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Reflections on Reading Poetry and Proverbs

Mary and I recently took a drive through a scenic part of our rural Virginia county on a beautiful late Spring afternoon. We drove as slowly as was prudent in order to drink in the sights and smells of newly mowed hay fields, wildflowers and honeysuckle, cows and calves, sheep and goats, rolling hills and mountain peaks.

Slow driving; slow reading

Our leisurely drive that day is not unlike reading through Psalms and Proverbs. Have you noticed how you have to slow down and think when reading biblical poetry and wisdom literature ?

[Note: This blog post is based on last week’s reading: Proverbs 6-15; Psalms 31-45]

The Bible Contains Different Genres of Literature

Psalms belong to the genre of poetry while Proverbs belong to the genre of wisdom literature.  There is some overlap as some Psalms are classified as wisdom psalms (1, 36, 37).  There are proverbs that are clearly poetic (Proverbs 8; 31:10-31).

In both of these books we are compelled to slow down and reflect.  They challenge us because they are not unified as is narrative literature.  Psalms are clearly of different types like lament, praise, historical, and messianic, but they are not grouped together strictly by these types.  So we have to change mental gears as we go from Psalm 1 to 2 to 3.

A similar phenomena is even more obvious in Proverbs where the subject can change from verse to verse especially after chapter 9.  A single chapter of Proverbs may address several different topics such as foolishness and wisdom, slothfulness and diligence, and frugality and wastefulness.

Again we have to slow down and think.  At every turn we are faced with the question: how does this verse apply to life?

Improving Our Bible in Chunks Schedule

I hope you have enjoyed reading the Bible in chunks so far.  The schedule we are using is a first draft.  I purposely scheduled the reading of Psalms and Proverbs by sections at different times during each quarter.  We could just as easily tack a few psalms and proverbs onto each week’s assignment. It seems to me a future revision of this schedule would be better if we did not assign such long readings in Proverbs for a single week.

Your feedback is welcome.

This week’s assignment is intentionally shorter because the two letters of Paul to the churches at Ephesus and Philippi are of such importance they deserve a slower reading pace.  It also will give us a week to catch up, if needed.

This week’s reading: Ephesians; Philippians

© John A Carroll 2018 Used by permission.

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