This weekend we'll be starting our new sermon series on the Psalms. These 'Food for Thought' blogs will be released every week to help us get a bit deeper into each theme.
As an introduction we'd like to explain a little bit about how the bible tells us the same stories from different perspectives.
But first, we thought you might enjoy this rendition of Psalm 77 by Sons of Korah:
The bible from different perspectives
Often when we are reading the Bible, we zoom in on one passage or book. It’s important to note that a lot of it fits together and the Bible gives different accounts of the same time period. We have 4 gospels that tell the story of Jesus in a different light, each with their own focus and style. Also in the Old Testament we’ve got different sets of literature that speak about the same events.
Traditionally, we divide the type of books in the Old Testament as follows; the Pentateuch (or the first five books of Moses); historical books; wisdom books and the Major and Minor prophets.
The first five books of Moses (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) have in themselves different ways of telling the story. There are big chunks of historical report mixed with a lot of poetry. There’s also direct instruction of how to live life, as it tells us how God gave His people the law and what the law was.
The Historical books are Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 and 2 Samuel, 1 and 2 Kings, 1 and 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah and Esther. We see some songs and even prophecies but they are primarily a historical account of events concerning Israel as God’s people.
Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs are books of wisdom. They don’t tell us an account of events. Most of these books are written in a poetic style and have a lot imagery in them.
Though these book are not historical books, it’s worth noting that there’s usually a story behind the poetry or a reason why they were written. We can often find the context of these books in passages of the Historical Books. For instance, Psalm 51 was written after David committed adultery with Bathsheba, which we can read in 2 Samuel 11.
Sometimes there’s a prophetic layer to these books as well. For instance, Psalm 22 was written by David, singing about his sorrows, but we can also see Jesus in this Psalm and how he was rejected.
Major and Minor prophets
The prophetic books are also not historical. The prophets received a word from God for different sets of people and we get an outsiders look into these words. These prophets are Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi.
Again these are written in a certain time period and for a specific reason. They have elements that are historical to explain why they received these words from God.
So how do they hang together?
If not all books are primarily historical, and they are not ordered in the bible chronologically, how do we know what goes with what? A psalm is written for a specific occasion, but can we get more insight into the psalm if we can figure out when it’s written?
If we look at the graph below we see that Job is one of the oldest books. We also see that Isaiah and Micah were contemporaries. We can see that Chronicles and Kings are talking about the same time period. They’re both historical books, what’s the difference between them? Do they have a different focus and why might that be?
It’s important to know when we read Isaiah that he wrote his stuff before the exile and that Malachi wrote after the exile while Israel was still under the rule of other nations.
When looking at a certain story, it might be worth checking if there was another Biblical writer writing in the same period or about the same events. This way we can get a clearer picture of what has happened historically and with what intention the writers wrote.