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"Old Testament Survey"

Ecclesiastes through Isaiah


Steve Bader in this session continued his Old Testament Scriptures in adult Sunday School class with the books of Ecclesiastes through Isaiah. This article provides a brief summary of the content. I recoomend you either download the audio in it's entirety from sermons page or order the CD's.


  1. Many early church fathers and rabbinical fathers questioned whether the book should be included in the canon because it seems to paint a picture of despair and hopelessness
  2. The book is meant to be taken holistically. It should be read from beginning to end.
  3. There are various theories as to who wrote the book. Some claim Solomon himself while others believe it was an anonymous author who portrayed "Solomonic wisdom."
  4. This return marked the rebuilding of the city walls. Nehemiah's return was prompted by the poor conditions of the desolate city. Nehemiah was the king's trusted cupbearer, so after much prayer and meditation he petitioned the king to allow him to return and restore the city. Under the permission of the king, Nehemiah and a third group of Jews returned. With faith in the providential hand of God, the Jews rebuilt the walls despite the repeated efforts of the Samaritans, Arabs, and Ammonites to destroy their efforts.
  5. A majority of the text is not presented as the words of an author but preacher or teacher.
  6. The book begins in 1:2 with: "Meaningless! Meaningless!"says the Teacher. "Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless."

  7. The Hebrew word hebel means "a breath" or "vapor". So the idea of vanity is not conceit, but rather meaninglessness.
  8. You can see the author's deep pessimism about the value of the human condition by such statements as "nothing new under the sun" (1:9), and "No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them" (1:11).
  9. "Nothing new under the sun" does not to refer to novelty but the search for meaning. People look in al the same places with the same results, vanity.
  10. Chapter 2:10-11 turns pleasure to self-indulgence with a tragic result: "I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun."
  11. The wise and foolish meet the same end (2:13-14). Therefore, there is no benefit to being wise.
  12. At the end of chapter 2:24-25 we are pointed to God as the only fulfillment: "…This too, I see, is from the hand of God, for without him, who can eat or find enjoyment?"
  13. In chapter 3 we learn that there is a time for everything. The author, who at first was exclusively pessimistic, is beginning to entertain hope.
  14. The author underscores our struggle for understanding in 3:11 "He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end."
  15. 5:10 references the futility of pursuing wealth,"..Whoever loves money never has enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless."
  16. The wise and foolish meet the same end (2:13-14). Therefore, there is no benefit to being wise.
  17. Chapter 6:3-4 addresses the evil that plagues man. God gives wealth but restrains him from enjoying it. "A man may have a hundred children and live many years; yet no matter how long he lives, if he cannot enjoy his prosperity and does not receive proper burial, I say that a stillborn child is better off than he. It comes without meaning, it departs in darkness, and in darkness its name is shrouded."
  18. Chapter 7 states that God alone makes a man righteous, 7:20 Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins. … 29 This only have I found: God created mankind upright, but they have gone in search of many schemes"
  19. Chapter 10 speaks of the foolish that are often occupy high places in government: 10:6 "Fools are put in many high positions, while the rich occupy the low ones.
  20. Chapter 11 witnesses a complete reversal of despair while reaffirming that fleeting things are worthless,11:10 "So then, banish anxiety from your heart and cast off the troubles of your body, for youth and vigor are meaningless.
  21. The writer closes in chapter 12 with an admonition to seek the ways of the Lord, "12:13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind."

Song of Songs

  1. The title "Song of Songs" is superlative, like "Holy of Holies." Thus, this book is referred to as "the greatest of songs."
  2. A common way of referring to the book comes from the subscription: "Song of Solomon" or "Song to Solomon."
  3. While the book was not likely written by Solomon, there is evidence that it was penned by someone in his court.
  4. This song is coupled with the wisdom books because, to the Israelites, "wisdom was synonymous with talent."
  5. The song is filled with references to exotic plants and animals, reflecting Solomon’s interest with nature.
  6. The early church as well as the synagogue struggled with including the book in the canon for two basic reasons:
    • It is the only book in scripture that does not implicitly or explicitly have a theological message.
    • The song is sexually explicit, revolving around human love between a man and a woman.
  7. The Jews would not allow a private reading of the book until a person was thirty.
  8. The problem for many Christians is that, in reaction to society’s frivolous view of sexuality, they have adopted a view that is more Victorian in than biblical.
  9. Interpretations of the Song
    • Allegory
      • Bernard of Clairvaux popularized this view which has dominated many circles for more than a thousand years.
      • The church is portrayed as the woman who desires kisses (the Word of God) from her husband (God).
      • Problems with this view:
        1. The New Testament never allegorizes passages from this song and the love between Christ and His church is not presented in terms of physical sexuality.
        2. Nothing in the text itself suggests allegory.
    • Blending of Spirituality and Sexuality
      • This approach is seen in ancient pagan fertility rituals and may be easily dismissed.
    • Dramatic interpretation
      • The Song of Songs is deemed a drama that tells a story.
      • The problem with this view is that the story changes from scholar to scholar.
    • Historical interpretation
      • This approach is similar to the dramatic but views the book as a real story that occurred between two people.
      • The problem with this view is that nothing in the text suggests it is a recording of a historical event.
      • This approach views the book as the reconstruction of an ancient Israelite wedding but does not adequately deal with the text itself.
    • Lyrical interpretation
      • This approach sees the book as a love song in three voices: the man, woman, and a chorus of women in Jerusalem.
      • Since this is a love song one would not expect to find a coherent storyline. Instead, it is filled with images of longing, passion, and romance as love approaches and reaches consummation.
      • The book is chiastic in structure, moving towards a singular event and then resolving itself in parallel themes beginning to end.
  10. Images in the Song
    • The first chapter opens with the "bride to be" longing for her future husband who is absent.
    • Her brothers try to dissuade her from marrying telling her that she has the body of a child and is not desirable to a man.
    • Her groom sees her as the "most beautiful among women" (1:8).
    • She refers to herself as the Rose of Sharon (a common wild flower) and, therefore, not worthy of his love. He replies that she is a like a flower among thorns.
    • She enters a dream sequence where she searches for her love and cannot find him.
    • Chapter three relates her anxieties about giving herself to him. She calls out to the girls of Jerusalem not "to awaken" love before it's proper time, solidifying the view of chastity.
    • In chapter 4, he declares her beauty: How beautiful you are, my darling! Oh, how beautiful! Your eyes behind your veil are doves. Your hair is like a flock of goats descending from the hills of Gilead. 2 Your teeth are like a flock of sheep just shorn, coming up from the washing.
    • In chapter 5 their marriage is consummated. The chiastic structure has now reached the pivot, the consummation. The song now begins working its way back with a second dream sequence by the woman.
    • In chapter 6:3 she states: I am my beloved's and my beloved is mine; he browses among the lilies.  She affirms that her desire for him has not diminished since their first union. He in turn affirms her beauty and his love.
    • Chapter 7 describes graphic details of their intimacy. There is no shame between them they are truly one flesh.
    • The Song closes with a repeat of the brideis chorus, she tells the girls of Jerusalem that he was worth waiting for.
    • The woman makes a plea for monogamy in 8:6 "Set me as a seal upon your heart for love is strong as death."
  11. Conclusion
    • While allegory should not be the interpretive method used in Song of Songs, analogy is appropriate. We can say "like the love of this man for his beloved, so is Christ's love for us."


  1. For Isaiah, the divine reality of God was inseparably linked to the experiential reality of human history.
  2. Having seen God’s holiness in chapter 6, most of the language of the book reveals his irritation and frustration at the unholiness of God’s people.
  3. Isaiah is quoted in the New Testament more than all other Old Testament prophets combined. It is filled with references to Christ.
  4. Until the rise of higher criticism it was universally agreed that the original Isaiah wrote the entire book. The only evidence higher critics offer against his authorship of the second half of the book is that Isaiah identifies Cyrus by name a century and a half before he was born. It is nothing more than prejudice against the supernatural. This would defeat the intent of the writing of the book which demonstrates that the Sovereign God controls history and determines all things from beginning to end.
  5. Little is known of Isaiah the man. He was the son of Amoz, an aristocrat, though his tribe is not known. His ministry of over 40 years spanned the kingships of Uzziah to Hezekiah.
  6. God had repeatedly evaded God’s judgment by giving lip service to repentance. God sent Isaiah to tell Israel that He hated their vain offerings and empty ritual.
  7. The purpose of Isaiah's ministry was to harden hearts, not soften them. In Isaiah 6:9-10 he wrote, "He said, 'Go and tell this people: "'Be ever hearing, but never understanding; be ever seeing, but never perceiving.' Make the heart of this people calloused; make their ears dull and close their eyes.'"
  8. Isaiah’s message was simple: Israel will soon face judgment, but because God is faithful, He will one day restore his people.
  9. Section one covers the first 37 chapters and is often called the "Book of the King".
  10. While several themes characterize this book, the most significant is Isaiah’s portrayal of God in His majesty, holiness and sovereignty.
  11. If Israel would turn away from sin and repent they "…shall be white as snow…" 1:18.
  12. Since the "..city has become a whore" 1:21 God will use Israel's enemies against her to "smelt away the dross…and remove her alloy…" 1:25.
  13. Chapters two through four contrast what Zion should be versus what they were.
  14. In chapter 4, Isaiah describes a day John would later reference in Revelation. The word "branch" suggests a remnant and is a messianic title. 4:3-4 "And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy—everyone who is recorded among the living in Jerusalem. 4 When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning."
  15. In Chapters 6 through 12 the unifying theme is the coming of the messianic king. It begins with the death of the Davidic king, Uzziah, and centers on the coming of the divine king. The two kingships will merge in the Messiah who arises out of David’s house.
  16. Chapter 6:1-3 provides one the most gorgeous depictions of God himself. "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said," Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!"
  17. This thrice repetition of Holy is unique in Scripture. It is a "super-superlative" declaring that God values His holiness above all else.
  18. Chapters 7 through 12 narrate the first Assyrian crisis. Syria and Israel's northern kingdom invaded Judah to try to force her into an alliance opposing Assyria. Isaiah warned Judah's king to trust the Lord and offered him a sign. The king refused but God gave a promise anyway with an ultimate fulfillment to come much later. 7:14 "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel."
  19. This sign to "you" is not spoken to King Ahaz directly but as a promise to the people of Israel.
  20. In the next 17 chapters Isaiah shifts focus from the king to his kingdom. Oracles relating to Babylon, Philisita, Moab, and others are mentioned. This shows God’s sovereignty over the kingdoms of this world. He raises them up and puts them down as He pleases.
  21. Chapters 24 through 27 are referred to as the "little apocalypse." In 24:5-6 he states: "The earth is also defiled under its inhabitants, because they have transgressed the laws, Changed the ordinance, Broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore the curse has devoured the earth, And those who dwell in it are desolate. Therefore the inhabitants of the earth are burned, And few men are left."
  22. Chapter 28 through 37 narrate the years 705 through 701 B.C. when king Hezekiah of Judah rebelled against Assyria and allied her self with Egypt. Isaiah warned against seeking a political savior. The king listened and Judah was victorious as the Lord struck down 185,000 Assyrian soldiers.
  23. Chapters 38 through 55 is called the "Book of the Servant". This section focuses on future redemption. There are four songs in which God speaks to his servant. An essential theme in these songs is " justice." Through his servant, God will establish his just rule over the whole earth. The servant is to be "a light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth" 49:6.
  24. God's full redemptive purpose for his servant is seen in chapter 53:5: "But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed."
  25. The last 11 chapters have been called the “Book of the Conqueror.” Isaiah speaks of a time when the remnant will return from exile.  Jesus is the fulfillment of these passages.
  26. The last three chapters are an extended prayer by the people of God and the Lord's response. At the close of chapter 66 in verse 24 God depicts a horrific picture of hell, " And they shall go forth and look upon the corpses of the men Who have transgressed against Me. For their worm does not die, And their fire is not quenched. They shall be an abhorrence to all flesh."
  27. As a whole, Isaiah points to Christ as the pinnacle of  history.

- Jordan McGehee

You can listen to this series here.