Hebrew Poetry

F.W. Dobbs-Allsopp and Elaine T. James

in Biblical Studies

ISBN: 9780195393361
Published online March 2012 | | DOI:
Hebrew Poetry

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The poetry of the Hebrew Bible makes up a central part of the scriptural heritage of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam and has been a foundational source for poetry throughout history, and especially for later traditions of Hebrew verse. Roughly a third of the Hebrew Bible is verse. This includes the books of Job, Proverbs, and Psalms, and the several festival songs embedded in prose texts (Exodus 15, Deuteronomy 32, Judges 5, 2 Samuel 22); Lamentations and Song of Songs; and other poems or fragments embedded within blocks of prose (e.g., Genesis 4:23–24). These were largely recognized as verse early on in the tradition; much later, Robert Lowth’s Lectures on the Sacred Poetry of the Hebrews (Lowth 1995b, cited under Robert Lowth) showed that much of the Latter Prophets are also verse. Briefly defined, biblical Hebrew poetry is a nonmetrical form of verse characterized above all by verbal inventiveness, a discernible poetic diction and texture, and concision. This particularly lean style is characterized by short lines, consisting of only two to six words per line, lending the impression of a heightened, dense form of discourse, achieved by bringing semantically important words together. As with other bodies of poetry, it routinely involves higher concentrations of words and phrases with rare meanings or usages, bold ellipses, sudden transitions, and other stylistic complexity. As poetry, it demands to be read within the larger discipline of literary studies.

Article.  13923 words. 

Subjects: Biblical Studies

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