Genres of the Bible, Part IV: Books of Song
I am a big fan of music. If poetry is the soul transposed to text, music is the soul made audible. It is music that we often turn to when we’re sad, happy, or any other number of emotions. We use it to set moods during romantic dinners or parties. During our teenage years, many of us define ourselves by the music we listen to. It should be no surprise that something so influential as music plays a role in the Bible.
Once again, God has gifted us with a variety of wonderfully varied songs to read. While these songs aren’t audible, you can pretty easily find your favorite psalm adapted into worship music. The three books of songs in the Bible provide three distinct genres of music.
Psalms is more-or-less our variety pack. We can find laments, praises, philosophical quandaries, advice, and much more in the psalms of Psalms. Many of the most well-known verses from the Bible come from this book. Here are some you might know:
“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” (Psalms 23:1-4)
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” (Psalms 139:14)
“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.” (Psalms 46:1)
Song of Solomon is one of my favorite books of the Bible, particularly because of the allegory within. The book is, for lack of a better term, sexy. In university, we did a reading of Song of Solomon which read the book as being a romantic encounter between the speakers, using metaphors of locked doors and consensual opening as a veil for sex. There are two different speakers in Song of Solomon: one male, one female. A second interpretation of Song of Solomon is that it is a metaphor for the relationship between God and the Church. I believe either interpretation to be valid as literature is subject to change depending on the reader.
Lamentations is a book that many people have a hard time reading because it’s so depressing. A lamentation is a cry of grief. This book is about the suffering of Jerusalem after its destruction by Babylon in 586 BC. It’s interesting to note that God does not speak in Lamentations at all. Whereas in many other books we get to see the author’s interpretation of God speaking, His voice is absent in the literal sense here (that doesn’t mean that God can’t speak through the text).
Now that we’ve had an intro to the books of song, I want to focus on the role of song and why God inspired the authors to create them. As money plays a bigger role in art, it is important to remember that songs were not always created in an album format to be sold. Songs were a way to pass on information and stories in an easy-to-remember fashion. For some reason, humans can remember song lyrics well. Many times, we only need to listen to a song a couple of times before we can start to repeat at least some of it. Since much information was passed down orally in the early times, songs would have been a great way to convey lots of information.
There’s also the aspect of emotion to discuss. With a book of history or wisdom, emotion takes a back seat to logic and fact. Music is something that can be played without passion, but the magic in music can only come from someone authentically feeling. With music, there is always the musician and an audience (even if the audience IS the musician). I view it as sort of symbolic for how Jesus is the mediator between us and God. The musician is the mediator between God and us, telling us what they are getting from Him.
Music is a force that I would describe as magical. It has the power to alter moods and talk to us. It should be no surprise that if we like music, God probably likes it too. I believe forces of positivity to be divinely inspired. If we are made in the image of God, would not the good aspects of us reflect our Creator? Next week we’ll be covering the books of prophecy.
Books of Song: Psalms, Song of Solomon, Lamentations
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March 20, 2019
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