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Five Festal Garments: Christian Reflections on the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther

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These five Old Testament books, traditionally known simply as the Scrolls, are among the most neglected parts of the Christian Bible. In Judaism, the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther were eventually adopted as lectionary readings for five of the major festivals. In Christian tradition, however, no consensus has emerged about their proper use. Each These five Old Testament books, traditionally known simply as the Scrolls, are among the most neglected parts of the Christian Bible. In Judaism, the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther were eventually adopted as lectionary readings for five of the major festivals. In Christian tradition, however, no consensus has emerged about their proper use. Each book presents particular difficulties with regard to how it relates to the rest of Scripture and how it should be understood as the Word of God for us today. In this New Studies in Biblical Theology volume, Barry Webb offers a Christian interpretation of these problematic writings. He allows each book to set its own agenda, and then examines each in relation to the wider Old Testament and to the New Testament gospel with its basic structure of promise and fulfillment. In this way, Webb presents fresh and illuminating perspectives on these five festal garments of love, kindness, suffering, vexation and deliverance. Addressing key issues in biblical theology, the works comprising New Studies in Biblical Theology are creative attempts to help Christians better understand their Bibles. The NSBT series is edited by D. A. Carson, aiming to simultaneously instruct and to edify, to interact with current scholarship and to point the way ahead.


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These five Old Testament books, traditionally known simply as the Scrolls, are among the most neglected parts of the Christian Bible. In Judaism, the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther were eventually adopted as lectionary readings for five of the major festivals. In Christian tradition, however, no consensus has emerged about their proper use. Each These five Old Testament books, traditionally known simply as the Scrolls, are among the most neglected parts of the Christian Bible. In Judaism, the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther were eventually adopted as lectionary readings for five of the major festivals. In Christian tradition, however, no consensus has emerged about their proper use. Each book presents particular difficulties with regard to how it relates to the rest of Scripture and how it should be understood as the Word of God for us today. In this New Studies in Biblical Theology volume, Barry Webb offers a Christian interpretation of these problematic writings. He allows each book to set its own agenda, and then examines each in relation to the wider Old Testament and to the New Testament gospel with its basic structure of promise and fulfillment. In this way, Webb presents fresh and illuminating perspectives on these five festal garments of love, kindness, suffering, vexation and deliverance. Addressing key issues in biblical theology, the works comprising New Studies in Biblical Theology are creative attempts to help Christians better understand their Bibles. The NSBT series is edited by D. A. Carson, aiming to simultaneously instruct and to edify, to interact with current scholarship and to point the way ahead.

30 review for Five Festal Garments: Christian Reflections on the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy

    This book is on a Christian examination of five books in the Old Testament that are most neglected in the Bible: The Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther. If you want to learn more about these five books and gain rich insights on them then this volume is worth getting. This work is a part of the New Studies in Biblical Theology series edited by D.A. Carson. Personally it was the second title in the series that I read which I looked forward to with much anticipation since This book is on a Christian examination of five books in the Old Testament that are most neglected in the Bible: The Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther. If you want to learn more about these five books and gain rich insights on them then this volume is worth getting. This work is a part of the New Studies in Biblical Theology series edited by D.A. Carson. Personally it was the second title in the series that I read which I looked forward to with much anticipation since the first book I read Adopted into God’s Family left a strong impression. Five Festal Garments didn’t disappoint. In fact it exceeded my expectation! As mentioned earlier the five books that the author Barry Webb focused on is often neglected by Christians. There’s also a lot of questions about these five books. For instance three of the books have been questioned concerning their inspiration (Esther, Song of Solomon and Ecclesiastes) while the other two have been questioned concerning where it should be placed in the Jewish canon (should Ruth be in the Prophets or the Writings?) or whether it should be its own book or a supplement to another book (Lamentations). As the epilogue correctly noted the author’s examination of the structure of each book along with the book’s place within the canon along with each contribution to the flow of biblical theology had advanced the frontier of biblical studies. I enjoyed the three part format of each chapter in which each chapter goes over an individual book of the Bible and the three part sections is marked as I, II and III. The first section looks largely within the book itself and attempts to uncover the book’s structure, agenda and shape. I have personally found there’s a lot of interpretative insight here in the first section! The next section then explores how the book relates to the rest of the Old Testament while the final section discusses the book in relations to the New Testament and the Gospel. The book is quite organized which is helpful for serious Bible students and exegetes. I highly recommend this book for pastors who are faithful in expository preaching and also serious lay Christians looking for resources to study deeper the Bible. In my personal reading of this book I took a lot of notes and I highlighted a lot of things within its pages. The content found within this book is rich and worth purchasing!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Peter

    Great books. Webb is an excellent author with a great sense of the literary art of Scripture. He does an excellent job with all five books, though I think either Song of Songs or Ruth is the best chapter. Occasionally he gives a little bit more credence to critical scholarship than I would like (for example, his discussion of the historicity of Esther). In the end he comes to orthodox conclusions, though I wished he wouldn't give quite so much room to the critical scholars. They deny any sort of Great books. Webb is an excellent author with a great sense of the literary art of Scripture. He does an excellent job with all five books, though I think either Song of Songs or Ruth is the best chapter. Occasionally he gives a little bit more credence to critical scholarship than I would like (for example, his discussion of the historicity of Esther). In the end he comes to orthodox conclusions, though I wished he wouldn't give quite so much room to the critical scholars. They deny any sort of inspiration or supernaturalism--why do their opinions on such matters concern us? This is an excellent book for any pastor to read in preparation for preaching on any of these books. It would also be of interest to motivated lay people wanting to go a little deeper with five of the most interesting books of the Bible.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Spencer R

    Mt full review can be read here: http://wp.me/p3JhRp-sp Barry Webb writes about ‘the Scrolls,’ the five shortest books in the Writings, the third and final part of the Hebrew canon. These five books are the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther. For a long time now these books have presented problems for their interpreters, with issues ranging from canonicity to “the manner in which they should be understood and used as Holy Scripture“ in the lives of God’s people (14). With Mt full review can be read here: http://wp.me/p3JhRp-sp Barry Webb writes about ‘the Scrolls,’ the five shortest books in the Writings, the third and final part of the Hebrew canon. These five books are the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther. For a long time now these books have presented problems for their interpreters, with issues ranging from canonicity to “the manner in which they should be understood and used as Holy Scripture“ in the lives of God’s people (14). With biblical theology, Webb presents these five enigmatic books as case studies for how Christians can reflect on the OT.  Each chapters covers one of the five ‘Scrolls.’ Each chapter has three parts: 1. What does the book say about itself? 2. How does the book fit into and add to the rest of the OT? 3. How does the book relate to the NT gospel and its “promise and fulfillment” structure? As an evangelical, Webb holds to the understanding that the Bible has a divine author who, in the sixty-six books, gives a single, coherent message. Webb focuses “on the unity of Scripture, while doing full justice to its diversity” (15). Webb doesn’t get into too many of the critical logistics of these difficult books. Instead he looks at how each book is to be understood on it’s own and in light of the surrounding historical context. He looks at how the story is crafted, what it’s setting is, what it’s setting in Scripture is, and how we as Christians are to read these books in the biblical storyline. Recommended. The pastor (and the layman) will delight in this book. It should be consulted before the commentary, as it gives the reader an overhead view of these “five festal garments.” This volume will leave you wanting more, and hopefully will both provoke you an encourage you to study these odd, enigmatic, and wonderful little books. [Special thanks to IVP Academic for allowing me to review this book! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy Reagan

    I wish other scholarly books read like this one. It could make a prototype for future scholarly monographs. For one thing, he loved to read the New Testament back into these five wonderful Old Testament books. These five books – Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther – became the five short Old Testament books that were sung in the great festivals of Israel. Though they are not together in our Bibles, it’s still a great idea to look at them together. Mr. Webb has hit a hom I wish other scholarly books read like this one. It could make a prototype for future scholarly monographs. For one thing, he loved to read the New Testament back into these five wonderful Old Testament books. These five books – Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther – became the five short Old Testament books that were sung in the great festivals of Israel. Though they are not together in our Bibles, it’s still a great idea to look at them together. Mr. Webb has hit a home run and packed an incredible amount of material in 150 pages. Mr. Webb describes these books as sitting on the edge of the canon because they had more trouble with acceptance than any in the Old Testament. In the chapter on each of the five books he crams in much material like you might find in an introduction in a commentary, but the depth can’t hide the warm spiritual truth he uncovers for Christians. He broke down the Song of Solomon in an incredible way. He describes the incredible statement it makes about love between a man and a woman in a tasteful way. He may not see it as a picture of the love of Christ for his church as much as I do, but he does finally conclude that there’s something of the love of God in it. Without getting bogged down as I’ve seen so many scholars do, he broke down the episodes of the book of Ruth. He beautifully brought out the theology to be found in this amazing little book. He also discussed Ruth as salvation history, which many scholars will no longer do. He sets the scene of suffering in the book of Lamentations and makes sense of its structure. Again, the theology was spot on. I may not have agreed with all his conclusions on Ecclesiastes, but I was intrigued by what he had to say. In the chapter on Esther he addressed the charge that it’s a secular book. He did see Esther and Mordecai as more conflicted characters than Bible characters like, say, Daniel. Again, he provided us with many avenues of study. I enjoyed this book. I sat down and read it straight through in about two hours. I don’t see how anyone could read it without benefit. It’s an awesome book. I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Pearlie

    Barry G. Webb gives short commentaries, or reflections as he calls them, on five Old Testament books, traditionally known simply as “The Scrolls”. He calls them the five garments: - the Garment of Love (The Song of Songs) - the Garment of Kindness (Ruth) - the Garment of Suffering (Lamentations) - the Garment of Vexation (Ecclesiastes) - the Garment of Deliverance (Esther) He gave a summary of the structure of the books, reflected on their contribution to the Old Testament, its place in the Jewi Barry G. Webb gives short commentaries, or reflections as he calls them, on five Old Testament books, traditionally known simply as “The Scrolls”. He calls them the five garments: - the Garment of Love (The Song of Songs) - the Garment of Kindness (Ruth) - the Garment of Suffering (Lamentations) - the Garment of Vexation (Ecclesiastes) - the Garment of Deliverance (Esther) He gave a summary of the structure of the books, reflected on their contribution to the Old Testament, its place in the Jewish liturgy, and its importance to the Christian canon, reflecting on its place in the New Testament. The Garment of Love (The Song of Songs) The Song of Songs has always mesmerised me. As expected, I could not make out what it means exactly and why it is there in the canon of Scripture. According to Webb, the book is about the nature of love itself. He touches the topic of marriage and sex, of pure love. I have never dared to read that in the book, being in the Scriptures and all but Webb does give quite a convincing summary of that theme. The Song of Songs he says is to “stop love going out of our relationships, with God and with one another … It is a splendid garment, to be worn not with awkwardness and embarrassment, but festively, with joy and deep thankfulness to him who gave it to us as Holy Scripture.” The Garment of Kindness (Ruth) I have always loved reading Ruth. It is a romantic account of how an alien was accepted into the family and more than that, became part of salvation history. As much as she has a place in the story of God’s salvation for his chosen people, we have a place in it too through Christ by whom we are adopted. “Ruth is a gentle book … so gentle that we are first beguiled into thinking of it as heartwarming and reassuring …but if kindness is its theme, it is kindness of a radical and controversial sort; a kindness that makes ripples … Ruth is, supremely, the scroll of kindness … to be worn festively, in celebration of the kindness that has been shown to us. But it is also to be worn quietly, with awe and humility, for to put on kindness is to clothe ourselves with the very character of God himself.” The Garment of Suffering (Lamentations) I have not really studied Lamentations more than just giving it a read through. But I know that in the midst of all the intense grief and lament, its gems are in the very heart of the book. Lamentations in its 5 poems is a work in the form of an ordered grief. The mind of a person in grief is unorderly, moving around in circles. The poems written acrostically, the first and last two with 22 verses and the third with 66, provide a shape to the grief it bears, giving it more than an aesthetic value but also a therapeutic and pastoral significance. It is a book about suffering, but not suffering in general. It is a deserved suffering, within the covenant, because of sin, divine anger and righteous judgement. “It is a dark and heavy garment, but with gold worked in it; a penitential robe, terrible and glorious. It is a garment for sinners to wear as they make their way, trembling yet hopeful to the cross of Christ.” The Garment of Vexation (Ecclesiastes) Ecclesiastes is one of my favourite books in the bible. My current theme in life is taken from 12:13. Webb says, “Ecclesiastes is perhaps the most enigmatic book in the Old Testament. Like the desert Sphinx, it teases us with questions, yield its secrets only grudgingly, and will not allow us the luxury of easy answers. In other words, it is thoroughly irritating, but at the same time almost mesmeric in its appeal. It draws us towards it by mirroring the perplexity we all feel as we grapple with life.” Oh how I love those words, well worded and well put. Its motto (1:2) being “all is hebel: breath,vapour, mist, vanity,what is transient, ephemeral, profitless” is responded with an epilogue (12:13) where “the end of the matter, all has been heard: fear God, keep his commandments, this is the essence of being human”. “Ecclesiastes is a garment to wear when we have finished with performance and are ready for work – not with an inflated idea of what we can achieve, but with contentment and confidence, knowing that our times are in God’s hands. A pair of overalls, perhaps. A garment for those who are through, once for all, with triumphalism and cant, and are willing to face life as it really is.” The Garment of Deliverance (Esther) The book of Esther has been for me Sunday School lessons and Bible Quiz material. Therefore, reading Webb’s reflection about it gave me new light and understanding of the book, as he highlights various points in the narrative, explained its place in the Jewish liturgy and its place in the Old and New Testament. I have always known that this book is about the only book in the Bible which does not have any explicit reference to God. I have never really thought of that much until I was halfway reading when I realised how similar our situations are to Esther. She functioned in a world alien to the Jews, she was in foreign land. Throughout the book however, God is silently working. We, in the same way, are in foreign land. Our religion and our piety are seen as an intrusion to the lives of people outside the body of Christ, with whom we do spend a lot of time with. We find it hard to speak the language of our belief and hard to act in the way that God expects us to. Nonetheless, in the silence of our world, as in the silence in the world of Esther, God is still at work. My thoughts were confirmed as Webb discusses exactly the same thing at the end of the chapter. “The book of Esther is indeed a festive garment, a garment to put on when we are astonished, once again at some unexpected way God has rescued us, and when we are ready to celebrate. But it is also a garment to put on when the forces arrayed against us seemed all-powerful, when to laugh is only way to stay sane. To put this garment on however, is not to whistle in the dark, or to pretend that things are other than they are. It is to clothe ourselves with the truth that God is sovereign, and to be reminded that he is always with us, even when he seems most absent, and that nothing can ultimately thwart his purposes. To put on Esther is to affirm that God is our deliverer, and to share in the laughter of heaven.” This is definitely a read-again book for me!

  6. 4 out of 5

    Leo Elbourne

    All the chapters were good and helpful, but there wasn't much unity to the whole book; perhaps I just don't understand the Megollith but the whole thing seemed a little random. All the chapters were good and helpful, but there wasn't much unity to the whole book; perhaps I just don't understand the Megollith but the whole thing seemed a little random.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alexander

    This is a wonderful and insightful guide to five "difficult" books in the Bible: the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther. These are also among my favorite books in the Bible to read. Webb treats these from a Christian perspective but with attention to their use in Rabbinic and contemporary Judaism, from which he draws significant clues regarding their relationship to the rest of scripture. What I appreciate most about Webb's reading is his combination of a high view of sc This is a wonderful and insightful guide to five "difficult" books in the Bible: the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther. These are also among my favorite books in the Bible to read. Webb treats these from a Christian perspective but with attention to their use in Rabbinic and contemporary Judaism, from which he draws significant clues regarding their relationship to the rest of scripture. What I appreciate most about Webb's reading is his combination of a high view of scripture -- he takes it seriously as the Word of God -- combined with able sensitivity to literary form and genre and to the variety of ways that language can be used and adapted to different contexts and demands by different authors. The result is a set of rich and supple interpretations of these "difficult" texts. I especially learned from his treatment of Ruth, which I had underestimated before (apparently, along with most readers) and of Esther. I recommend this to anyone interested in acquiring deeper insight into these texts.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Sonny

    This is the second of the works I have read comprising the New Studies in Biblical Theology series published by IV Press. Although this book was not quite as good as Dominion and Dynasty, it is still well worth reading. Author Barry Webb offers an interpretation of the five Old Testament books traditionally known as "the Scrolls”: the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther. They are among the most neglected books of the Bible—all of them are marginal in one way or another. Th This is the second of the works I have read comprising the New Studies in Biblical Theology series published by IV Press. Although this book was not quite as good as Dominion and Dynasty, it is still well worth reading. Author Barry Webb offers an interpretation of the five Old Testament books traditionally known as "the Scrolls”: the Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes and Esther. They are among the most neglected books of the Bible—all of them are marginal in one way or another. They could perhaps even be considered “problem” books, raising unnerving and difficult questions. Webb offers an interpretation of these books, examining each in relation to the rest of the Old Testament, as well as to the New Testament gospel. In this way, Webb offers wonderful insights to these five neglected books. Reading Five Festal Garments certainly increased both my understanding and my appreciation of the place these five books have in the greater canon.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Mitch Bedzyk

    This is a rather short volume in the NSBT series focusing on Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther. For each "scroll," Webb looks at the book on its own, how it relates to the rest of the OT, and how it relates to the NT and the gospel. Each book selected for reflection by the author is shown to be an excellent candidate for biblical theological investigation. This a must read for anyone wanting to teach or learn more about these often overlooked and neglected books. This is a rather short volume in the NSBT series focusing on Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther. For each "scroll," Webb looks at the book on its own, how it relates to the rest of the OT, and how it relates to the NT and the gospel. Each book selected for reflection by the author is shown to be an excellent candidate for biblical theological investigation. This a must read for anyone wanting to teach or learn more about these often overlooked and neglected books.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kelle Craft

    Really great study on these 5 small OT books, which are easily neglected and misunderstood. The biblical theology is rich, and understanding each of these in light of the 5 festivals of the Jewish calendar is very insightful. There remains much lacking in such a small study, but this must is an essential building block in studying these OT books.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    Profoundly insightful, wish I could rate this 6 out of 5!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Nathan

    This book provokes two responses. First, after each chapter, you want to run out as fast as you can and read the biblical book again for yourself, to see it through new eyes and to look for all the treasures that have just been introduced to you. Second, you will want to share that biblical book and the lessons you've learned from it with someone else. This book will give you plenty of reasons to praise God for all the riches contained in his word, and remind you of the value of pouring over his This book provokes two responses. First, after each chapter, you want to run out as fast as you can and read the biblical book again for yourself, to see it through new eyes and to look for all the treasures that have just been introduced to you. Second, you will want to share that biblical book and the lessons you've learned from it with someone else. This book will give you plenty of reasons to praise God for all the riches contained in his word, and remind you of the value of pouring over his word again and again.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Paul Wichert

    I really liked this book. Each of the five scrolls is analyzed in 3 contexts: the book by itself, within and relating to the OT, and relating to the NT. Very well written, very insightful, and concise. It is too short for much in depth analysis, but that is not the purpose of the book. A great introduction and overview of these unique books.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Kaleb Miears

    This book is a great for an introductory, yet thorough look at the Megilloth. The biblical theology is clearly laid out and done in a way that makes sense of these five books. I was thoroughly impressed with Barry G. Webb's book. This book is a great for an introductory, yet thorough look at the Megilloth. The biblical theology is clearly laid out and done in a way that makes sense of these five books. I was thoroughly impressed with Barry G. Webb's book.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    Excellent!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Cole Brandon

    Webb introductions to each of these scrolls using a variety of theological faucets. Though some of his reflections are mundane, overall it excites the reader to study the scrolls.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Justin

    It's an excellent introduction to these five texts, and well worth the read. It's an excellent introduction to these five texts, and well worth the read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Chola Mukanga

    I particularly liked the reflections on Esther and Ruth. A real goldmine. I will be returning to Lamentations definitely!

  19. 4 out of 5

    Daniel

    The chapters on Song of Solomon and Lamentations were worth the price of the book.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Will Pareja

  21. 4 out of 5

    Calvin Coulter

  22. 5 out of 5

    Joel

  23. 4 out of 5

    Anton Sorkin

  24. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Le Croissette

  25. 4 out of 5

    Thiofhitshithu Rabali

  26. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Klynsmith

  27. 5 out of 5

    shemil

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bob

  29. 4 out of 5

    Philip Taylor

  30. 4 out of 5

    Stranded in Babylon

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