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How To Read The Bible – Part 9 – The Art of Biblical Poetry

Poetry is another significant literary style in the Bible. In our reflection on Literary Styles in Part 3 we characterized Biblical Poetry as the language of the heart. What do we need to know about the style of poetry found in the Bible that will help us to read the Bible well?

Watch Episode 9 by clicking HERE. Come back after the video to continue reading.

Tim makes an interesting point about how most of God’s speech in the Bible appears as poetry. I think this speaks to the power of poetry to communicate the things of God to us. It suggests that what we cannot fit into a box of human logic, God invites us to experience through feelings and emotions and His chosen vehicle for doing this is poetry.

As is typical of Biblical literary styles, the poetry we find in the Bible is different from that of modern-day poetry. Therefore, it’s important that we understand the unique aspects of Biblical poetry that can help inform our reading of it.

As an example, in the video Tim talks about the use of Couplets which are paired lines of verse that typically introduce a thought in the first line and then complete, contrast or deepen that thought in the second line.

Tim points out that Biblical poetry is designed to cause us to slow down and ponder the meaning of the text. This is also why sometimes we find poetry in the middle of a good narrative section of Scripture. The poetry helps to reinforce what the story is telling us. It is the author's way of making sure the reader gets the message.

I love the image of the multi-faceted diamond used in the video as well. The poetry of the Bible is densely packed with meaning which we can learn to appreciate by reading, re-reading, and pondering over a text.

Biblical poets use structural devices like refrains, chiasms, symmetry and inclusios to help create that density in much the same way that design patterns are used in Biblical narratives.

I think the takeaway here is that Biblical poetry is designed to “ignite our imaginations through vivid verbal artistry.” It speaks to our emotions and experiences and begs to be understood through the heart more than the intellect.

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