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Today’s Reading

Devotional: Song of Songs 1

Although (or perhaps because) the Song of Songs is one of the most difficult of biblical books, it has been extraordinarily popular with both Jews and Christians. It has called forth a large number of commentaries and sermons. Space here is far too limited for a discussion, but perhaps I should record my tentative conclusions on four matters before reflecting on Song 1.

(1) Although some have denied that this book is about sexual love in any primary sense, but is an allegory of either the love between Yahweh and Israel or between Christ and the church, I doubt it. So many details of Song of Songs are so explicitly human and sexual (all the more so when the ancient Semitic symbolism is appreciated) that to argue that the meaning of the text is allegorical is unlikely. Moreover, there are many parallels in other love poetry in ancient near eastern Wisdom Literature, so that one must conclude the genre was well known.

(2) On the other hand, after fully acknowledging the human and sexual love that this book celebrates—for God has made us human and sexual, and Wisdom Literature often focuses on the glory of the created order—we may not be far off the mark if we also see, within the canonical framework, a typological connection with God and Israel, with Christ and the church. For that is a theme repeatedly picked up in both Testaments (see, for instance, Hosea, or Rev. 21).

(3) Some have seen three principal figures in this book: the woman, her shepherd-lover, and the lascivious king who is trying to add the woman to his harem. On balance, it seems better to see only two primary parties, the woman and the king-shepherd-lover. The “daughters of Jerusalem” who keep reappearing (e.g., Song 1:5) are the woman’s female companions.

(4) Although it is reasonably clear that consummation takes place in Song 3:6–5:1, complete with wedding song, this does not mean there are no sexual overtones earlier in the book. Yet far from endorsing promiscuity (as a few commentators have suggested), the book is committed to exclusive, monogamous love. What is less clear is that the thought is sequential, merely linear.

The “beloved,” the woman, often takes the initiative (Song 1:2ff.). Yet she is unsure of herself. Her long exposure to the sun, apparently imposed on her by brothers (Is her father dead?) who insist that she tend the vines, means she is a sun-darkened country lass (Song 1:5–7). Her friends reassure her (Song 1:8)—as does her lover (Song 1:9–11). After her sensual soliloquy (Song 1:12–14), a series of bantering exchanges between the beloved and her lover bring the section to a close (Song 1:15–2:2). One remembers Proverbs 30:19.

Devotional: Numbers 3

From Sinai on, the Levites are treated differently from the other tribes: they alone handle the tabernacle and its accoutrements, from them come the priests, they are not given a separate allotment of land but are dispersed throughout the nation, and so forth. But here in Numbers 3, one of the most startling distinctives is portrayed.

All the males one month of age and up from the tribe of Levi were counted. Their total was 22,000 (3:39). Then all the firstborn males one month of age and up from the rest of the Israelites were counted. Their total was 22,273 (3:43): the differential between the two figures is 273. God declares that because he spared all the Israelite firstborn at the first Passover in Egypt, the firstborn are peculiarly his (3:13). The assumption, of course, is that at one level they too should have died: they were not intrinsically better than the Egyptians who did. They had been protected by the blood of the Passover lamb God had prescribed. Clearly God was not now going to demand the life of all the Israelite firstborn. Instead, he insists that they are all his in a peculiar way — but that he will accept, instead of all the firstborn males of all Israel, all the males of the tribe of Levi. Since the two totals do not exactly coincide, the 273 extra firstborn males from Israel must be redeemed some other way, and so a redemption tax is applied (3:46-48).

There are some lessons to be learned. One of them is intrinsic to the narrative and already noted: the Israelites were not intrinsically superior to the Egyptians, not intrinsically exempt from the wrath of the destroying angel. More importantly, those saved by the blood belong to the Lord in some peculiar way. If God has accepted the blood that was shed in their place, he does not demand that they die: he demands that they live for him and his service. Owing to the covenantal requirements of the Sinai code, a substitution is accepted: the Levites substitute for all the Israelites who should have come under the sweep of the Passover requirement.

The fulfillment of these patterns under the terms of the new covenant is not hard to find. We are saved from death by the death of the supreme Passover Lamb (1 Cor. 5:7). Those saved by his blood belong to the Lord in a peculiar way, i.e., not only by virtue of creation but by virtue of redemption (1 Cor. 6:20). He demands that we live for him and his service, and in this we constitute a nation of priests (1 Peter 2:5-6; Rev. 1:6).

Related Resources

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Philip Ryken on Teaching Song of Solomon

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Numbers 3

The Sons of Aaron

3:1 These are the generations of Aaron and Moses at the time when the LORD spoke with Moses on Mount Sinai. These are the names of the sons of Aaron: Nadab the firstborn, and Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar. These are the names of the sons of Aaron, the anointed priests, whom he ordained to serve as priests. But Nadab and Abihu died before the LORD when they offered unauthorized fire before the LORD in the wilderness of Sinai, and they had no children. So Eleazar and Ithamar served as priests in the lifetime of Aaron their father.

Duties of the Levites

And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, “Bring the tribe of Levi near, and set them before Aaron the priest, that they may minister to him. They shall keep guard over him and over the whole congregation before the tent of meeting, as they minister at the tabernacle. They shall guard all the furnishings of the tent of meeting, and keep guard over the people of Israel as they minister at the tabernacle. And you shall give the Levites to Aaron and his sons; they are wholly given to him from among the people of Israel. 10 And you shall appoint Aaron and his sons, and they shall guard their priesthood. But if any outsider comes near, he shall be put to death.”

11 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 12 “Behold, I have taken the Levites from among the people of Israel instead of every firstborn who opens the womb among the people of Israel. The Levites shall be mine, 13 for all the firstborn are mine. On the day that I struck down all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, I consecrated for my own all the firstborn in Israel, both of man and of beast. They shall be mine: I am the LORD.”

14 And the LORD spoke to Moses in the wilderness of Sinai, saying, 15 “List the sons of Levi, by fathers' houses and by clans; every male from a month old and upward you shall list.” 16 So Moses listed them according to the word of the LORD, as he was commanded. 17 And these were the sons of Levi by their names: Gershon and Kohath and Merari. 18 And these are the names of the sons of Gershon by their clans: Libni and Shimei. 19 And the sons of Kohath by their clans: Amram, Izhar, Hebron, and Uzziel. 20 And the sons of Merari by their clans: Mahli and Mushi. These are the clans of the Levites, by their fathers' houses.

21 To Gershon belonged the clan of the Libnites and the clan of the Shimeites; these were the clans of the Gershonites. 22 Their listing according to the number of all the males from a month old and upward was1 7,500. 23 The clans of the Gershonites were to camp behind the tabernacle on the west, 24 with Eliasaph, the son of Lael as chief of the fathers' house of the Gershonites. 25 And the guard duty of the sons of Gershon in the tent of meeting involved the tabernacle, the tent with its covering, the screen for the entrance of the tent of meeting, 26 the hangings of the court, the screen for the door of the court that is around the tabernacle and the altar, and its cords—all the service connected with these.

27 To Kohath belonged the clan of the Amramites and the clan of the Izharites and the clan of the Hebronites and the clan of the Uzzielites; these are the clans of the Kohathites. 28 According to the number of all the males, from a month old and upward, there were 8,600, keeping guard over the sanctuary. 29 The clans of the sons of Kohath were to camp on the south side of the tabernacle, 30 with Elizaphan the son of Uzziel as chief of the fathers' house of the clans of the Kohathites. 31 And their guard duty involved the ark, the table, the lampstand, the altars, the vessels of the sanctuary with which the priests minister, and the screen; all the service connected with these. 32 And Eleazar the son of Aaron the priest was to be chief over the chiefs of the Levites, and to have oversight of those who kept guard over the sanctuary.

33 To Merari belonged the clan of the Mahlites and the clan of the Mushites: these are the clans of Merari. 34 Their listing according to the number of all the males from a month old and upward was 6,200. 35 And the chief of the fathers' house of the clans of Merari was Zuriel the son of Abihail. They were to camp on the north side of the tabernacle. 36 And the appointed guard duty of the sons of Merari involved the frames of the tabernacle, the bars, the pillars, the bases, and all their accessories; all the service connected with these; 37 also the pillars around the court, with their bases and pegs and cords.

38 Those who were to camp before the tabernacle on the east, before the tent of meeting toward the sunrise, were Moses and Aaron and his sons, guarding the sanctuary itself, to protect2 the people of Israel. And any outsider who came near was to be put to death. 39 All those listed among the Levites, whom Moses and Aaron listed at the commandment of the LORD, by clans, all the males from a month old and upward, were 22,000.

Redemption of the Firstborn

40 And the LORD said to Moses, “List all the firstborn males of the people of Israel, from a month old and upward, taking the number of their names. 41 And you shall take the Levites for me—I am the LORD—instead of all the firstborn among the people of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the cattle of the people of Israel.” 42 So Moses listed all the firstborn among the people of Israel, as the LORD commanded him. 43 And all the firstborn males, according to the number of names, from a month old and upward as listed were 22,273.

44 And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying, 45 “Take the Levites instead of all the firstborn among the people of Israel, and the cattle of the Levites instead of their cattle. The Levites shall be mine: I am the LORD. 46 And as the redemption price for the 273 of the firstborn of the people of Israel, over and above the number of the male Levites, 47 you shall take five shekels3 per head; you shall take them according to the shekel of the sanctuary (the shekel of twenty gerahs4), 48 and give the money to Aaron and his sons as the redemption price for those who are over.” 49 So Moses took the redemption money from those who were over and above those redeemed by the Levites. 50 From the firstborn of the people of Israel he took the money, 1,365 shekels, by the shekel of the sanctuary. 51 And Moses gave the redemption money to Aaron and his sons, according to the word of the LORD, as the LORD commanded Moses.

Footnotes

[1] 3:22 Hebrew their listing was
[2] 3:38 Hebrew guard
[3] 3:47 A shekel was about 2/5 ounce or 11 grams
[4] 3:47 A gerah was about 1/50 ounce or 0.6 gram

(ESV)

Resources

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Philip Ryken on Teaching Song of Solomon

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Psalm 37

He Will Not Forsake His Saints

1 Of David.

37:1   Fret not yourself because of evildoers;
    be not envious of wrongdoers!
  For they will soon fade like the grass
    and wither like the green herb.
  Trust in the LORD, and do good;
    dwell in the land and befriend faithfulness.2
  Delight yourself in the LORD,
    and he will give you the desires of your heart.
  Commit your way to the LORD;
    trust in him, and he will act.
  He will bring forth your righteousness as the light,
    and your justice as the noonday.
  Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him;
    fret not yourself over the one who prospers in his way,
    over the man who carries out evil devices!
  Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath!
    Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.
  For the evildoers shall be cut off,
    but those who wait for the LORD shall inherit the land.
10   In just a little while, the wicked will be no more;
    though you look carefully at his place, he will not be there.
11   But the meek shall inherit the land
    and delight themselves in abundant peace.
12   The wicked plots against the righteous
    and gnashes his teeth at him,
13   but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
    for he sees that his day is coming.
14   The wicked draw the sword and bend their bows
    to bring down the poor and needy,
    to slay those whose way is upright;
15   their sword shall enter their own heart,
    and their bows shall be broken.
16   Better is the little that the righteous has
    than the abundance of many wicked.
17   For the arms of the wicked shall be broken,
    but the LORD upholds the righteous.
18   The LORD knows the days of the blameless,
    and their heritage will remain forever;
19   they are not put to shame in evil times;
    in the days of famine they have abundance.
20   But the wicked will perish;
    the enemies of the LORD are like the glory of the pastures;
    they vanish—like smoke they vanish away.
21   The wicked borrows but does not pay back,
    but the righteous is generous and gives;
22   for those blessed by the LORD3 shall inherit the land,
    but those cursed by him shall be cut off.
23   The steps of a man are established by the LORD,
    when he delights in his way;
24   though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
    for the LORD upholds his hand.
25   I have been young, and now am old,
    yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken
    or his children begging for bread.
26   He is ever lending generously,
    and his children become a blessing.
27   Turn away from evil and do good;
    so shall you dwell forever.
28   For the LORD loves justice;
    he will not forsake his saints.
  They are preserved forever,
    but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.
29   The righteous shall inherit the land
    and dwell upon it forever.
30   The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,
    and his tongue speaks justice.
31   The law of his God is in his heart;
    his steps do not slip.
32   The wicked watches for the righteous
    and seeks to put him to death.
33   The LORD will not abandon him to his power
    or let him be condemned when he is brought to trial.
34   Wait for the LORD and keep his way,
    and he will exalt you to inherit the land;
    you will look on when the wicked are cut off.
35   I have seen a wicked, ruthless man,
    spreading himself like a green laurel tree.4
36   But he passed away,5 and behold, he was no more;
    though I sought him, he could not be found.
37   Mark the blameless and behold the upright,
    for there is a future for the man of peace.
38   But transgressors shall be altogether destroyed;
    the future of the wicked shall be cut off.
39   The salvation of the righteous is from the LORD;
    he is their stronghold in the time of trouble.
40   The LORD helps them and delivers them;
    he delivers them from the wicked and saves them,
    because they take refuge in him.

Footnotes

[1] 37:1 This psalm is an acrostic poem, each stanza beginning with the successive letters of the Hebrew alphabet
[2] 37:3 Or and feed on faithfulness, or and find safe pasture
[3] 37:22 Hebrew by him
[4] 37:35 The identity of this tree is uncertain
[5] 37:36 Or But one passed by

(ESV)

Song of Songs 1

1:1 The Song of Songs, which is Solomon's.

The Bride Confesses Her Love

She1

  Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth!
  For your love is better than wine;
    your anointing oils are fragrant;
  your name is oil poured out;
    therefore virgins love you.
  Draw me after you; let us run.
    The king has brought me into his chambers.

Others

  We will exult and rejoice in you;
    we will extol your love more than wine;
    rightly do they love you.

She

  I am very dark, but lovely,
    O daughters of Jerusalem,
  like the tents of Kedar,
    like the curtains of Solomon.
  Do not gaze at me because I am dark,
    because the sun has looked upon me.
  My mother's sons were angry with me;
    they made me keeper of the vineyards,
    but my own vineyard I have not kept!
  Tell me, you whom my soul loves,
    where you pasture your flock,
    where you make it lie down at noon;
  for why should I be like one who veils herself
    beside the flocks of your companions?

Solomon and His Bride Delight in Each Other

He

  If you do not know,
    O most beautiful among women,
  follow in the tracks of the flock,
    and pasture your young goats
    beside the shepherds' tents.
  I compare you, my love,
    to a mare among Pharaoh's chariots.
10   Your cheeks are lovely with ornaments,
    your neck with strings of jewels.

Others

11   We will make for you2 ornaments of gold,
    studded with silver.

She

12   While the king was on his couch,
    my nard gave forth its fragrance.
13   My beloved is to me a sachet of myrrh
    that lies between my breasts.
14   My beloved is to me a cluster of henna blossoms
    in the vineyards of Engedi.

He

15   Behold, you are beautiful, my love;
    behold, you are beautiful;
    your eyes are doves.

She

16   Behold, you are beautiful, my beloved, truly delightful.
  Our couch is green;
17     the beams of our house are cedar;
    our rafters are pine.

Footnotes

[1] 1:2 The translators have added speaker identifications based on the gender and number of the Hebrew words
[2] 1:11 The Hebrew for you is feminine singular

(ESV)

Hebrews 1

The Supremacy of God's Son

1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

For to which of the angels did God ever say,

  “You are my Son,
    today I have begotten you”?

Or again,

  “I will be to him a father,
    and he shall be to me a son”?

And again, when he brings the firstborn into the world, he says,

  “Let all God's angels worship him.”

Of the angels he says,

  “He makes his angels winds,
    and his ministers a flame of fire.”

But of the Son he says,

  “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
    the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.
  You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness;
  therefore God, your God, has anointed you
    with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.”

10 And,

  “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,
    and the heavens are the work of your hands;
11   they will perish, but you remain;
    they will all wear out like a garment,
12   like a robe you will roll them up,
    like a garment they will be changed.1
  But you are the same,
    and your years will have no end.”

13 And to which of the angels has he ever said,

  “Sit at my right hand
    until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”?

14 Are they not all ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation?

Footnotes

[1] 1:12 Some manuscripts omit like a garment

(ESV)