Nielson leads the reader in a study of two of the most beautiful Old Testament poetic books, both of which deal with universal, basic, human quests: for the meaning of life(Ecclesiastes), and the joy of love (Song of Songs). Careful attention to textual form and content combines with personal meditation and application.
Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs: Wisdom's Searching and Finding
excellent study of the OT wisdom books for women
I have not read many womenÃ¢ÂÂs Bible studies. But from what I have seen, I can surmise that many deal with all sorts of things beyond the plain text of Scripture. Kathleen Buswell Nielson in her studies, sticks to the text of Scripture and teaches women how to grapple with and understand the text. Her study, "Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs: WisdomÃ¢ÂÂs Searching and Finding", is part of her own series, the "Living Word Bible Studies" originally written with her own ladiesÃ¢ÂÂ class in mind.
The book is a spiral bound book but nicely done with a deluxe softcover that is nice to hold. It opens up flat which makes it more suitable for jotting down notes in the ample spaces provided during the studies.
The book begins with an introduction to the two books to be studied, and then an introduction to poetry, where Nielson makes some insightful comments. Ã¢ÂÂIf God inspired so much poetry in these booksÃ¢ÂÂ¦ then it must be important and good for us to take in the poetic form with understanding and enjoyment.Ã¢ÂÂ (pg. xv) She also points out that the hallmark of Hebrew poetry Ã¢ÂÂ parallelism, is uniquely suite for translation, as rhyme and meter wonÃ¢ÂÂt as easily be conveyed in a receptor language.
Then Nielson gives an introduction to each book followed by a series of lessons followed with five days of home work (questions and answers with assigned reading). With Ecclesiastes she sides with the view that the Ã¢ÂÂPreacherÃ¢ÂÂ is Solomon, this is Ã¢ÂÂan educated guessÃ¢ÂÂ, based on the available evidence. She sees the Ã¢ÂÂPreacherÃ¢ÂÂ as being on a journey towards faith Ã¢ÂÂwith higher and lower voices pulling back and forth until the resolution at the endÃ¢ÂÂ of the book. (pg. xix) The study questions are insightful and take one beyond the confines of the individual book itself, often referencing other verses and encouraging a practical application of the passage being studied.
For Song of Solomon, Nielson aims to take the Song literally first an then to use marriage as the key to applying the book more broadly and to be Ã¢ÂÂspurred on in our love for God, who loves us so amazingly in Christ Jesus.Ã¢ÂÂ (pg. 131)
The book includes a Ã¢ÂÂNotes for LeadersÃ¢ÂÂ section which stresses the primacy of the text, the role of the church, and other more practical matters. A suggested outline of both books is included along with suggested memory passages. She then gives a note on translations and a list of recommended study helps.
I was quite impressed by the quality of the scholarship revealed in this little book. It would make the backbone of a great study for women (or men even), on these two OT Wisdom books. NielsonÃ¢ÂÂs approach is both devotional and scholarly, and aims for the hearers to apply the knowledge gained. This is a faithful study and should prove to be a blessing and a help for womenÃ¢ÂÂs Bible studies or Sunday School classes. I am happy to recommend this work.
This book was provided by P & R Publishing for review. I was under no obligation to offer a favorable review.
January 2, 2012