February 5, 2014

Deeper Still: Poetry (Bible Tour)

Poetry has often be uttered as "the language of the heart," and I couldn't agree more. The older I get the more my appreciation and love for it grows. Poetry is a considerably large genre in the Old Testament (roughly 40%): Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon (Song of Songs), Lamentations, but also, scattered through some of the narratives and prophecy books. A few important things about poetry in the Bible...

Emotion. Poetry is meant to evoke emotion in us when we read it, whether it's painting a picture of human joy or despair and depression. We're supposed to feel when we read it. Our God is a God of emotions and He expresses them to us in His Word. Likewise we're created in His image, to express emotion ourselves too. Many people love these books or passages because poetry has a way of grabbing our hearts in such a manner that other genres do not.

Parallelism. It's THE most important factor in interpreting Hebrew poetry. Parallelism "is a construction in which the content of one line is repeated, contrasted, or advanced by the content of the next" (How to Read the Bible for All It's Worth). Ideas are built upon either through repetition, dissimilarities (comparison-contrast), or further expansion... but the themes or nuggets of wisdom runs parallel to one another. (There are several different types, but here are the five most common.)

Word Pictures & Figures of Speech. These are frequent tools of the poet. They help bring the emotions to life in a tangible written way for the reader. In poetry, it's rare for the author to explicitly state something literally. That's simply not how poetry works. Poetry is about using figures of speech to transcend literality. It's helpful to recognize how authors construct these...
  • Imagination. (God gave you it, so use it. Imagine what the pictures look like in your mind. What kind of mood/atmosphere/emotional overtones/connotations does the author use?)
  • Metaphors and Symbols
  • Hyperbole
  • Similes
  • Personification
  • Chiasmus
Doctrine. Doctrine is not literally taught to us in poetry, but it's expressed greatly. Doctrinal truths are present and breathing in poetry.

Further Reading...


  1. Hi Natalie! I think poetry is such a powerful tool to talk about things of God. We have to lift ourselves out of ourselves, and what better way to do it than through soaring poetry.
    I know that the Psalms were songs, but what are songs but poetry put to music?
    Good point about doctrine. It is expressed in poetry, but maybe in a more personal way.
    You are really a light-carrier today :)

  2. This may just be my favorite category in the Bible. When I first started writing, it was all poetry. It is the language of the soul. This may just be my favorite post from the series ;)


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