Inspired writing

The writer of Eccelesiastes in the Bible was aware of some of the psalms, and mocked them.

Consider these two verses. First, Psalm 37:25:

I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken, or their children begging bread.

Then, Ecclesiastes 7:15:

In my vain life I have seen everything: there are righteous people who perish in their righteousness, and there are wicked people who prolong their life in their evildoing.

 I think the parallels between these two verses are too great for this to be coincidence. Qoheleth had read the psalm, and said that it is Wrong.

If the Bible is inspired by God, this cannot mean that it is inerrant, because it contradicts itself. Rather, it is human beings struggling to express the truth as best they may understand it, struggling with life and with setbacks: how can God’s Chosen People be invaded and conquered? Sometimes, they get it wrong in an interesting way.

Sometimes, in wrestling with the contradictions and the bits I do not like, I gain a greater understanding. A good example is Psalm 137:8-9:

Happy shall they be who pay you back for what you have done to us! Happy shall they be who take your little ones and dash them against the rock!

Killing babies. There are schemes for praying the psalms over a period which omit the cursing psalms, of which this verse is one of the most shocking. And yet, having been aware of it for a time, I find it one of my favourite verses. I find it reassuring. The very depths of human rage and despair are expressed here, and so in some way found acceptable. Even when I am swallowed whole by misery and anger, I am not rejected by God.

4 thoughts on “Inspired writing

  1. Are you making this up as you go along? I see no contradictions or parallels here. Firstly many of the Psalms were written by David and in this verse I see David reflecting on his life and observations. The Book of Ecclesiastes is taken as attributed to Solomon, Davids son who is lamenting on the fact that righteous people die (perish) in their righteousness but evil people seem often to live their whole lives continuing in sin and presumably going to their graves in that condition without repenting. The Word of God has no contradictions. Some passages are given to us from different perspectives of the truth eg the four gospels but that doesn’t mean that they are in disagreement. You might find yourself skating on ice and make the assumption that it was solid but if you were a microbe you would know that it consists mostly of air! Both are equally true.

    Shirley Anne xxx

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    • I am making this up, in that I do not recall reading in a commentary that the verses parallel each other, yet in structure they seem so similar, in meaning so different, that I think of the Ecclesiastes verse as answering the psalm.

      Of all the answers to the Problem of Pain, the answer that this psalm seems to give- there isn’t a problem- seems to me the most uncreative and the most unacceptable. And I read the Bible as a whole, seeking not to overemphasise any particular part of it: but I know an Evangelical commentary which says that Bildad is wrong, a foil for Job and God, but Elihu’s passages are written by a later hand, whose author did not get it. It is the book on Job from the Daily Study Bible series, published by the imprint of the Church of Scotland.

      Thank you for commenting.

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  2. I just had to comment, though I wasn’t going to, because it seemed to me that what started as a rumination upon the psalms ended in a acknowledgement of deep personal pain.

    The Course in Miracles says, (though don’t ask me to tell you where…) that if there is such a thing as sin (which is more charitably understood as error) then it must be the moving of ourselves away from God, or from the Light of Being Understood. We are part of All in All, (of course) and therefore can never Be Apart, but when we feel ourselves apart, that is hell. Though it is illusion, the purpose of the illusion is to give us respect, by giving us the choice, to move towards, or away from All That Is.

    Not much consolation, I know, when we are in the pit of despair. Let me hold your hand, my beloved sister of God, and tell you that the angels of heaven all watch you. They play, and wait in the wings for us to seek their help. Prayers are all heard, and all understood.

    Blessings, from Ann xxx

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