In Handbook on the Psalms and Wisdom Literature, Jeremy Painter plumbs the depth and traverses the wide range of emotional and theological content of the five poetic books of wisdom literature. The author explores the intricate complexity of questions of suffering in Job, the praises and laments of Psalms, the wisdom of Proverbs, and concludes with clear and purposeful readings of Ecclesiastes and the Song of Solomon.
We are not always provided easy answers while reading these Books of the Bible, but this handbook serves as a kind of tour guide to lead us along the path. Don’t miss this handbook. You will enjoy Jeremy Painter’s lyrical writing, depth of thought, and scriptural insight.
Handbook on the Psalms and Wisdom Literature Excerpt
A young rabbi, during his eight hours of daily study, once asked his elder why God told Moses His name is Yahweh. The elder closed his eyes and said nothing, so the apprentice asked again, “What is the significance of the name Yahweh?” The elder still said nothing, but he opened his mouth and breathed audibly. A few minutes went by, and the apprentice
listened to him breathe, quietly at first but then the open-mouth breathing became more labored and deliberate. Puzzled, the apprentice looked away and sought for the answer in his own thoughts.
A half hour went by, and the elder still had his eyes closed and continued breathing in the same manner. The apprentice felt he was wasting his time, so he went back to his studies.
The rhythm of the old rabbi’s breathing became familiar, and it provided a soundtrack for the apprentice as he read the story that prompted his question: Moses and the burning bush. “Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses . . . I AM hath sent me unto you” (Exodus 3:13–14).
The apprentice looked up again and searched his thoughts. He heard the rabbi’s breathing again, but this time he heard something different. He listened more carefully now and heard, subtle but certain, “Yah . . . Weh . . . Yah . . . Weh . . .Yah . . . Weh.” It suddenly dawned on the young man what his elder had been trying to say. He turned around and watched him breathe. He was still there with his eyes closed, but now every time the rabbi inhaled, the apprentice heard “Yah”; and every time the old man exhaled, “Weh.”“Know that God is the source of your life. Every time you breathe you say, I AM, and you are because of I AM. Click To Tweet
The bliss of insight flooded into the apprentice’s mind and trickled into his heart, and he smiled. The old rabbi opened his eyes and said, “You understand now.” And a twinkle in his eye gathered up the lines of his face into the shape of a knowing smile. He continued slowly: “Know that God is the source of your life. Every time you breathe you say, I AM, and you are because of I AM. Without I AM, you cannot exist. But more importantly, I AM has written His name into your very soul; your breath is His signature. And even should you become a fool and say there is no God, you will have to use His signature to say so. Even if your lips deny Him, still your breath will cry out, He is. This is why Tehillim (Psalms) ends with the command: Let everything that has breath, praise I AM. For in willingly praising I AM, you join lips and breath, and become whole.
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