Understanding The Bible
The Book of Esther


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Dr. Clarence E. Mason, Jr.
Philadelphia College of Bible

We shall next take up the study of the poetic books of the Old Testament (with the exception of Lamentations, which is studied with Jeremiah).

We shall follow the chronological order previously announced in the Introduction, namely:  Job, Psalms, Song of Solomon, Ecclesiastes, Proverbs.

Poetry to us in the Occident is a matter of rhyme and rhythm:

"In fourteen hundred and ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue..."

But this is not the case with Hebrew poetry.  Parallelism (and contrast) of thought are the chief forms, although in its simplest form, Hebrew poetry is simply the completion of thought e.g., Ps. 23:1:

"The Lord is my Shepherd...(What does a shepherd do?)
I shall not want." (For He takes care of His sheep!)

  1. The parallelism is called SYNONYMOUS when the thought is identical -- mere repetition of thought, as in:

    "Shew me they ways, O Lord
    Teach me thy paths," Ps. 25:4.

    (Note the similar words joined by lines; cp. also Ps. 36:5, 19:1.)

  2. The parallelism is called ANTITHETICAL when there is contrast of thought, as in the familiar:

    "The LORD knoweth the way of the righteous:
    but the way of the ungodly shall perish," Ps. 1:6.

    (Note Proverbs 10:1 and similar passages.)

  3. The parallelism is called SYNTHETICAL when there is an addition to thought.  Take, for example, Ps. 112:1:

    "Blessed is the man that feareth the Lord,
    That delighteth greatly in His commandments."

    The O.T. thought of "fear" (reverent trust) leads on to the thought of delighting in Him, and a consideration of His person (in the first line.)  This in turn leads to the thought of pleasing Him by doing what He says.  The way in which one thought can lead to another and build up the theme is strikingly illustrated by Psalm 19:7-11.

    There are more intricate forms, such as triple and quadruple parallels, introversions, alternating lines, et., but the basic idea is always parallelism of thought.


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