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Hebrew Poetry


Expression of the same idea, its antithesis, or a building ... The major idea is reiterated in synonyms; the previous pattern is the basic one: A B C A1 B1 C1 ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Hebrew Poetry

Hebrew Poetry
  • Reading Psalms and Job

  • Robert Lowth (1710-1787) made the idea of Hebrew
    poetic parallelism popular
  • Expression of the same idea, its antithesis, or a
    building on it in different words. Three basic

Synonymous Parallelism
  • The heavens are telling the glory of God and the
    firmament proclaims his handiwork. Ps 191
  • A the heavens
  • A1 the firmament
  • B telling
  • B1proclaims
  • C glory of God
  • C1 his handiwork
  • The major idea is reiterated in synonyms the
    previous pattern is the basic one
  • A B C A1 B1 C1

Antithetic Parallelism
  • Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for
    sowing shall come home with shouts of joy,
    carrying their sheaves. 1266
  • In this case, the balance is with opposite
  • Go out coming home
  • Weeping shouts of joy
  • Bearing the seed for sowing carrying their
  • Another example The wicked borrow and do not
    pay back, but the righteous are generous and keep
    giving (3721)

Synthetic Parallelism
  • I am poured out like water, and all my bones are
    out of joint my heart is like wax it is melted
    within my breast Ps 2214
  • Loosest and most difficult of Lowths categories
  • The idea builds a synthesis is created
  • Not the same words, but the same idea keeps
    growing and developing

Other Kinds of Balance
  • Statement and reason
  • Blessed be the Lord!
  • for he has heard the voice of my
    supplication. (286)
  • Question and Answer or answer and question
  • For you are the God in whom I have taken refuge
    why have you cast me off?
  • Abstract to concrete
  • Even my bosom friend in whom I trusted who ate
    of my bread, has lifted the heel against me.
  • Repetition
  • O Israel, trust in the Lord! He is their help and
    their shield. O house of Aaron, trust in the
    Lord! He is their help and their shield. You
    who fear the Lord! He is their help and their
    shield. (1159-11)

  • As in many languages, poetry in Hebrew is
    figurative and you need to explore the ideas
  • You can expect to see alliteration, assonance,
    rhyme but, of course, in Hebrew
  • Repetitions are frequent
  • Clear forms will appear in some types

The Book
  • Tehillim praises from the verb hallel or to
  • Cultic texts used in community worship
  • Hymnbook of the Second Temple because the final
    collection is post-exilic
  • Dead Sea Scrolls (below) has Psalms, but not in
    the same order

Some Notes on How Many
  • 150 Psalms in English texts
  • Codex Leningradensis has 149 (114 and 115 are
  • Many Greek manuscripts have 151 Psalm 151 is
    also in the DSS
  • Five Books
  • Pss 1-41 Davidic Psalms
  • Pss 42-49 Elohistic Psalter Sons of Korah
  • Pss 73-89 Mostly community laments Pss 73-83
    associated with Asaph
  • Pss 90-106 Kingship of YHWH
  • Pss 107-150 Davidic, pilgrimage, and individual

Key Terms
  • Invocation asks for Gods presence or attention
  • Hear my voice, O God, in my complaint preserve
    my life from my dread enemy. 641
  • Lament a complaint explains a problem and
    feeling of isolation
  • All day long my enemies taunt me those who
    deride me use my name for a curse. 1028
  • Petition requests intervention/action
  • But I trust in you, O Lord I say, You are my
    God. My times are in your hand deliver me from
    the hand of my enemies and persecutors. 3114-15
  • Praise
  • General
  • Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, O my soul! I
    will praise the Lord as long as I live I will
    sing praises to my God all my life long. 1461-2
  • Call to praise
  • Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.
    Worship the Lord with gladness come into his
    presence with singing. 1001-2
  • Vow of praise
  • I will come into your house with burnt offerings
    I will pay you my vows, those that my lips
    uttered and those that my lips promised when I
    was in trouble. 6613-14

Psalms Scholarship
  • Hermann Gunkel (1862-1932)
  • German scholar
  • Form Criticism identified 5 primary types of
  • Sitz im leben setting in life an idea
    pioneered by Sigmund Mowinckel

Gunkels Psalm Types
  • Hymns of Praise
  • Individual Laments
  • Individual Thanksgiving Psalms
  • Communal Laments
  • Royal Psalms
  • Also there are 5 sub-types
  • Songs of Pilgrimage
  • Community Thanksgiving
  • Wisdom
  • Torah and Prophetic Liturgies
  • Mixed

Hymns of Praise
  • Intro or call to worship
  • Reason for worship
  • Call repeated
  • Praise the Lord, all you nations! Extol him all
    you peoples!
  • For great is his steadfast love toward us, and
    the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever.
  • Praise the Lord!
  • (Psalm 117)

Individual Lament
  • Most frequent type of Psalm
  • Give a pattern for prayer
  • Invocation
  • Complaint articulation of the problem
  • Confession of trust in God
  • Petition for intervention and action needed to
    solve the problem
  • Vow to tell of Gods saving work
  • To you, O Lord, I call my rock, do not refuse to
    hear me, for if you are silent to me, I shall be
    like those who go down to the Pit.
  • Hear the voice of my supplication, as I cry to
    you for help, as I lift up my hands toward your
    most holy sanctuary.
  • Do not drag me away with the wicked, with those
    who are workers of evil, who speak peace with
    their neighbors, while mischief is in their
  • Repay them according to their work, and according
    to the evil of their deeds repay them according
    to the work of their hands render them their due
  • Because they do not regard the works of the Lord,
    or the work of his hands, he will break them down
    and build them up no more.
  • Blessed be the Lord, for he has heard the sound
    of my pleadings. The Lord is my strength and my
    shield in him my heart trusts, so I am helped,
    and my heart exults, and with my song I give
    thanks to him.
  • The Lord is the strength of his people he is the
    saving refuge of the anointed. O save your
    people, and bless your heritage be their
    shepherd, and carry them forever. (Psalm 28)

Individual Thanksgiving
  • Nine of these psalms
  • Intro tells you why thanks are being given
  • What was going on with the person
  • Trust in God and promise to make an offering
  • Psalm 30
  • V1 I will extol you, O Lord, for you have drawn
    me up, and did not let my foes rejoice over me
  • Vv 8-11 what was asked and given
  • V12 so that my sould may praise you and not be
    silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you

Community Laments
  • Structured much like individual laments
  • They discuss times of national tragedy
  • Praise of God is key
  • Psalm 137 most famous example

Royal Psalms
  • Psalms concerning the monarchy and events
    associated with it
  • Coronation (Pss 2, 72, 101, 110), great victories
    (Pss 20, 21, 89), royal weddings (Ps 45)
  • No one clear structure
  • From various differing times and about different

  • Psalm 1 Wisdom Sets up not only the first
    collection but the whole book
  • Psalm 119 extols the Torah and is the longest
    Psalm at 176 verses (also an alphabetic acrostic
    with 8 lines for each of the 22 letters others
    some incomplete 25, 34, 1111, 112, 145)
  • Psalms pilgrims sang going up to Jerusalem are
    key toward the end 122 most famous (although 121
    is my favorite)

Some Uses of Psalms
  • Congregational with both vocal and instrumental
    musical scores
  • Singing, shouting, instruments (Pss 33, 150)
  • Dancing (Pss 149, 150)
  • In temple (134, 135)
  • Call and response (136)
  • Liturgies
  • Offerings (66)
  • Processions (24, 48, 132)
  • Festivals
  • Songs of Ascent (120-134)
  • Special Fasts
  • Crises (44, 60, 90)
  • Individual Uses
  • See previous texts

Book of Job
  • Prose prologue and epilogue chapters 1 and 2
  • Poetic Body of Text
  • Three Cycle of Speeches Between Job and His
    Friends Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar chapters
  • A monologue chastising Job and the friends from a
    previously unknown Elihu (chapters 32-37)
  • Two speeches from God and Jobs responses
    (chapters 381-426)

Other Jobs
  • Mesopotamian
  • A Man and His God or a Sumerian Job
  • Humans sinful from birth and that explains
  • I will Praise the Lord of Wisdom
  • Humans must do rituals to ward off trouble
  • The Babylonian Theodicy
  • Debate on whether bad things happen to good
    people and what that says about God
  • The Dialogue Between a Master and His Slave
  • Closer to Ecclesiastes than Job
  • Egyptian
  • The Admonitions of Ipuwer
  • Laments wickedness that the gods allow humans to
  • The Dispute Between a Man and His Ba
  • Suicide as an answer to human suffering and
    whether or not it should be allowed
  • The Tale of the Eloquent Peasant
  • Debates again over the rights of humans more
    human than divine

Jobs Suffering
Job and His Three Friends
Chagall Job Praying
Chagall Job in Despair
William Blake Job and His Daughters
William Blake Job and His Family Restored to
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