The Writings

@midjourneybot: /imagine: song of solomon

In Hebrew, the books of the Old Testament are collectively known as the Tanakh. The Tanakh contains 22 scrolls that are organized into 3 main sections:

Tanakh is actually an acronym using the first letter from each section: Ta-Na-Kh.

There has always been some debate among Jewish sects about which books in the Tanakh were inspired by God. The Pharisees of Jesus’s day considered all of the books in the Tanakh as holy, whereas the Sadducees only believed the first five books (the Torah) were holy. Jesus adds to this confusion in the Sermon on the Mount. He says,

Matthew 5: 17 Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For I assure you: Until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or one stroke of a letter will pass from the law until all things are accomplished.

For whatever reason, Jesus doesn’t mention The Writings in this verse. That seems like a glaring omission considering everything in the Bible is so intentional (down to the smallest letter). When Jesus refers to the Tanakh again in Luke 24:44, he specifically mentions the Law and the Prophets, but this time he adds Psalms to the list instead of The Writings.

Luke 24: 44 Then He told them, “These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. 46 He also said to them, “This is what is written: The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, 47 and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations, beginning at Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

I’m not sure why Jesus doesn’t mention “The Writings” in these verses. Maybe he wanted to avoid a debate between the Pharisees and Sadducees, or maybe he was simply referring to the verses that are about him. Jesus clearly feels “The Writings” are holy because he quotes from all three sections throughout the New Testament.

The Law:

  • Genesis (Matthew 19:4-5, Mark 10:6-8)

  • Exodus (Matthew 5:27, 5:38, 15:4, 22:32, Mark 7:10, Luke 20:37)

  • Leviticus (Matthew 5:33, 5:38, 5:43, 15:4, 22:39, Mark 7:10, 12:31)

  • Numbers (Matthew 5:33, 5:38)

  • Deuteronomy (Matthew 4:4, 4:7, 4:10, 5:27, 5:31, 5:33, 15:4, 18:16, 22:37, Mark 7:10, 12:29-30, Luke 4:4, 4:8, 4:12)

The Prophets:

  • Joshua (Mark 12:29-30)

  • Isaiah (Mathew 13:14-15, 15:8-9, 21:13, Mark 4:12, 7:6-7, 9:44-48, 11:17, Luke 4:18-19, 8:10, 19:46, 22:37)

  • Jeremiah (Matthew 21:13, Mark 8:18, 11:17, Luke 19:46)

  • Ezekiel (Mark 8:18)

  • Minor Prophets (Matthew 9:13, 10:35-36, 11:10, 26:31, Mark 14:27, Luke 7:27, 12:53, 23:30).

The Writings:

  • Psalms (Matthew 7:23, 21:16, 21:42, 22:44, 23:39, 26:64, 27:46, Mark 12:36, 14:62, 15:34, Luke 20:17, 20:42-43)

  • Daniel (Matthew 23:39, 26:64, Mark 13:14, 14:62)

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Reshuffling the Tanakh

Fortunately, the early Christian church adopted the entire Tanakh as holy because “The Writings” have some of the most beautiful stories in the Bible.

Unfortunately, most of the books in the Old Testament are not in their original order. Way back in 382 AD, a Catholic theologian named Saint Jerome reshuffled the order for his Latin Vulgate Bible, which is how the 22 scrolls of the Tanakh became the 39 books of the Old Testament. All English Bibles are derived from the Latin Vulgate, so modern Christians have lost some really important context that’s much more apparent to Hebrew readers. In the original order of the Tanakh, the age of the target audience steadily increases with each book:

The Law (Torah) contains the first five books of Moses. These stories were written for a very young audience, which is why they are easy for little kids to remember. For example, you probably learned about the Garden of Eden, Cain and Abel, Noah’s Flood, and the Prince of Egypt before you were ten years old. Genesis teaches us about our birth and selfish nature. Exodus teaches us why we need to escape the “slavery” of our animal selves. Leviticus teaches us rules to become better citizens in society, sort of like our parents teaching us “manners”. The last two books, Numbers and Deuteronomy, teach us how to face our fears and conquer obstacles.

The Prophets (Nevi’im) contains six books:

  • Joshua & Judges

  • Samuel & Kings (Books of the Kingdom)

  • Isaiah

  • Jeremiah

  • Ezekiel

  • Minor Prophets (The Twelve) has all the stories of Hosea, Joel, Amos, Obadiah, Jonah, Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi—in that order.

The Prophets mostly tells “coming of age” stories about Israel and King David. While the target audience for the Law is elementary school, the target audience for the Prophets is more like middle school. This is the time in our lives when we need to put limits on our own bad behavior and learn to confront bullies.

The Writings (Kevutim) are even more mature. The 11 books are:

  • Psalms

  • Proverbs

  • Job

  • Song of Solomon

  • Ruth

  • Lamentations

  • Ecclesiastes

  • Esther

  • Daniel

  • Ezra & Nehemiah (one scroll)

  • Chronicles

These stories deal with love, sex, death, heartache, and how to stand up for what’s right. The target audience for these stories is more like high school.

Spiritual Puberty

The Writings maybe my favorite books of the Bible to listen to because I love finding new knowledge and wisdom. If you are read all the other essays in my book, that’s probably obvious. But there’s something else I like about The Writings that’s difficult to describe. They have a different tone than the rest of the Bible. If they were set to music, it would be in a minor key.

The Writings are somber. They are full of heartbreak and pain. There is a teen angst to these stories. There is an existential angst to these stories. If The Prophets are addressed to young people trying to find their own identity, and The Gospels are addressed to the “bride of Christ”, then The Writings in the middle are written for people going through “spiritual puberty”.

Let’s just run down through the list of books for a few examples.

Psalms is first. If you don’t know what to say when you talk to God, then head straight to Psalms. The Psalms were written by King David in first person on purpose because David was “a man after God’s own heart”. The best way to learn to pray is by speaking the Psalms out loud until you find your own voice. 🗣️

Proverbs is next. Proverbs is full of riddles that become ever more ingenious the more you dwell on them. Several of the poems in Proverbs are written in line couplets that don’t seem like they are related, so it’s the job of the reader to figure out how the line couplets are the same and how they are different. Following the wisdom in Proverbs may be one of the fastest ways to mature spiritually.

After Proverbs is Job, which we already discussed in this chapter. Job addresses the issue of why God allows suffering in this world, which is important for young theologians to understand.

Job is followed by Song of Solomon. The Bible doesn’t get any more “teen angsty” than Song of Solomon. This book is actually a theatrical play that teaches us about young love in boys and girls.

When young girls fall in love, they become little stalkers. When a girl has a crush, she will know the guy’s class schedule, when he works out, what he ate for lunch, who his friends are, what video games he likes, and his entire social media history. 🥰

Boys would be little stalkers too if they weren’t so clueless. Boys are hopeless romantics. When a young boy is lovestruck by a girl, he won’t eat, he won’t sleep, because he’s too busy daydreaming about how awesome her boobs are. Something similar happens all over the animal kingdom. 😍

Song of Solomon addresses the issues of puberty head on. Let’s read from its final chapter.

Song of Solomon 8:

Friend Ensemble:  
8 Our sister is young;
     she has no breasts.
     What will we do for our sister
     on the day she is spoken for? 
9 If she is a wall,
     we will build a fortress of money on her.
     If she is a door,
     we will enclose her with cedar planks.

Do I need to explain the wall and the door?

10 I am a wall
     and my breasts like towers.
     So in his eyes I have become
     like one who finds peace. 
11 Solomon owned a vineyard in Baal-hamon.
     He leased the vineyard to tenants.
     Each was to bring for his fruit
     1,000 pieces of silver. 
12 I have my own vineyard.
     The 1,000 are for you, Solomon,
     but 200 for those who guard its fruits.

13 You who dwell in the gardens—
     companions are listening for your voice—
     let me hear you!  

14 Hurry to me, my love,
     and be like a gazelle
     or a young stag
     on the mountains of spices.

Be like a young stag on the mountains of spices? Whenever you read the Song of Solomon, replace the words “mandrakes”, “raisin cakes”, and “spices” with the word “Viagra” to understand the original meaning.

In Song of Solomon 8:9, we can see that being a wall or a door was important to the bride's friends. In verse 10, she asserts, “I am a wall” so “in his eyes I have become like one who finds peace”. I can’t speak for girls, but I don’t think most guys want to marry “a door”. I’m not slut shaming, I just think those kinds of relationships end exactly as fast as they begin. I like the way Jay-Z says it in “Empire State of Mind”:

Lights is blinding, girls need blinders 
Or they can step out of bounds quick, the side lines is
Lined with casualties who slipped in life casually 
Then gradually became worse – don't bite the apple, Eve!  

Caught up in the in-crowd, now you're in-style 
And in the winter it gets cold, en vogue with your skin out  
City of sin is a pity on a whim 
Good girls gone bad, the city's filled with them  

Mami took a bus trip, now she got her bust out 
Everybody ride her, just like a bus route  
"Hail Mary" to the city, you're a virgin 
And Jesus can't save you, life starts when the church ends

Share a rap song with your church friends.


@jayz: squeezing homophones for Anna Wintour and Vogue into those lyrics is genius.

The next book after Song of Solomon is Ruth. Ruth teaches guys how to be good boyfriends and teaches girls how to be good girlfriends. This book is gentle, and caring, and full of people honoring each other. I love this story.

Lamentations teaches us about losing loved ones.

The book of Ecclesiastes is sort of like that “drug talk” that we all got in middle school. Remember how we all had to sit in the gym and listen to some former heroin addict warn us about our choices in life? In this case, the drug talk is from King Solomon who is basically saying, “Look, I already drank everything, smoked everything, kept a harem of 1,000 hookers, and was the richest guy on Earth. None of that matters. You can never get high enough to escape your own reality.”

He’s right.


The Birds and the Bees, Part 2

After Ecclesiastes is Esther. At the beginning of Esther, King Ahasuerus (Xerxes) is married to Queen Vashti. Xerxes was one of the most powerful rulers in history, governing all the lands between India, Turkey, and Ethiopia from his headquarters in Susa (in modern day Iran). Xerxes decides to throw a 180-day party to show off how awesome he is just before he invades Greece to finish off a war started by his father Darius. During the party and in “high spirits from the wine”, Xerxes summons Queen Vashti and she flat out refuses to come. So Queen Vashti is subsequently banished from his presence.

We know from several extra-biblical sources that Xerxes’ invasion of Greece fails when King Leonidas of Sparta leads the stand at Thermopylae. This is an epic story that has been immortalized in several Hollywood movies like “300”.

Xerxes heads back home to Persia, which is where we pick up the story in Esther 2.

Esther 2: 1 Some time later, when King Ahasuerus’s rage had cooled down, he remembered Vashti, what she had done, and what was decided against her. 2 The king’s personal attendants suggested, “Let a search be made for beautiful young women for the king. 3 Let the king appoint commissioners in each province of his kingdom, so that they may assemble all the beautiful young women to the harem at the fortress of Susa. Put them under the care of Hegai, the king’s eunuch, who is in charge of the women, and give them the required beauty treatments. 4 Then the young woman who pleases the king will become queen instead of Vashti.” This suggestion pleased the king, and he did accordingly.

Xerxes appoints commissioners in 127 different provinces to find the hottest girls on the planet. Verse 7 says one of those girls is named Hadassah (Esther), who “had a beautiful figure and was extremely good-looking”.

Esther 2: 12 During the year before each young woman’s turn to go to King Ahasuerus, the harem regulation required her to receive beauty treatments with oil of myrrh for six months and then with perfumes and cosmetics for another six months. 13 When the young woman would go to the king, she was given whatever she requested to take with her from the harem to the palace. 14 She would go in the evening, and in the morning she would return to a second harem under the supervision of Shaashgaz, the king’s eunuch in charge of the concubines. She never went to the king again, unless he desired her and summoned her by name.

So Esther competed in a no-holds-barred sex contest against all the hottest women in the civilized world who had been bathed in oil for a year. That’s crazy. I wonder why evangelical pastors never teach these passages in church? 🤔

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Esther 2: 15 Esther was the daughter of Abihail, the uncle of Mordecai who had adopted her as his own daughter. When her turn came to go to the king, she did not ask for anything except what Hegai, the king’s trusted official in charge of the harem, suggested. Esther won approval in the sight of everyone who saw her. 16 She was taken to King Ahasuerus in the royal palace in the tenth month, the month Tebeth, in the seventh year of his reign. 17 The king loved Esther more than all the other women. She won more favor and approval from him than did any of the other young women. He placed the royal crown on her head and made her queen in place of Vashti. 18 The king held a great banquet for all his officials and staff. It was Esther’s banquet. He freed his provinces from tax payments and gave gifts worthy of the king’s bounty.

It’s kind of difficult to believe this story is in the Bible, which is why I’m highlighting it. I guess the moral of the story is that men are like dogs—if you don’t pet them, they will go find another lap to lay on.

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Feminine Power

The first few times you read The Writings, it appears that most of the women are in subordinated positions. But the closer you read them, the more you will find subtle clues about how they wield their power. I like the way Nia Vardalos explains this power in, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”. In the movie, the main character, Toula, is worried that her dad won’t let her go to night school because he is the old-fashioned head of the household. The mom tell the daughter not to worry. She says, “Let me tell you something, Toula. The man is the head, but the woman is the neck. And she can turn the head any way she wants.”

We see this in Esther’s story. Esther is deeply concerned about a secret plot to kill all the Jews by a man named Haman the Agagite.

Esther 5: 1 On the third day, Esther dressed up in her royal clothing and stood in the inner courtyard of the palace facing it. The king was sitting on his royal throne in the royal courtroom, facing its entrance. 2 As soon as the king saw Queen Esther standing in the courtyard, she won his approval. The king extended the gold scepter in his hand toward Esther, and she approached and touched the tip of the scepter.

3 “What is it, Queen Esther?” the king asked her. “Whatever you want, even to half the kingdom, will be given to you.”

Xerxes is offering Esther half of the civilized world. Her influence has serious power, so Esther engineers a plot to expose Haman the Agagite. She invites him to a private banquet and tells Xerxes all about his plans. Haman falls onto the couch where Esther is reclining, so Xerxes has him hung on the gallows Haman built to kill Esther’s uncle, Mordecai.

Esther uses her influence again in chapter 8.

Esther 8: 3 Then Esther addressed the king again. She fell at his feet, wept, and begged him to revoke the evil of Haman the Agagite, and his plot he had devised against the Jews. 4 The king extended the gold scepter toward Esther, so she got up and stood before the king.

5 She said, “If it pleases the king, and I have found approval before him, if the matter seems right to the king and I am pleasing in his sight, let a royal edict be written. Let it revoke the documents the scheming Haman son of Hammedatha the Agagite, wrote to destroy the Jews who are in all the king’s provinces. 6 For how could I bear to see the disaster that would come on my people? How could I bear to see the destruction of my relatives?”

7 King Ahasuerus said to Esther the Queen and to Mordecai the Jew, “Look, I have given Haman’s estate to Esther, and he was hanged on the gallows because he attacked the Jews. 8 You may write in the king’s name whatever pleases you concerning the Jews, and seal it with the royal signet ring. A document written in the king’s name and sealed with the royal signet ring cannot be revoked.”

Esther was super smart in this story. Women are generally smarter than men, which is why most men trust their wives more than any other person on Earth. Personally, my wife owns half my stuff, but she also owns 100% of our calendar. She also chooses what we eat and where we live because she’s the “neck of household”. 🤣

It’s really important for young girls to know that they have so much more to offer this world in addition to their beauty. For example, remember the end of the play in Song of Solomon 8? See how Solomon owns a vineyard that produces 1,000 pieces of silver in verse 11? Well in verse 12, the bride says, “I have my own vineyard”. She doesn’t mean that metaphorically as her “garden” or her “lilly”. Based on the rest of Song of Solomon, the “vine” is a male part. So this bride owns an actual business and contributes to her family’s financial success. How cool is that? She even knows exactly how much to pay the laborers for guarding her fruit (200 pieces).

The Bible supports gender equality way more than most churches would lead you to believe. For example, the first people to witness Jesus after his resurrection were women, which was highly unusual in the prevailing culture. Here’s another example from Proverbs 31. This is a song from a mother to her son about finding the ideal woman.

Proverbs 31:

1 The words of King Lemuel,
an oracle that his mother taught him:

2 What should I say, my son?
What, son of my womb?
What, son of my vows?

3 Don’t spend your energy on women
or your efforts on those who destroy kings.

4 It is not for kings, Lemuel,
it is not for kings to drink wine
or for rulers to desire beer.

5 Otherwise, they will drink,
forget what is decreed,
and pervert justice for all the oppressed.

6 Give beer to one who is dying
and wine to one whose life is bitter.

7 Let him drink so that he can forget his poverty
and remember his trouble no more.

8 Speak up for those who have no voice,
for the justice of all who are dispossessed.

9 Speak up, judge righteously,
and defend the cause of the oppressed and needy.

“Don’t spend your vigor on women who ruin kings” is basically what Bill Burr argues about “gold digging whores”—they are dangerous.

10 Who can find a capable wife?
She is far more precious than jewels.

11 The heart of her husband trusts in her,
and he will not lack anything good.

12 She rewards him with good, not evil,
all the days of her life.

13 She selects wool and flax
and works with willing hands.

14 She is like the merchant ships,
bringing her food from far away.

15 She rises while it is still night
and provides food for her household
and portions for her female servants.

16 She evaluates a field and buys it;
she plants a vineyard with her earnings.

17 She draws on her strength
and reveals that her arms are strong.

18 She sees that her profits are good,
and her lamp never goes out at night.

19 She extends her hands to the spinning staff,
and her hands hold the spindle.

20 Her hands reach out to the poor,
and she extends her hands to the needy.

21 She is not afraid for her household when it snows,
for all in her household are doubly clothed.

22 She makes her own bed coverings;
her clothing is fine linen and purple.

23 Her husband is known at the city gates,
where he sits among the elders of the land.

24 She makes and sells linen garments;
she delivers belts to the merchants.

25 Strength and honor are her clothing,
and she can laugh at the time to come.

26 She opens her mouth with wisdom
and loving instruction is on her tongue.

27 She watches over the activities of her household
and is never idle.

28 Her sons rise up and call her blessed.
Her husband also praises her:

29 “Many women are capable,
but you surpass them all!”

30 Charm is deceptive and beauty is fleeting,
but a woman who fears the Lord will be praised.

31 Give her the reward of her labor,
and let her works praise her at the city gates.

This lady is incredible. She’s like Diane Keaton in the movie, “Baby Boom”. Her trading is profitable, she’s got her own orchard, she’s making applesauce, she’s delivering it to merchants, the affairs of her household are in order, and she’s dating the town veterinarian. She’s got it all.

@guys: While I’m mansplaining the Bible, do you notice how many times this woman needs to be praised? That’s your job. And when you’re tired of giving your girl compliments, give her some more. The Bible even provides an example of what to say in verse 29.

Also notice in Proverbs 31:23 that you are supposed to be respected by the elders of your land. The “city gate” is sort of like the break room at your office. Do people respect you there? Does your boss (elder) respect you there? You’re supposed to have a seat at the conference room table. Are you working toward that? If your boss doesn’t respect you, and your coworkers don’t respect you, then why would your wife respect you? Ya gotta earn it.

The reason that some women have to steal men from other women is because there’s not enough men like this to go around.

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The Final Writings

The last 3 books of the Tanakh are Daniel, Ezra and Nehemiah (one scroll), and Chronicles. They mainly focus on the Jewish Exile to Babylon and their subsequent return to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

There are plenty of miracles to recount in these stories, but the overall mood is still somber. God finally abandons his people in Jerusalem and hands all the kingdoms of the world over to Cyrus the Great. This would be the conclusion of the Old Testament if it was still in its original order.

The Destruction of Jerusalem

2 Chronicles 36: 15 But Yahweh, the God of their ancestors sent word against them by the hand of His messengers, sending them time and time again, for He had compassion on His people and on His dwelling place. 16 But they kept ridiculing God’s messengers, despising His words, and scoffing at His prophets, until the Lord’s wrath was so stirred up against His people that there was no remedy. 17 So He brought up against them the king of the Chaldeans, who killed their choice young men with the sword in the house of their sanctuary. He had no pity on young men or young women, elderly or aged; He handed them all over to him. 18 He took everything to Babylon—all the articles of God’s temple, large and small, the treasures of the Lord’s temple, and the treasures of the king and his officials. 19 Then the Chaldeans burned God’s temple. They tore down Jerusalem’s wall, burned down all its palaces, and destroyed all its valuable articles.

20 He deported those who escaped from the sword to Babylon, and they became servants to him and his sons until the rise of the Persian kingdom. 21 This fulfilled the word of the Lord through Jeremiah and the land enjoyed its Sabbath rest all the days of the desolation until 70 years were fulfilled.

The Decree of Cyrus

22 In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, the word of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah was fulfilled. The Lord put it into the mind of King Cyrus of Persia to issue a proclamation throughout his entire kingdom and also to put it in writing:

23 This is what King Cyrus of Persia says: The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has appointed me to build Him a temple at Jerusalem in Judah. Whoever among you of His people may go up, and may the Lord his God be with him.

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