Megillot: What do These Five Stories Make?

BHQThe Biblia Hebraica Quinta is the fifth version of the Biblia Hebraica. The first volume was published in 2004. As the first volume of the BHQ series, it is a collection of the five Jewish storeis entitled Biblia Hebraica Quinta: General Introduction And Megilloth. I asked myself: “Why?”

The five stories (Song of Songs, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, and Esther) are scattered around in English translatons: Ruth after Judges, Esther after Nehemiah, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs after Proverbs, and Lamentations after Jeremiah. But in the Hebrew Bible, the five books were gathered together as a separate collection. It is also attested in the Babylonian Talmud in Baba Bathra 14b. 

The five scrolls tell us the deeper issues of life: love, loyalty, freedom, destiny, and death. Some of these stories are delighful whereas some are utterly depress. What do these five stories reveal? The five stories reveal the human conditions; but they have little form and content in common. The Song of Songs (Solomon) is love poetry, Ruth is a romantic story, Lamentations is a collection of dirges, Ecclesiastes is a philosophical treatise, and Esther is an historical novella. Why were they gether together into one collection? In his introductory book, Barry L. Bandstra answer the question as follows:

(1) The collection of five books may imitate the five books of the Torah and the five books of the Psalter; (2) The collection is attested in the Babylonian Talmud (Baba Bathra 14b); (3) Each book of the books was used by the Jewish community in connection with a yearly commemoration; and (4) These five books should be intepreted in light of the theological and sociological issues of the age, which is either the post-exilic (6th century B.C.E) or thereafter, specifically the reconstruction of a Jewish community and the emergance of religious Judaism (Bandstra 2004, 472).

Thus, the Megilloth offers distinct windows to understand the postexilic Jewish community which is different community, such as inclusive community and exclusive community.

Reference

Bandstra, Barry L. 2004. Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction to the Hebrew Bible. 3rd Edition. Thomas Wadsworth.

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