Hebrew Poetry – Psalms & Proverbs
English poetry relies on rhyme and rhythm for its impact. Therefore, it is difficult to translate into another language. But Hebrew poetry can be easily translated, for its major feature is not rhyme but meanings. The development of thoughts is vital to Hebrew poetry, not the balance of sounds or rhythm. The basic unit of Hebrew poetry is the verse, in which the first line states a theme, and one or more following lines in some way develop that thought. Development of the author’s thoughts are shown by following lines. It is important to keep this in mind when reading or trying to interpret the Psalms and other Old Testament poetry.
Example of development of thoughts by following lines.
Repetition – repeats the thought of the 1st
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
our tongues with songs of joy. Ps. 126:2
Contrast – emphasizes the thought of the 1st line by contrasting with an opposite.
A kind man benefits himself,
but a cruel man brings himself harm. Prov. 11:17
Supplement/Support – fills in or completes the thought of the first.
I will lie down and sleep in peace,
for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. Ps. 4:8