II. Hebrew Poetry

II. Hebrew Poetry

Even in translation many of the psalms have a beauty and elegance that mark them at the very least as elevated prose. But in fact these songs and prayers are true Hebrew poetry, standing along a spectrum from slightly more than lofty prose to elegant poetry, often as far removed from Hebrew prose as Shakespeare and Longfellow are removed from the morning newspaper. At no other point in Psalms study does the fact appear more clearly than here that the Psalter, like all of Scripture, is the Word of God in the words of humans. Here God breathed his truth through the minds of inspired artists whose own skill in grammar, syntax, and vocabulary and whose own sense of poetic beauty and balance were the vehicle of choice for divine revelation. As at every other point in Scripture, the medium is itself inseparably part of the message (see section E below).

Parallelism and rhythm most distinctively characterize Hebrew poetry. Numerous other rhetorical devices belong to the artistic repertoire of the Hebrew poets and appear more or less frequently in the Psalms. But without parallelism and rhythm, Hebrew poetry does not exist.