Hebrew Poetry
The five poetical books illustrate three kinds of poetry: (1) lyric poetry-originally accompanied by music on the lyre, this poetry often has strong emotional elements (most of Psalms); (2) didactic poetry-teaches principles about life by means of maxims (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes); and (3) dramatic poetry -dialogue in poetic form (Job, Song of Solomon).

Hebrew poetry is not based on assonance (rhyme) or meter. It has some rhythm which is produced by tonal stress, but this is not prominent. The real key to this kind of poetry is parallelism, which involves the "rhyming" of ideas through careful arrangement of parallel thoughts. At least six kinds of parallelism have been distinguished in Hebrew poetry: (1) Synonymous parallelism. Here the second line reinforces the thought of the first by using similar words and concepts (see Job 38:7; Ps. 3:1; 25:4: 49:1; Prov. 11:7,25; 12:28). (2) Synthetic Parallelism. The second line adds to or completes the idea of the first line (see Ps. 1:1-2; 23:1, 5; 95:3; Prov. 4:23). (3) Antithelic Parallelism. The thought of the first line is contrasted in the second line (see Ps. 1:6; 18:27; Prov. 10:1; 14:34; 15:1). (4) Emblematic parallelism. The first line uses a figure of speech to illuminate the point conveyed by the second line (see Ps. 42:1; Prov. 11:22; 25:25; 27:17). (5) Climactic parallelism. The second line repeats the first with the exception of the last term (See Ps. 29:1; Prov. 31:4). (6) Formal parallelism. The lines are joined solely by metric consideration (see. Ps. 2:6). Parallelism is found not only in couplets (two lines), but also in triplets and quatrains (three and four lines), and sometimes in whole stanzas.

Hebrew poetry is also characterized by vivid figures of speech: (1) Simile, A comparison between two things that resemble one another in some way (see Ps. 1:3-4; 5:12; 17:8; 131:2). (2) Metaphor. A comparison in which one thing is declared to be another (see Ps. 23:1; 84:11; 91:4). (3) Implication. An implied comparison between two things in which the name of one thing is used in place of the other (see Ps. 22:16; Jer. 4:7). (4) Hyperbole. The use of exaggeration to emphasize a point (see Ps. 6:6; 78:27; 107:26). (5) Rhetorical question. The use of a question to confirm or deny a fact (see. Ps. 35:10; 56:8; 94:6; 106:2). (6) Metonymy. One noun used in place of another because of some relationship between the two (see Ps. 5:9; 18:2; 57:9; 73:9). (7) Anthropomorphism. Assigning an appropriate part of the human body to God's Person to convey some truth about God (see Ps. 11:4; 18:15; 31:2; 32:8). (8) Zoomorphism. Assigning an appropriate part of an animal to God's Person to convey some truth about God (Ps. 17:8' 36:7; 63:7; 91:4). (9) Personification. Assigning the characteristics of a human to lifeless objects (see Ps. 35:10; 77:16; 96:11; 104:19). (10) Apostrophe. Addressing lifeless objects (see Ps. 114:5). (11) Synecdoche. Representation of the whole by a part or a part by the whole (see Ps. 91:5). Visual imagery is clearly predominant in the poets.

Another technique in Hebrew poetry is the alphabetic acrostic-the first Hebrew letter in a line is the first letter of the alphabet, the second is the second letter of the alphabet, and so on. There are several variations on this technique (e.g., Ps. 119 and each chapter in Lamentations).

There are also three books of wisdom within the poets: Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes. These books are denoted as such by the content, not the form. It is likely that there were schools of wisdom in Israel (see 1 Sam. 24:13; 1 Kin. 4:29-34). These wise men were practical observers of life who gave right answers in critical situations.

Quoted from Bruce Wilkinson & Kenneth Boa, Talk Thru the Bible, 1983, Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers, pp. 140-41.

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