occurred in the middle of the month preceding Nisan, the first month of the year).
The next three books of the Third Division are Daniel, Ezra/Nehemiah (reckoned as one book) and Chronicles (also reckoned as one book). These books will be discussed in the next chapter.
Look now at the first three books of this Third Division (Psalms, Proverbs, Job). These books were read (and often sung in the case of the Psalms) at the portal to the men’s portion of the Court of the Israelites but near where the women could hear. 1 This area for the men was the western part of the court. Recall that this court was divided in the time of Jesus into two divisions. One, the most western section near the priestly region of the Temple, was for the men, while the eastern section was known as the Court of the Women. First, let us look at the books intended primarily for the men.
The Psalms were written by kings, for kings, or by and for priestly rulers. The 150 psalms were divided into 5 sections (1–41, 42–72, 73–89, 90–106, and 107–150) and they represented a type of Torah for the rulers of Israel in metrical form. These Psalms were intended for reading and singing (with prophetic significance) and have always been associated by Jewish authorities with the steps in the western part of the Court of Israel that led up to the level of pavement that was reserved for the priests. On those steps the Psalms were read and sung at various times.
There are prophetic themes found in their arrangement. 2 For example, the Psalms of Degrees (the fifteen psalms from 120 to 134) were sung near these steps and are associated with the prophecies of Isaiah and the prophetic teaching God gave to Hezekiah. The other psalms were performed at regular intervals — some daily, others weekly, monthly, and even yearly. Apparently the whole lot of 150 Psalms were sung in regular order each week for two periods of one and half years, making a three year period altogether to agree with the Triennial Cycle readings of the Law and Prophets). 3 These were patriotic or religious songs that were meant to praise God and inspire the people to good works and deeds for Israel and for all mankind. As said before, these 5 sections of the 150 Psalms represented a type of special Torah to the rulers of Israel.
The books of Proverbs and Job (both of which were written either for or about kings and rulers) were also intended for rulers in this same area of influence within the Temple that pertained to men. Job found a place within the divine canon, and was allowed to be read in the Temple, because he was considered in some circles to be an Israelite from the tribe of Issachar. 4 Whatever the case, Job lived before the time of Moses and there were then no restrictions about wise men of any race going into the House of God, simply because there was then no sanctuary in existence that God officially devised, as he did in the time of Moses.
The 5 books of the Third Division are called, in a feminine manner, the Megillot. This word (meaning “scroll”) is personified as a woman in Jeremiah 36:2, 4 and Ezekiel 2:9–10, 3:3. 5 There is, indeed, a feminine aspect associated with these 5 scrolls of the Megillot. They have themes in which women are the main characters or the teachings as a whole are oriented toward the feminine attributes of the Bible (i.e., wisdom, understanding, etc.). They were intended as a type of Torah for the women at headquarters. Indeed, the Torah (the 5 books of Moses) is called by this exact name.
“Then said I, ‘Lo, I come: in the volume [megillah] of the book it is written of me, I delight to do your will, O my God: yea, your law [torah] is within my heart.’”
This confirms the connection between the 5 books of the Megillot and the 5 books of the Law.
Look at each of these 5 scrolls. They are intended principally for the instruction of the women of Israel, and all were intended for those in what was called the “Court of the Women” which was the first (or eastern) compartment of the Temple. This region was the first part of the Temple that people encountered when they entered the Temple proper.
Qoheleth was a book
written by Solomon that Ezra placed in the canon for the specific reason of
teaching the feminine attributes in the Temple, in the environment of “God’s
House.” This book is associated with the “women’s books” of the Megillot
and it answers (even in title) with the phrase “The Court for the Congregation
of the Women” that designated the eastern part of the Court of Israel in the
In a word, Ezra devoted this Megillot section of the Old Testament canon to the teaching of the women of Israel, and it is about feminine attributes or virtues. These women (or feminine attributes) are accorded 5 books just like the Law of Moses itself had 5 books. The Megillot is also similar to the Psalms (intended for the rulers) which had 5 sections. They help to show that in God’s eyes, the women are as important and in need of special instruction as are the men.
True enough, these 5 books specifically intended for the women (they are a type of “Torah” for women) are positioned after those of the priests, and after the kings, and after the other men rulers, but this last position for the women is provided because of social rank, not because of any inferiority of women in the household of God. To show their importance, Ezra gave the women of the capital city (Jerusalem and the Temple) these 5 special books of instruction, and these 5 books ought to be studied especially by women today in the manner that Ezra intended for the noble ladies of Jerusalem in his time. Remember, these 5 books of the Megillot have the same title as the 5 books of the Law in Psalm 40:7 (Hebrew).
As a final word concerning this selection of 5 special books for women, it should be noted again that there was supposed to have been a Bat Kol (a supernatural word from God) that none of the books of the Third Division of the Old Testament should be paraphrased. Nor did Ezra assign them to be interpreted in the synagogues. They could be read, but not preached, that is, allegorized. Since paraphrasing of religious books is the first step toward allegorization, and paraphrasing is a logical step toward the preaching of them in the synagogues (which would almost certainly lead to allegorization), these books were to remain limited to Temple teaching and they were to be unpreached in the synagogues. Of course, they could be read in the synagogues, but left unparaphrased. Sadly, this rule broke down and the books became allegorized by many well-meaning priests, rabbis and preachers in later times.
As far as the Megillot were concerned, however, these 5 books were intended simply to be read to the assembled women (and others) on the 5 festival periods that Ezra assigned. Ezra knew that there would be a strong tendency to allegorize some of them, especially the Song of Songs and Esther (the beginning and ending books of the Megillot). The reason for this was not only because there was a theme of eroticism in the Song of Songs, and the harem experiences of Esther, that Ezra knew prudish preachers or priests would try to allegorize away, but there is also no overt mention of Deity in either of these two documents. 7 This is the way it was intended to be recognized, and Ezra deliberately placed them in the canon with this point in mind. There is wonderful and instructive teaching in both books if one can understand the biblical (and Temple or festival) contexts in which these books are found in the Holy Scriptures — and none of them should be allegorized. 8
Look at the Song of Songs. Left alone and without allegorization we find a love story (which was to accompany the springtime season of Passover) that is filled with eroticism and romance of the physical kind that a man and woman would naturally experience who care for one another. Nothing is spared in showing this eroticism. It is so blatant that preachers and self-styled moralists object to its language and they wish to allegorize its messages in order to justify its inclusion within the holy canon of books. But it should not be allegorized.
The message of the book is to show that (even at his most sacred of times, the Passover season) God fully approves of erotic and romantic encounters between the human sexes. No morality is being explicitly taught anywhere in the book, though a proper morality as understood by biblical people is thoroughly assumed in every sentence, while sexual etiquette is always performed by the participants with utmost decorum. In all of these very private and intimate scenes that are depicted in this book, God is nowhere overtly in evidence.
The intent of the writer and what Ezra wanted to teach the women in particular was that God was no voyeur to such actions of his children because such erotic actions should be reserved for the private practice of the couple involved. Surely, God is always with his children, but in regard to such private actions as described in the Song of Songs (and even with the actions of Esther in the kings harem), God remains a distant protector, always out of sight to these private actions of his children which He wishes them to experience (if done within proper moral guidelines). 9
After all, God demands His privacy on many occasions. Indeed, the High Priest could only enter into his inner chambers once a year, and even then with much preparation and purification. The truth is, God demands His privacy from us (though as a Father we can call on Him any time we have a need, night or day), and He will not enter your home, your kitchen, your bathroom, or your bedroom unless you ask Him to do so, for reasons that are prudent and within the standards of etiquette that most cultured and moral people demand.
This, in fact, is what the Song of Songs and the Book of
Esther are trying to teach the women of Israel in the Temple (among other things
that the books illustrate). But all of this is destroyed and made of no worth if
one simply allegorizes the books to make them conform to the moral prudery and preachiness of many religious authorities.
“And you shall make a Lampstand of pure gold ... and six branches shall come out of it.”
• Exodus 21:31–32
“And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of Man.”
• Revelation 1:13
It is not usually understood by the general public but the Menorah (the seven branched lampstand which was deposited in the Holy Place of the Tabernacle) actually denotes a living tree — a Tree of Light. Indeed, its prime significance is its relation to the Tree of Life which was found not. only in the Garden of Eden but is talked about in the concluding book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation. ‘The symbolic motif of the lampstand was that of an almond tree. Just as Aaron’s rod that budded and brought forth fruit was an almond, so likewise (as we have shown in this book) the Menorah denotes an allegorical almond tree. It may well be that Christ and the two robbers were actually crucified on such an almond tree. If so, then Christ. ironically died on the tree that represented the Tree of Life.
1 Jewish tradition states that the music and singing could be heard as far as Jericho, some 17 miles northeast from the true Temple location. One presumes this was possible when wind conditions were just right.
“From Jericho they could hear the noise of the opening of the Great gate; from Jericho they could hear the sound of the ‘shovel’ [a piped musical instrument]; ... from Jericho they could hear the voice of Gabini the herald; from Jericho they could hear the sound of the flute; from Jericho they could hear the noise of the cymbal; from Jericho they could hear the sound of the singing; from Jericho they could hear the sound of the Shofar; and some say, even the voice of the High Priest when he pronounced the name on the Day of Atonement.”
Mishnah, Tamid 3:8, Danby Translation
2 See Appendix One for a review of the Psalms.
3 See the article “Triennial Cycle” in the Jewish Encyclopedia (1912), vol XII, pp. 255–256 and at http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=327&letter=T
4 See Genesis 46:13. There is a slight variant with the name in the Hebrew.
5 The word megillot is translated “roll” in the King James Version. It is feminine in Hebrew just like the word “wisdom” is feminine in Proverbs 8:22ff..
6 It is interesting that Solomon is best known for his wisdom and understanding and both terms in Hebrew are feminine. He became the “Teacher of a Collection of Feminine Attributes” — a Teacher of Wisdom and Understanding.
7 True, Song of Songs covertly mentions God by referring to a devouring flame as a “flame of Yah” (Song 8:6, see Hebrew) and there are 5 occasions in the Book of Esther where God’s name can be found in some interesting acrostic designs among the Hebrew words, but there is no overt reference to God in either book. See Bullinger’s Companion Bible, Appendix 60.
8 See Appendix One of this book for more important information on the Megillot.
9 This was in stark contrast to the pagan religious practices of the nations surrounding Israel and Judah. Open and even public sexual rituals and displays were common, even required, for all members of their communities, along with blood rituals and all-too-frequent human sacrifice. This is why the inclusion of Rahab the Harlot and Ruth the Moabitess was so exceptional when they turned to worship exclusively Israel’s God and accepted into the Israelite community. Both had come from sexual rituals and practices and accepted the laws of God in the first five books of Moses. The five books of the Megillot gave women their own set of teachings. DWS
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