Biblical poetry full of richness

Readers should not despair if they have difficulty understanding Old Testament poetry, including Psalms, Proverbs and Isaiah.

Old Testament poetry is hard to recognize and understand for several reasons, explained Victor L. Ludlow in Unlocking the Old Testament:"1. We usually do not know the Hebrew forms of speech, the Israelite cultural settings, or the symbolisms found in the writings.

"2. The poet or prophet usually does not explain everything. He leaves much interpretative work to us.

"3. When a poetic work is highly structured . . . the material is sometimes stilted, stretched, or forced by the author to fit the pattern.

"4. Sometimes we want to read into the material more than the author originally tried to present. However, this potential for many, varied interpretations is what gives the scriptures much of their richness and lasting value.

"5. We are usually unfamiliar with the parallelistic poetic style, and only as we read and study it can we better recognize and appreciate it."

Ludlow calls Psalms the "ancient Israel hymnal."

"Within each section or the book as a whole, there is no particular order of the psalms by theme, topic, or date of composition, . . . although some psalms are roughly grouped by authorship."


Articles on this page may be used in conjunction with the Gospel Doctrine course of study.

Information compiled by Kellene Ricks.

Sources: The Church Educational System's Old Testament student manual; The Promised Messiah, by Bruce R. McConkie; Unlocking the Old Testament, by Victor L. Ludlow; and The Spirit of the Old Testament, by Sidney B. Sperry.

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