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The Poetic Scriptures A Study of Parallelism

Updated on May 20, 2010

Hebrew Poetry Contained in the Old Testament

The Old Testament is a really profound book. It encompasses many different literary styles, including but not limited to that of Hebrew poetry. Hebrew poetry makes up about one-third of all the Old Testament writings extending far beyond the books that are already considered poetic such as, Job, Psalms and Proverbs. The book of Isaiah itself is approximately ninety percent written in poetry, followed closely by Jeremiah, Hosea, and Amos. These messages are prime examples of inspirational poetry in its inception.

Poetic Phraseology Made Oral Traditions Easier To Recall

Because the written word of the Lord was not readily available to the common populace of the day, these poetic prophets used a style of preaching that could be easily remembered and transmitted orally. The ancient Semites were trained to remember long passages of scripture that would be passed on orally for generations. The type of recall that was necessary to remember these passages was enhanced by the organization of the material into an easily remembered form or type of poetic phraseology.

Patterns and Verbal Flags Brought Attention To The Upcoming Poetic Instruction

Key phrases or words were used as "verbal flags" to alert the listener of upcoming messages of importance in the sermon. Patterns were also used to make the message easier to remember. Of all the different patterns used, parallelism is the most common pattern exhibited in Hebrew poetry, and is found in most of the famous biblical passages.

Two lines leading to one common destination.
Two lines leading to one common destination.


In parallelism a thought, idea, grammar pattern, or key word of the first line is repeated or continued in the second line. This poetic form was used to teach, reinforce, and guide the listener to a conclusion which was being taught.

Two Types of Parallelism, Grammatical and Semantic

There are two basic types of parallelism, grammatical and semantic. Grammatical is a "form" type of parallelism and is often hard to distinguish. It consists of rhyme schemes, grammar forms, conjugation patterns, and prefix and suffix parallelism which oft times gets lost in the translation from the original Hebrew to another language. Conversely, a semantic parallelism is a "theme rhyme" or "idea pattern" and is displayed when the thoughts of the one line are related to the thoughts of another line in various parallelism forms.

Isaiah Prophet, Seer, and Poet

Over the next three HUBS we will explore the seven different types of semantic parallelism and the use of it in the teachings of the poetic prophets. A special recognition must be given to the research of Victor L. Ludlow, who in his book Isaiah" Prophet, Seer, and Poet" explains to the reader these wonderful poetic styles in depth.

Other books by Victor L. Ludlow


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    • In The Doghouse profile image

      In The Doghouse 9 years ago from California


      I certainly wish I knew more about it. It takes a lot of study and work to even break the ice a bit but it is always worth it when you do. Thanks for stopping by.

    • Peter M. Lopez profile image

      Peter M. Lopez 9 years ago from Sweetwater, TX

      Now you're talking my language: Hebrew poetry.