3. Hebrew Poetry

A. Poetry in general

B. Parallelism

(Much of this section is borrowed from Ross)

C. Types of Parallelism

1. Complete Parallelism

  1. Synonymous Parallelism
    • where the thought is repeated by the second line in different but synonymous words.
      Then Israel / came / to Egypt; /

      Jacob / sojourned / in the land of Ham. (Ps. 105:23)
    • The order of the parallel terms need not be the same in both lines;
    • Find another example in Psalm 6
  2. Antithetical Parallelism
    • balances the parallel lines through the opposition or contrast of thought, as in 90:6:
      In the morning / it flourishes / and is renewed; /

      in the evening / it fades / and withers.
    • Any in Psalm 6 ? What about Psalm 18 ? Ps 126
      • (see Psalm 18:18)
  3. Emblematic Parallelism
    • one of the parallels is literal, the other a simile or a metaphor
      As a father / pities / his children, /

      so the LORD / pities / those who fear Him. (Ps. 103:13)
    • see also Psalm 18:16
  4. Inverted or Chiastic Parallelism
    • strictly speaking a form of synonymous parallelism;
    • the main difference is that the order of the terms is inverted, like a mirror image
    • A clear example is found in Isaiah 11:13b:
      Ephraim / shall not be jealous of / Judah, /

      and Judah / shall not harass / Ephraim.
    • These are not always complete or perfectly balanced
    • Another example from Isaiah 1:18
      Though be your sins
      as scarlet
      as snow they shall be as white
      Though they         be        red
      as crimson,
      as wool
      they shall be.

2. Incomplete Parallelism

  1. Incomplete Parallelism with Compensation
    • only some of the terms are parallel e.g. Psalm 6:1
    • but each line has the same number of units (usually clear in English, but clearer in Hebrew).
      You will destroy / their offspring / from the earth,
      and their children/from among the sons of/men. (21:11)
    • A variation of this is the so-called step-parallelism, or climactic parallelism
      • the thought is developed by repetition and extension, as in 29:1,2:
        Ascribe / to the LORD / O sons of / the mighty One,
        Ascribe / to the LORD / glory / and strength,
        Ascribe / to the LORD / the glory of / his name;
        Worship / the LORD / in holy / array.
  2. Incomplete Parallelism
    • one line is longer than the other, as in 6:2 (MT 6:3):
      O LORD, / rebuke me / not in your anger, /

      nor chasten me / in your wrath.
    • On occasion Lowthe’s old category of synthetic parallelism may be helpful.
    • In that type the second part further develops the first:
      For the LORD is a great God,
      and a great King above all gods (Ps. 95:3).

3. Formal Parallelism

  • Not really parallelism
  • the second colon simply continues the thought of the first
    I have set / my king /

    on Zion / my holy hill. (Ps. 2:6)

4. External parallelism

  • the correspondence occurs between successive verses, as in Isaiah 1:3:
    The ox / knows / its owner,
    and the ass / its master’s / crib; /

    but Israel / does not / know,
    my people / does not / understand.
  • see also Psalm 6:1,2