Biblical Interpretation: Poetry

These include books of rhythmic prose, parallelism, and metaphor, such as Song of Solomon, Lamentations and Psalms. We know that many of the psalms were written by David, himself a musician, or David’s worship leader, Asaph. Because poetry does not translate easily, we lose some of the musical “flow” in English. Nevertheless, we find a similar use of idiom, comparison and refrain in this genre as we find in modern music.

Steps to Interpretation:
  • Note the Strophic (stanza) Pattern
  • Group parallel lines
  • Study metaphorical phrases
  • Note the historical background (when possible)
  • Study in relation to type of poetry
  • Study messianic psalms in historical context first
  • Study psalms as a whole first

Elements of OT Poetry
  1. Terseness
  2. Structure
  3. Miscellaneous (apostrophe, irony)
  4. Wordplays

The Function of the Psalms:

  1. They do not function primarily for the teachings of doctrine or moral behavior.
  2. Psalms are meant to engage the emotions.
  3. Is to “give us inspired models of how to talk and sing to God.”  Also how to meditate about God.  It is an interactive communication.
  4. “The difficulty with interpreting the psalms arises primarily from their nature—what they are. Because the Bible is God’s Word, many Christians automatically assume that all it contains are words from God to people. Thus they fail to recognize that the Bible also contains words spoken to God or about God—which is what the psalms do—and that these words, too, are God’s   Word.” (Fee and Stuart How to Read the Bible for All its Worth.)

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