Within the Old Testament are a group of books that are written almost entirely in Hebrew Poetry.  With the exception of a few passages in the Psalms, they do not deal with history.  They deal with the concerns of mankind, such as suffering, sickness, and death[1].  For the most part they are speaking about man to the Lord, and they do all these things in a way that can be related to.

The poetic books are found within the division of the Hebrew Bible that is known as the “writings.”  There are five poetic books which are:  Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Psalms, and the Song of Songs[2].  Within these five books we see much commentary on things such as love, daily living, suffering, and the feebleness of pursuits without God being in the forefront.

With all the great stories, commentary, and knowledge that Hebrew poetry provides something very important may go unseen.  This something is the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and Hebrew Poetry points to Him in many ways.  In this paper, I will explore the poetical books and show that they contain material that points to the Messiah.

MESSIAH IN JOB

The book of Job is astonishing, a bit mysterious, and tells a story of a man who endures great suffering.  Job was a righteous man that was upright and blameless before God.  Satan tells God that Job is only that way because God protects him.  God says that Satan can do what he pleases to Job as long he does not lose his life.  Job then loses his livestock, children, and has sores all over his body.  As if this were not enough, Job’s friends insist that he had done something to displease God.  Job vehemently denies this accusation, and this served as the backdrop of the Messiah account in the book.

In Job 16:19 Job states, “Even now, behold, my witness is in heaven,     and he who testifies for me is on high[3].”  Job says that there is someone in Heaven who will testify for him, and specifically calls for a mediator in 9:33.  To testify on behalf of someone is to mediate for them.  This is seen more fully in Job 16:21 which states, “that he would argue the case of a man with God, as a son of man does with his neighbor[4].” The term “Son of Man” is crucial in understanding her Christ is.  Though it is used in Job 16:21, it is a messianic term used in Daniel 7:13-14.  In that passage all dominion and authority over everything on the earth was given to the Son of Man, and it would never be destroyed.  In the Gospels Jesus prefers this term for Himself, and uses it no less than eighty times[5].

 

So far in Job we see Christ as “Son of Man”, and as a mediator.  Now we see Christ as a redeemer.  The full passage is in 19:23-27, but can be seen fully in verse 25.  That passage states, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at the last he will stand upon the earth[6].”  The Hebrew word used for redeemer is the word Go’el.  This is the only time that this word appears in the book[7].  This word is used elsewhere in the Old Testament and has a few different meanings.  However, in the context hear it means “defender or helper.”  Obviously, the key to the verse is the identity of Go’el.  There are some scholars who say that someone other than God[8].

This makes little sense considering ancient Jewish context.  To think of someone other than God as redeemer is on the level of blasphemy[9].  When the verse is looked at in conjunction with what is said about Job 16:19 then it is clear evidence of the Messiah in Job.  Some may argue that the evidence does not declare that God became incarnate.  Given the brief evidence provided, it would seem that this as the conclusion[10].  The Son of Man was understood to be divine in nature, and thus only the Messiah, in the person of Jesus Christ would fit this description.

 

MESSIAH IN PSALMS

The Psalms have been read and sung since the days of antiquity.  When we read the Psalms, we can feel the anguish, joy, peace, and comfort from the writer.  When it comes to the Messiah there is no shortage of material that can be extracted from the Psalms.  The concept of redemption is a very prominent theme, and one must have a redeemer in order to have redemption.  In the Psalms we not only see the redeemer, but we see the death of the Messiah, and as king.  It is known for its anticipation of the coming Messiah[11]

The Messiah is brought up as early as chapter two.  In this chapter the Messiah is in the figure of a king.  Psalm 2:6 states, “As for me, I have set my King on Zion, my holy hill[12].”  Verse 7 depicts a reassurance of divine sonship, and it is this sonship of the king that is referenced in Hebrews 1:5[13].  This was done to remind the reads that Christ was superior to the angels.

Psalm 22 is a Psalm that has very clear parallels to Christ’s death in Matthew 27:26 and Mark 15:34. Psalm 22:1 states, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me[14]?  Christ cried out these same words in Mark 15:34. Psalm 22:18 describes evildoers casting lots for the clothing.  This was fulfilled by Christ in John 19:23-24.  In verse 16 the psalmist also writes about the Messiah’s hands and feet being pierced.  This Psalm is anticipatory, as it awaits the suffering of Christ, and his victory[15].

Psalm 45 is also considered a Messianic Psalm because whole sections are used in the epistle to the Hebrews.  The author of the Epistle uses Psalm 45:6-7 to establish the superiority of Christ.  In this passage He is described as the king forever, and thus his superiority is established[16].

Perhaps one of the greatest examples one could give of the Messiah in Hebrew poetry is Psalm 110.  This is seen in verse one which states, “The Lord says to my Lord: ‘Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool[17].”  This very passage is quoted in Mark 12:36-37, and Christ says that it is David who was speaking about Him.  This Psalm also makes an appearance in the book of Acts and is quoted by Peter in his sermon on Pentecost[18].  This Psalm also refers to Christ as being a priest in the order of Melchizadek (Psalm 110:4).  This parallels with Hebrew 5:6, as the author utilizes this Psalm describe Christ as high priest[19].

These are only some of the passages in Psalms that speak of the Messiah.  There are several more such as chapters 18, 61, 72, 89, 132, and 144.  In addition, there are several more Psalms that were quotes directly by Christ to describe various things in man’s life.

 

MESSIAH IN PROVERBS

The Proverbs a favorite book of those who are seeking practicality.  In other words, they are striving to incorporate Biblical lessons into their daily lives.  In proverbial literature there is no place for storytelling.  Every line is a time-tested truth that came about after being tested repeatedly.  The overall purpose of the book is to shape people into useful members of society.  Our understanding of Proverbs is fuller when looked through the lens of Christ[20].

The first chapter of Proverbs speaks of the fear of the Lord, wisdom, and the call of wisdom.  In this chapter wisdom is calling from the streets, and concludes with verse 33 “but whoever listens to me will dwell secure and will be at ease, without dread of disaster[21].”  The Messiah is not specifically mentioned, but there a few parallels.  In describing Jesus’s answers to the Tempe teachers Luke 2:47 states, “And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers[22].”  Jesus is described as wisdom personified, and his ministry revealed the same.  His teaching left those that heard it in wonder, and they said so in Mark 6:2.  Throughout the gospels Jesus teaches using parables. What many do not realize is that the word “parable” is the greek word parabole is the New Testament equivalent of the Hebrew word for “proverb” masal.      

Another reference to the Messiah in Proverbs is in Proverbs 8:27-28.  This passage is interesting as it speaks of creation, and may possibly be a reference to Christ as the second person of the Trinity.  This passage reads, “When he established the heavens, I was there; when he drew a circle on the face of the deep, when he made firm the skies above, when he established the fountains of the deep[23].”  Though it is not a direct link other New Testament passages allow one to make the connection.  Verses such as 1 Corinthians 1:30, Colossians 1:15-17, and Colossians 2:3 are just some to be mentioned.  The 1 Corinthians passage is intriguing as it declares that Christ is the wisdom of God.  This was also the consistent teaching of the Apostle Paul[24].

 

MESSIAH IN ECCLESIASTES

The book of Ecclesiastes in one that has baffled Christians for centuries.  It allows the skeptical side of man to have an outlet to ask poignant questions[25].  When the book of Ecclesiastes is read, we can feel the frustration of the writer.  As with Proverbs there is no direct link to Christ, but with the help of New Testament passages we can see that some statements are fulfilled by him.

However, there is one verse with a Messianic application using Isaiah 26:19 and the Jewish Midrash[26].  The verse in question is Ecclesiastes 1:7 which reads, “All streams run to the sea, but the sea is not full; to the place where the streams flow, there they flow again[27].”  In the Midrash tradition this verse refers to the Messiah who will rescue his people from the worship of false gods.

Throughout the book the author of Ecclesiastes uses vivid imagery to get his point across.  That message is that life is meaningless, and even futile if God is not Lord of all[28].  Jesus also uses very real imagery to let his listeners know this same reality.  In fact, Jesus very bluntly says that he is the only way to the Father[29].  In John 15:5 Jesus also uses the analogy of being the vine to underscore this point.  That beautiful passage states, “I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing[30].”  The writer of Ecclesiastes says that apart from God you can do nothing, or it is vanity.  Christ says that apart from Him we can do nothing.  That is perhaps the biggest connection of the Messiah in Ecclesiastes, but it is one that can be pondered and dwelt on.  For the one that does their relationship with Christ can do nothing but grow, because the point of Ecclesiastes would have been followed.

MESSIAH IN SONG OF SONGS

The Song of Songs is a book in Hebrew Poetry recognized that the sensual side of man is a good thing.  However, it is not all about sexual intimacy, but is an allusion to God.  Since it is poetry it can be assumed that its reading is not meant to be literal, but allegorical.  When this is understood the precious gems of the book are mined.  However, with Revelation being the exception, no other book has been so frequently misinterpreted[31].  An allegorical interpretation was the favored one with early Rabbis and the early church fathers.  Prior to Christ it was seen as an image of the love that God had for his chosen people, Israel[32].  Under the New Covenant it is a beautiful portrayal of the love that Christ has for his bride, the church.

Song of Songs 1:2 states, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine[33].”  This verse is a call for intimacy that can only be mediated by the Messiah.  Verse four speaks of the king that takes his bride into his chambers, and this is an image of the Messiah.  Another verse depicting the Messiah is Song of Songs 8:6 which reads, “Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm, for love is strong as death, jealousy is fierce as the grave. Its flashes are flashes of fire, the very flame of the Lord[34].”  Allegorically speaking this is a reference to the New Covenant love that Christ has for his people.  It is a love that death will not be able to separate[35].  The Song of Songs can be read as a series of songs for this wedding between Christ and the church.  The imagery is beautiful, and a great reminder of the love that Christ has for us.

 

CONCLUSION

The five books of scripture that make up Hebrew poetry vary in terms used, and in the message they are trying to portray.  In Job we read about the incredible suffering of a man, the sovereignty of God, and a reward for faith.  In the Psalms there are psalms of Thanksgiving, sorrow, and prophecy.  In proverbs the wisdom of life is presented.  Wisdom teaches men and women how to act in their personal and religious lives.  Ecclesiastes teaches us that all of our worldly pursuits are vain, unless God is at the forefront of our lives.  The Song of Songs is a series of songs that are about the Christ and his bride, the church.

In some cases Christ, can be seen clearly in the passages described, nut in some cases this is not readily apparent.  For those that are not readily apparent, they begin to be so when compared to passages in the New Testament.  This speaks to the beautiful symphony that is the Word of God.  Everything has its place, and what is hard to understand will be given light in the passages ahead.  Thus, Christ can be seen in scripture from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation.

 

 

 

BIBIOGRAPHY

Benson, Clarence H. The One True God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004.

Bullock, C. Hassell. An Introduction to the Old Testament:  Poetic Books. Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1988.

Dockery, David S., ed. Holman Concise Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: B&h Publishing, 1998.

———., ed. Holman Concise Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: B&h Publishing, 1998.

Easley, Kendall. Holman Quicksource Guide to Understanding the Bible. Nashville: TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2002.

Ecclesiastes 1:7 (English Standard Version).

Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. Vol. 2. New York: NY: Longmans, Green, And Co, 1896.

Ellingworth, Paul. The Epistle to the Hebrews:  A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing, 1993.

Ephesians 2:8 (English Standard Version).

Gordis, Robert. The Book of God and Man. Chicago: Il: University of Chicago Press, 1965.

Hahn, Scott, and Regis Flaherty, eds. Catholic For a Reason IV:  Scripture and the Mystery of Marriage and Family Life. Steubenville:  Oh: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2007.

Hahn, Scott. Catholic Bible Dictionary. New York: NY: Doubleday, 2009.

John 14:6 (English Standard Version).

John 15:5 (English Standard Version).

Longman, Tremper. Proverbs:  Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms. Grand Rapids: Mi: Baker Academic, 2006.

Luke 2:47 (English Standard Version).

Maas, A.J. Christ in Type and Prophecy. Vol. 2. New York: NY: Benzinger Brothers, 1896.

Newheiser, Jim. Opening Up Proverbs. Leominster:  Ma: Day One Publications, 2008.

Pitre, Brant. Jesus the Bridegroom:  The Greatest Love Story Ever Told. New York: NY: Image Books, 2014.

Proverbs 1:33 (English Standard Version).

Proverbs 8:27-28 (English Standard Version).

Reyburn, William D. A Handbook on the Book of Job. New York: NY: United Bible Societies, 1992.

Song of Songs 1:2 (English Standard Version).

Song of Songs 8:6 (English Standard Version).

 

[1] James E. Smith, The Wisdom Literature and Psalms (Joplin: Mo: College Press Publications, 1996), 6.

[2] C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament:  Poetic Books (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1988), 22.

[3] Job 16:19 (English Standard Version).

[4] Job 16:21 (English Standard Version).

[5] Clarence H. Benson, The One True God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2004), 64.

[6] Job 19:25 (English Standard Version).

[7] William D Reyburn, A Handbook on the Book of Job (New York: NY: United Bible Societies, 1992), 362.

[8] C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament:  Poetic Books (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1988), 117.

[9] Robert Gordis, The Book of God and Man (Chicago: Il: University of Chicago Press, 1965), 88.

[10] C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament:  Poetic Books (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1988), 117.

[11] Scott Hahn, Catholic Bible Dictionary (New York: NY: Doubleday, 2009), 743.

[12] Psalm 2:6 (English Standard Version).

[13] C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament:  Poetic Books (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1988), 162.

[14] Psalm 22:1a (English Standard Version).

[15] David S. Dockery, ed., Holman Concise Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&h Publishing, 1998), 222.

[16] A.J. Maas, Christ in Type and Prophecy, vol. 2, (New York: NY: Benzinger Brothers, 1896), 46.

[17] Psalm 110:1 (English Standard Version).

[18] C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament:  Poetic Books (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1988), 162.

[19] Paul Ellingworth, The Epistle to the Hebrews:  A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdman’s Publishing, 1993), 282.

[20] Jim Newheiser, Opening Up Proverbs (Leominster:  Ma: Day One Publications, 2008), 13.

[21] Proverbs 1:33 (English Standard Version).

[22] Luke 2:47 (English Standard Version).

[23] Proverbs 8:27-28 (English Standard Version).

[24] Tremper Longman, Proverbs:  Baker Commentary on the Old Testament Wisdom and Psalms (Grand Rapids: Mi: Baker Academic, 2006), 67.

[25] C. Hassell Bullock, An Introduction to the Old Testament:  Poetic Books (Chicago, IL: Moody Publishers, 1988), 210.

[26] Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, vol. 2, (New York: NY: Longmans, Green, And Co, 1896), 725.

[27] Ecclesiastes 1:7 (English Standard Version).

[28] Kendall Easley, Holman Quicksource Guide to Understanding the Bible (Nashville: TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2002).

[29] John 14:6 (English Standard Version).

[30] John 15:5 (English Standard Version).

[31] David S. Dockery, ed., Holman Concise Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing, 1998), 253.

[32] Brant Pitre, Jesus the Bridegroom:  The Greatest Love Story Ever Told (New York: NY: Image Books, 2014), 20.

[33] Song of Songs 1:2 (English Standard Version).

[34] Song of Songs 8:6 (English Standard Version).

[35] Scott Hahn and Regis Flaherty, eds., Catholic For A Reason IV:  Scripture and the Mystery of Marriage and Family Life (Steubenville:  Oh: Emmaus Road Publishing, 2007).

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7 thoughts on “Jesus in Hebrew Poetry

  1. I do believe Jesus is the Word made flesh… The New Testament Confirms the Old Testament… The Word states that in the beginning was the Word; the Word was with God; the Word was God… So If Jesus is the Word made Flesh… You can return to the Old Testament and find Jesus Is the Old Testament. He came to the earth to reveal the true Word… not man’s fleshly literal interpretation acceptable to mans fleshly desires and understanding…adding and taking away from the truth! The Word was spirit, came in flesh and returned to spirit… Meaning Adam and Eve received the Spirit of the Word but sin removed the Spirit… So God gave it in a written form because man no longer walked and talked with God! His presence was no longer IN man/ covering their nakedness! Now we have been redeemed and receive His Spirit again we are taught the True Spirit of the Word… not the literal man made Word interpreted by the flesh! This is the crucifying of the flesh. The Word of God is resurrected Spirit to those who draw near… Everything written is spiritual application not merely fleshly understanding. Everything represents a picture … from the seen physical to the unseen spiritual… It takes spiritual eyes to see beyond the veil. circumcision is not fleshly but spiritual. crucifixion is not physical but spiritual… we must crucify our fleshly nature of understanding scripture by human interpretation! Allow the Holy Spirit to speak truth not just reading words in a book literally… It is all applicable for our teaching… When Jesus said I am the way He was saying the Word is the Way… He is the Word… The Word saves us from being in bondage to sin and fleshly thinking… The Word lives in us! Jesus is the Word that lives in us… I have challenged many to go through the Word and every time you find the “Word of the Lord” or” instruction” the “Law” or the “Angel of the Lord” to put Jesus in that place and you will find Salvation speaking through the Word; OLD AND NEW! You do not have the New without the Old! They confirm one another or it is not in line with truth! Everything in the New is found hidden within the Old… you must put on your spiritual eyes or ask for spiritual glasses to see clearly the mysteries that lie under the physical literal meanings. I have seen and I believe Jesus is the Word OLD and New… man has buried him in the fleshly things… a tomb of stone/ stony hearts and minds! So they/ WE hide the truth… The Word… as it was hidden from man in the ARK of covenant… so no man could look upon it and live without the anointing of God… the SEAL of the holy Spirit today. That Word convicts Just as Jesus said GO AND SIN NO MORE… We have taken the Grace card and perverted it to allow sin in the Body of Christ! This is exactly What Revelations calls the Jezebel and the Nicolaitan churches… the Great Whore… deceiving the church to allow adultery and sin to run rampant in the Body like a cancer eating and devouring the Body of Christ… A sick and dying body has no power to stand against wickedness. The church is so busy Dr-ing the people…. sick in sin without healing/correcting sin (REPENTANCE)they will die. What a sadness for the BRIDE to become so unclean, impure and unable to keep the fire burning as we await our BRIDEGROOM!

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