Monday, September 25, 2006

A Note about Hebrew Poetry

About 75% of the Bible is Old Testament. And much of the Old Testament is poetry. Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, all of the Minor Prophets and most of the Major Prophets; plus poetry shows up in all of the other books of the OT. Poetry shows up in the NT, but it is not as noticeable - I will help make it noticeable since it will be helpful towards your understanding of what Jesus and Paul (and others) are teaching (the Beatitudes are poetry, for example).

Briefly, OT Hebrew poetry has three basic patterns: Agreement, Contrast, Extension; Hebrew OT poetry generally has two lines as well. Thus Line One and Line Two agree with each other, but it is stated differently (Psalm 119:1 "Blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the law of the LORD" ESV). In Contrast, Line One and Line Two state opposite statements to make a point (Psalm 119:3 "who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways!" ESV). In Extension, Line Two extends the thought begun in line one, (Psalm 119:9 "How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word." ESV).

I'll explain more about OT Hebrew poetry as we go along - it is a rich experience, and since the bulk of the OT is poetry, be sure to take the time to understand its significance, to understand what it is communicating.

For now, your task is to try and identify these three types of poetry when you read the Psalms, Job, Proverbs and wherever else you find it in Genesis, James and John. Look for Line One and Line Two to either Agree with each other in thought, to contrast each other, or extend the thought of the other.

Have Fun!


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