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Poetry


Download PDF: Poetry Bible

POETRY
Makes up 1/3 of the Bible
“Communicates meaning by moving the will and feelings of the reader”
It communicates using precise sounds, structure, and language

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  Observation

A.  Structure of the Poem – Look for Parallelism

“Parallelism is when two or more successive poetic lines dynamically strengthen, reinforce, and develop each other’s thought. As a kind of emphatic additional thought, the follow-up lines further define, specify, expand, intensify, or contrast the first” (KBH, p. 284).


STRUCTURE TYPE EXAMPLE
A = B Interchangeable Echo For my yoke is easy (A) and my burden is light (B) (Matt. 11:30)
A > B A states idea; B qualifies it Subordination
Means (How?) He has shown His people the power of His works; (A) giving them the lands of other nations (B) (Psalm 111:6)
Reason (Why?) Sing to the Lord (A) for He is highly exalted (B) (Exodus 15:21)
Time (When?) By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept (A)
when we remembered Zion. (B) (Psalm 137:1)
A < B A states idea B expands it Continuation You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain (A). You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up, do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God!” (B) (Isaiah 40:9) (actions of messenger in order)
Comparison As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. (Psalm 103:13) (simile)
Comparison As a father has compassion on his children, so the Lord has compassion on those who fear Him. (Psalm 103:13) (simile)
Specification
Spatial I made the earth and created humankind upon it. (Isaiah 45:12) (more specific)
Spatial I made the earth and created humankind upon it. (Isaiah 45:12) (more specific)
Explanation Say, “The Lord has redeemed His servant Jacob. And they did not thirst in the deserts where He led them; water from a rock He made flow for them. He split a rock and water gushed out. (Isaiah 48:20-21)
Dramatic effect The desert tribes will bow before Him and His enemies will lick the dust. (Psalm 72:9)
Purpose Listen, my sons, to a father’s instruction; pay attention and gain understanding (Prov 4:1)
Intensification Your granaries will be filled with abundance, with new wine your vats will burst. (Prov. 3:10)

B.  Language of the Poem – Look for Poetic Devices


POETIC DEVICE TYPE EXAMPLE
Simile “a figure of speech that compares two things using the words ‘like’ or ‘as’ “ To what should I compare the kingdom of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened. (Luke 13:20-21)
Metaphor bluntly draws a comparison between two things Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.
(Psalm 119:105)
Personification writing in human terms about an idea or object that is nonhuman Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy. (Psalm 98:8)
Apostrophe “a direct address to someone or something absent as though it were present” Therefore, you kings, be wise; be warned, you rulers of the earth. (Psalm 2:10)
Hyperbole “conscious exaggeration for the sake of effect” At this my heart pounds and leaps from its place. (Job 37:1)
Metonymy substitution of a word or idea for one closely associated with it (verbal stand in) Truthful lips endure forever, but a lying tongue lasts only a moment. (Proverbs 12:19)
truthful lips = truthtellers
lying tongue = liars
Synecdoche “a part of something serves to represent the whole idea or item” I do not trust in my bow, my sword does not bring me victory. (Psalm 44:6) bow and sword = all weapons
Irony “a writer says the very opposite of what he means” Go to Bethel and sin; go to Gilgal and sin yet more. (Amos 4:4) actually desires them to repent

POETRY, cont.
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  Interpretation

When looking at the imagery ask,,
  “What would have come to peopl’s minds in biblical times?”
  “What points of comparison were intended by the writer?”

How to Interpret Poetic Language

How to Interpret Poetic Language
   Identify the figure of speech/poetic device
   Interpret the figure of speech by separating figurative meaning from literal meaning
For ex, Psalm 57:4 (I am in the midst of lions; I lie among ravenous beasts-men whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords)
Literal: lions, beasts, teeth, tongues, spears, arrows
Figurative: verbal slander
   Determine the function of the figure in the context. Why did the poet use this device?
For ex, Psalm 18:2 (The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliver..) teaches of God’s protection. Hyperbole is often used in imprecatory psalms, calling on disaster as an expression of deep emotion.

In summary, to interpret poetry:
  Interpret in its entirety. Read the poem as a whole.
  Analyze its structure and poetic language.
  Determine its purpose/occasion. If a psalm, identify what type of psalm it is.
Is it meant for a community or an individual?

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  Application

Ask the following questions:

  “What does this psalm tell us about how God’s presence and work connects with our deepest concerns and emotions in the midst of difficult or joyous circumstances?”

  “What does this psalm tell us about how we should pray, praise, and generally express our hearts’ desires to God in individual and corporate worship?” (Russell, p. 143)

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