THE FIVE MEGILLOTH
BOOKS OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
From The Names and Order of the Books of the Old Testament
BY: E.W. BULLINGER
2 Tim 3:16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God
These five scrolls form a constituent part of the Hagiographa, and in the most ancient manuscripts, as well as in the early printed editions, are given in the following order. This order is determined by the order of the Festivals on which they are read annually in the Synagogues, viz.:
THE SONG OF SONGS – ON THE FEAST OF THE PASSOVER.
RUTH – ON THE FEAST OF PENTECOST.
LAMENTATIONS – ON THE FEAST OF THE NINTH OF ABIB.
ECCLESIASTES – ON THE FEAST OF TABERNACLES.
ESTHER – ON THE FEAST OF PURIM.
THE SONG OF SONGS
“Sheer Hasheereem” – The Most Beautiful Song
In the Septuagint it is called asma asmaton, and in the Latin Vulgate Canticum Canticorum, which all have the same meaning, the Song of Songs. The name Canticles, sometimes given to the book, it will be seen, is from the Vulgate.
Sheer Hasheereem is a Hebrew mode of expressing the superlative degree by repeating the noun in the genitive plural, meaning the finest, the most beautiful, or the most excellent song. The same figure (Enallage) is seen in such expressions as Holy of holies (Exodus 26:33), King of kings(Ezekiel 26:7), God of gods and Lord of lords (Deuteronomy 10:17), Hebrew of the Hebrews (Philipians 3:5), the Heaven of heavens (1 Kings 8:27).
Three individuals are the principal persons, and not two as is generally supposed; a shepherd, a shepherdess, and a king. The former is the object of the maiden’s affection, and not the king. According to Dr. Ginsburg (in his Commentary, Longmans, London, 1857), “this song records the real history of a humble but virtuous woman, who, after having been espoused to a man of like humble circumstances, had been tempted in a most alluring manner to abandon him, and to transfer her affections to one of the wisest and richest of men, but who successfully resisted all temptations, remained faithful to her espousals, and was ultimately rewarded for her virtue”.
If the interpretation thus refers to a true story, then it is open to anyone to make an application of the narrative.
The Jewish Commentators apply it to Jehovah and Israel. Christian Commentators apply it to Christ and the Church; but in either case the maiden must represent the one beloved; the shepherd, the one who loves her; and the king, the one who would come between with temptations and allurements.
Read at the Passover it might be applied to Israel going forth to the One of whom it is said, “He loved the people”, and despising all the riches and treasures of Egypt. the Passover was specially marked by expressions of love, exhibited in various ways. <–
“Ruth” – A Friend
This book is called simply by the name of Ruth, which means a friend, especially one brought in and made an intimate companion. It is from the root ra’ah, to feed or nourish, to afford sustenance; then, to feast upon or delight in any one (Prov. 13:20; 28:7; 29:3), to treat as a friend.
Thus the book tells how Jehovah delighted to take this Moabite stranger and bring her into blessing with His chosen people, uniting her so closely in blessing as to make her an ancestress of David the king, and of David’s Son and Lord, as shown in the genealogy with which the book closes. It tells also of that redemption on the ground of which Gentiles are able to rejoice with God’s people Israel.
Read at the Feast of Pentecost, it surely intimated how at that Feast Jehovah would pour out His Spirit upon all flesh (Joel 2:28), as recorded, in Acts 2:16-21 (fulfilling Joel 2:28), and thus bring Gentiles into blessing, causing them to “rejoice with His people:, as shown in Acts 10-13.
Pentecost was not the foundation of the Church, but preliminary to “the day of the Lord”, when the “glory” should follow the “sufferings”. We know, however, how the offer of Acts 3:19-26 was rejected (Acts 13:45-52). And then the “Mystery” or secret of the Church was revealed to Paul about this time, for Acts 13 was about “fourteen” years before 2 Corinthians 12:3, when he says that he received the “abundance of the revelation”. [Dr. Bullinger changed his mind on this point. In his later writings he taught that the “Mystery” was not revealed to Paul until after the events described in Acts 28:17-27. Ephesians was the letter confirming the “Mystery” to others and this letter was probably written during the two years of house arrest mentioned in Acts 28:30-31.]
“Ey-chah” – Alas! or, O How!
The English title is from the Latin Lamentationes. The Septuagint has threenoi, meaning the same thing.
The Hebrew Ey-chah is an exclamation of pain and grief – a howling, wailing cry. It is preserved in our word jackal.
It is the first word of the book, and fitly describes its character.
The Massorah and the Rabbins point out that the word was used three times of Israel by three prophets.
Moses, of Israel in her glory and pride (Deuteronomy 1:12).
Isaiah, of Israel in her dissipation and sin (Isaiah 1:21).
Jeremiah, of Israel in her desolation (Lamentations 1:1)
This book is appropriately read on the Fast of the ninth of Abib. for on that day is commemorated five great calamities which befell the nation.
The return of the twelve spies, and the decree of the forty years’ wanderings in consequence of the rebellion of the people.
The destruction of the first Temple by Nebuchadnezzar.
The destruction of the second Temple by the Romans under Titus.
The taking of Bether by the Romans under Hadrian, when 580,000 were slain.
The ploughing of Zion like a field, in fulfillment of Jeremiah 26:18, etc.
The five elegies are arranged in a remarkable manner:
The first two (chapters 1 and 2) consist of 22 long verses of three lines each, each verse respectively commencing with the successive letters of the alphabet.
The third (chapter 3) consists of 66 verses (3×22), each triad of verses commencing with the same letter; e.g. the first three lines commence with Aleph, the next three with Beth, and so on through the 22 letters of the alphabet.
The fourth (chapter 4) is arranged in 22 long verses of two lines each, also arranged acrostically.
The fifth (chapter 5) Lamentation is resolved into a prayer, and the acrostic arrangement gives way before the outburst of emotion. the only connection with the alphabet is that the number of the verses corresponds with the number of letters (22).
“Coheleth” – The Assembler
Our title Ecclesiastes comes from the Vulgate through the Septuagint, one who sits or speaks in the Assembly – a member of the Ecclesia or Assembly, hence our word Ecclesiastic. Luther called it Prediger, hence our alternative title “or the Preacher”.
The Hebrew word Coheleth occurs seven times in the book.
a) Three times at the beginning (1:1,2,12)
b) Once in the middle (7:27)
c) Three times in the end (12:8,9,10).
Dr. Ginsburg points out in his Commentary on this book that Coheleth is not a proper name but an appellative, because in 12:8 it has the article, and in 7:27 it is construed with a feminine verb.
As to its meaning, it is derived from Cahal, to call (from which our English verb to call has come). Then it means to call together, assemble. Hence Coheleth means Collectress. References to the passages where the verb occurs show that it is invariably used for collecting persons, especially for religious purposes. The actual signification therefore is “an assembler of scattered people into the more immediate presence of God; a gatherer of those far off from God”. Solomon did thus gather the people (1 Kings 8:1,2,5).
Well therefore may this book be appropriately read at the feast of Tabernacles, for its burden is that “under the sun” all is vanity. Here, we dwell only in Tabernacles, and wait for the abiding realities to which the “greater than Solomon” will presently assemble and gather His people.
“Esther” – A Star
The title of this book bears the name of the principal character in it, in the Hebrew and its Versions. Otherwise it begins with the words, “Now it came to pass in the days of”. The two of the five Megilloh, which are historical, both begin with these words. In the Hebrew this sentence consists of two words, va-yehee beemai. The first of these words, va-yehee (now it came to pass), sounded in the ears of the old Rabbis like the word woe. The Greek ouai and Latin vae had a similar sound and character. There is a tradition from the time of the Great Synagogue that whenever a Scripture commences with these words it always marks impending catastrophe.
Five Scriptures are pointed out as thus commencing, but to these we may add the fact that though events associated with sadness are to be related, yet they are in each case followed by other events which end in blessing.
Genesis 14:1 begins with the war between the four kings and the five, and the troubles of Lot; but ends in the blessing of Abraham by the priest of the Most High God.
Ruth 1:1 begins with the famine in the land of Israel; but ends with joy in the marriage of Ruth, who thus became the ancestress of David’s Son and David’s Lord.
Isaiah 7:1 begins with war against Jerusalem; but issues in the blessing of the promised Savior. “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call His name Emmanuel.”
Jeremiah 1:3 begins with the events in the days of Jehoiakim, when promise of restoration is not far off (See verse 11, etc.)
Esther 1:1 begins with the threatened cutting off of the nation; but ends with their joyful deliverance.
So the times of trouble are in each case rehearsed in order that the final blessing may stand out all the more gloriously.
To the above examples we may add one from the New Testament, making six in all, Luke 2:1, which needs no comment.
Most Bible students know that the Divine name is not written in this book of Esther. The Talmud (Kedim, 139) suggests the reason by asking, “Where do we get Esther from the Law?” The answer is given, “Deuteronomy 31:18, and I will surely hide my face.” In this book it is seen how the people forsook God, how He hid His face from them, and how that though He delivered them, His name is hidden in the book in the form of four acrostics, which are the pivots on which the whole history turns. See The Name of Jehovah in the Book of Esther, by Bullinger.
Hagiographa the holy writings, a term which came early into use in the Christian church to denote the third division of the Old Testament scriptures, called by the Jews Kethubim, i.e., “Writings.” It consisted of five books, viz., Job, Proverbs, and Psalms, and the two books of Chronicles. The ancient Jews classified their sacred books as the Law, the Prophets, and the Kethubim, or Writings. (Source: Easton’s 1897 Bible Dictionary)
True Order of the Books of the Old Testament according to the Hebrew Canon
[Torah][Former Prophets][Latter Prophets][Minor Prophets][Psalms][Proverbs][Job][Megilloth][Daniel][Ezra-Nehemiah][Chronicles]
FIVE MEGILLOTH, THE [E. W. Bullinger] 1