An Interpretation of the English Bible. Volume IV
THE POETICAL BOOKS OF THE BIBLE
B. H. CARROLL
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I GENERAL INTRODUCTION – HEBREW POETRY. 4
THE BOOK OF JOB. 15
II AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF JOB. 15
III THE PROLOGUE OF JOB. 38
IV AN INTRODUCTION TO THE POETICAL DRAMA AND JOB’S COMPLAINT 51
V THE FIRST ROUND OF SPEECHES. 60
VI THE SECOND ROUND OF SPEECHES. 70
VII THE THIRD ROUND OF SPEECHES. 79
VIII JOB’S RESTATEMENT OF HIS CASE. 87
IX ELIHU’S SPEECH, GOD’S INTERVENTION AND THE EPILOGUE 94
X THE BOOK OF JOB IN GENERAL. 105
XI AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF PSALMS. 115
XII AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF PSALMS (CONTINUED) 122
XIII THE PSALM OF MOSES AND THE PSALMS OF DAVID’S EARLY LIFE 133
XIV THE PSALMS OF DAVID’S EARLY LIFE (CONTINUED) AND SEVERAL OTHER GROUPS 142
XV PSALM AFTER DAVID PRIOR TO THE BABYLONIAN EXILE 149
XVI THE MESSIANIC PSALMS AND OTHERS. 155
XVII THE MESSIAH IN THE PSALMS. 164
THE BOOK OF PROVERBS. 179
XVIII AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF PROVERBS. 179
XIX THE INSTRUCTION OF WISDOM.. 190
XX THE INSTRUCTION OF WISDOM (CONTINUED) 196
XXI THE INSTRUCTION OF WISDOM (CONTINUED) 202
XXII MISCELLANEOUS PROVERBS. 207
XXIII THE PROVERBS OF THE WISE. 211
XXIV OTHER PROVERBS OF SOLOMON AND THE APPENDICES 216
THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES. 221
XXV AN INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK OF ECCLESIASTES 221
XXVI THE PROLOGUE AND THREE METHODS APPLIED.. 230
XXVII OTHER METHODS APPLIED.. 238
XXVIII THE MEANS USED TO SOLVE THE PROBLEM CONDEMNED AND THE FINAL CONCLUSIONS. 242
THE SONG OF SOLOMON. 248
XXIX AN INTRODUCTION TO THE SONG OF SOLOMON. 248
XXX AN INTERPRETATION OF THE SONG OF SOLOMON AS AN ALLEGORY 253
I GENERAL INTRODUCTION – HEBREW POETRY
As we are to deal with poetry, in the main, in the following discussions, it becomes necessary that we should here give attention briefly to some important matters relating to the poetry of the Bible. This is essential as the principles of interpretation are so different from the principles of the interpretation of prose.
Hebrew poetry, rich and multifarious as it is, appears to be only a remnant of a still wider and fuller sphere of Semitic literature. There are references to this poetic literature in several places in the Old Testament, viz: Joshua 10:13; 2 Samuel 1:18, where it is expressly said that they were written in the book of Jashar which was most probably a collection of national songs written at various times.
The character of the poetry of the Hebrews is both deeply truthful and earnestly religious. Much of the contents of the Scriptures has all the ordinary characteristics of poetry. Though prosaic in form, it rises, by force of the noble sentiment which it enunciates and the striking imagery with which these sentiments are adorned, into the sphere of real poetry. Example, Ruth 1:16-17:
“And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, and to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God; where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried; Jehovah do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me.” This passage arranged in poetic form would appear as follows: Entreat me not to leave thee, And to return from following thee; For whither thou goest I will go, And where thou lodgest I will lodge; Thy people shall be my people, And thy God shall be my God; Where thou diest I will die, And there will I be buried; Jehovah do so to me and more also, If aught but death part thee and me.
We find the first poetry in our Bible in Genesis 4:23-24, the Song of Lamech, a little elegiac poem (See the American Standard Version), reciting a lamentation about a domestic tragedy, thus: And Lamech said unto his wives: Adah and Zillah, hear my voice; Ye wives of Lamech, hearken unto my speech: For I have slain a man for wounding me, And a young man for bruising me: If Cain shall be avenged sevenfold, Truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.
For an interpretation of this passage, see Carroll’s Interpretation, Vol. 1.
We now note all poetry found in the Pentateuch, as follows:
Genesis 4:23, the Song of Lamech, already referred to;
Genesis 9:25-27, a little poem reciting Noah’s curse and blessing on his sons;
Genesis 25:23, a single verse, forecasting the fortunes of Jacob and Esau;
Genesis 27:27-29, a beautiful gem, reciting Isaac’s blessing on Jacob;
Genesis 27:39-40, another gem recording Isaac’s blessing on Esau;
Genesis 49:2-27, Jacob’s blessings on his sons;
Exodus 15:1-18, Moses’ song of triumph over Pharaoh;
Numbers 6:24-26, the high priest’s benediction;
Numbers 21:14-15, a war song of Amon;
Numbers 21:17, 18, a song at the well of Be-er;
Numbers 21:27-30, a song of victory over “Sihon, king of the Amorites”;
Numbers 23:7-10, Balaam’s first prophecy;
Numbers 23:18-24, Balaam’s second prophecy;
Numbers 24:3-9, Balaam’s third prophecy;
Numbers 24:15-24, Balaam’s fourth prophecy;
Deuteronomy 32:1-43, Moses’ song;
Deuteronomy 33:2-29, Moses’ blessing on Israel.
The poetry found in the historical books (Josh.-Esther) is as follows:
Joshua 10:12-13, Joshua’s little song of victory;
Judges 5:1-31, Deborah’s song;
Judges 14:14, Samson’s riddle;
Judges 14:18, Samson’s proverb;
Judges 15:16, Samson’s song of the jawbone;
1 Samuel 2:1-10, Hannah’s song of exultation;
1 Samuel 21:11, the song of the women about Saul and David;
2 Samuel 1:19-21, David’s lamentation over Saul and Jonathan;
2 Samuel 3:33-34, David’s lamentation over Abner;
2 Samuel 22:2-51, David’s song of triumph over his enemies;
2 Samuel 23:1-7, David’s last words;
1 Chronicles 16:8-36, David’s song of thanksgiving.
A great deal of the writings of the prophets is highly poetic, and many quotations from them in the New Testament are given in poetic form in the American Standard Version, but only a few passages appear in poetic form in the books of the Old Testament. These are as follows:
Isaiah 38:9-20, Hezekiah’s song;
Jonah 2:2-9, Jonah’s prayer;
Habakkuk 3:1-19, the prayer of Habakkuk.
Besides these passages, the great bulk of Hebrew poetry found in the Old Testament is in the poetical books – Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon – practically all of which is poetical in form, except Ecclesiastes which is poetic prose. These books constitute the basis of our present study.
There is quite a lot of poetry in the New Testament, consisting of original poems and many quotations from the Old Testament and some other writings, for the citations of which I refer the reader to the American Standard Version of the New Testament. These passages are in poetic form wherever they occur. This will give the reader some idea of the mass of poetical literature found in our Bible and it should impress him with the importance of understanding the principles by which it may be rightly interpreted.
On the distinguishing characteristics of Hebrew poetry, I commend to the reader most heartily Dr. John R. Sampey’s Syllabus of the Old Testament. Dr. Sampey was a great Hebrew scholar and his discussion on any point touching the Hebrew language must be considered authoritative. Since there is no better statement on these matters to be found anywhere, I give you in the following paragraphs a brief summary of his discussion on the forms and kinds of Hebrew poetry, noting especially what he says about parallelism, the grouping of lines, the stanza, the meter, and the kinds of Hebrew poetry. The general characteristics of Hebrew poetry are: (1) verbal rhythm, (2) correspondence of words, (3) inversion, (4) archaic expression and (5) parallelism.
Recent research goes to show that the Hebrew poets had some regard for the number of accented syllables in a line. They were guided by accentual beats rather than by the number of words or syllables. The most common form called for three accents to each line. The difficulty in getting an appreciation of the verbal rhythm in Hebrew lies in the fact that there is almost a complete loss of the true pronunciation of the Hebrew.
By correspondence of words is meant that the words in one verge, or member; answer to the words in another, the sense in the one echoing the sense in the other, the form corresponding with form and word with word. Some examples, as follows: Why art thou cast down, O my soul? And why art thou disquieted within me? – Psalm 43:5 He turneth rivers into a wilderness, And watersprings into a thirsty ground. – Psalm 107:33 The memory of the righteous is blessed; But the name of the wicked shall rot. – Proverbs 10:7
By inversion is meant to invert the grammatical order or parts in a sentence for the purpose of emphasis or for adjustment. Though inversion holds a distinguished place in the structure of Hebrew poetry, it is only a modified inversion that prevails and by no means does it compare favorably with that of the Greeks and Romans in boldness, decision, and prevalence. Examples: In thoughts from the visions of the night, When deep sleep falleth on men. – Job 4:13 Unto me men gave ear, and waited, And kept silence for my counsel. – Job 29:21 And they made his grave with the wicked, And with a rich man in his death; Although he had done no violence, Neither was any deceit in his mouth. – Isaiah 53:9
The archaical character of Hebrew poetry refers to the antiquity of the poetical elements as found in the Hebrew poetry, to the license, poetic hue and coloring, which cannot be confounded with simple, low, and unrhythmical diction of prose. Two elements, a poetical temperament and a poetical history, which are necessary to the development of a poetic diction, the Hebrews had as perhaps few people have ever possessed. Theirs was eminently a poetic temperament; their earliest history was heroic while the loftiest of all truths circulated in their souls and glowed on their lips. Hence their language, in its earliest stages, is surpassingly poetic, striking examples of which may be found in Genesis and Job.
By parallelism in Hebrew poetry is meant that one line corresponds in thought to another line. The three most common varieties of parallelism are: (1) synonymous, (2) antithetic, (3) synthetic. We will now define and illustrate each variety, thus:
(1) By synonymous parallelism is meant that in which a second line simply repeats in slightly altered phraseology the thought of the first line. Examples: He that sitteth in the heavens will laugh: The Lord will have them in derision.
– Psalm 2:4 And these lay wait for their own blood; They lurk privily for their own lives. – Proverbs 1:18
Is it any pleasure to the Almighty, that thou art righteous? Or is it gain to him that thou makest thy ways perfect?
– Job 22:3 For thou hast taken pledges of thy brother for naught, And stripped the naked for their clothing. – Job 22:6 But as for the mighty man, he had the earth; And the honorable man, he dwelt in it. – Job 22:8 Therefore snares are round about thee, And sudden fear troubleth thee. – Job 22:10
(2) By antithetic parallelism is meant that in which the second line is in contrast with the first. Examples: A wise son maketh a glad father; But a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother; – Proverbs 10:1 He that gathereth in summer is a wise son; But he that sleepeth in harvest is a son that causeth shame; – Proverbs 10:5 The memory of the righteous is blessed; But the name of the wicked shall rot. – Proverbs 10:7
Most of the 376 couplets in Proverbs 10:1 to 22:16 are antithetic.
(3) By synthetic parallelism is meant that in which the second line supplements the first, both together giving a complete thought. Examples: My son, if sinners entice thee, Consent thou not. – Proverbs 1:10 Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, When it is in the power of thy hand to do it. – Proverbs 3:27 Say not unto thy neighbor. Go, and come again, And to-morrow I will give: When thou hast it by thee. – Proverbs 3:28 Devise not evil against thy neighbor; Seeing he dwelleth securely by thee. – Proverbs 3:29 Strive not with a man without cause, If he hath done thee no harm. – Proverbs 3:30
The less common varieties of parallelism found in Hebrew poetry are: (1) climactic, (2) introverted, and (3) emblematic. These are defined and illustrated as follows:
(1) In the climactic parallelism the second line takes up words from the first and completes them. Example: Ascribe unto Jehovah, O ye sons of the mighty, Ascribe unto Jehovah glory and strength. – Psalm 28:1 The rulers ceased in Israel, they ceased, Until that I Deborah arose, That I arose a mother in Israel. – Judges 5:7
(2) In the introverted parallelism the first line corresponds with the fourth, and the second with the third. Example: My son, if thy heart be wise, My heart will be glad, even mine; Yea, my heart will rejoice, When thy lips speak right things. – Proverbs 23:15
3) In the emblematic parallelism the second line brings forward something similar to the first, but in a higher realm. Take away the dross from the silver, And there cometh forth a vessel for the refiner; Take away the wicked from before the king, And his throne shall be established in righteousness. – Proverbs 25:4 A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in network of silver. As an ear-ring of gold and an ornament of fine gold, So is a wise reprover upon an obedient ear. As the cold snow is the time of harvest, So is a faithful messenger to them that send him; For he refresheth the soul of his masters. – Proverbs 25:11-13 As clouds and wind without rain, So is he that boasteth himself of his gifts falsely. – Proverbs 25:14 Confidence in an unfaithful man in time of trouble Is like a broken tooth, and a foot out of joint. – Proverbs 25:19 As one that taketh off a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon soda, So is he that singeth songs to a heavy heart. – Proverbs 25:20 For lack of wood the fire goeth out; And where there is no whisperer, contention ceaseth. As coals are to hot embers, and wood to fire, So is a contentious man to inflame strife. – Proverbs 26:20-21
The lines in Hebrew poetry are grouped as follows:
(1) Monostichs (Ps. 16:1; 18:1);
(2) Distichs (Ps. 34:1; Prov. 13:20) ;
(3) Tristichs (Ps. 2:2; 3:7);
(4) Tetrastichs (Gen. 49:7; Ps. 55:21; Prov 23:15f);
(5) Pentastichs (Prov. 25:6f);
(6) Hexastichs (Gen. 48:15f);
(8) Octostichs (Prov. 30:7-9),
A stanza in Hebrew poetry consists of a group of lines or verses upon the same subject or developing the same thought. There are four kinds of these stanzas, viz: the couplet, or a group of two lines; the tristich, or a group of three lines; the tetrastich, or a group of four lines; and the hexastich, or a group of six lines. In Psalm 119 we have the strophe consisting of eight verses, each verse in this strophe beginning with the same letter.
There are four kinds of Hebrew poetry, viz: (1) lyric, (2) gnomic, (3) dramatic, (4) elegiac. These are defined and illustrated thus:
(1) Lyric is derived from the word, “lyre,” a musical instrument to accompany singing. There are many snatches of song in the historical books from Genesis to Esther. The Psalms are an imperishable collection of religious lyrics.
(2) By “gnomic” is meant proverbial. Proverbs, part of Ecclesiastes, and many detached aphorisms in other books of the Old Testament are examples.
(3) By “dramatic” is meant that form of literature that gives idealized representations of human experience. Job is a splendid example of this kind of literature.
(4) By “elegiac” is meant that form of poetry which partakes of the nature of the elegy, or lamentation. Lamentations is a fine example of this kind of poetry. There are other dirges in the historical books and in the prophets. 2 Samuel 1:19-27 and Amos 5:1-3 are examples. Much of Isaiah’s writing is poetic in spirit and some of it in form. (See Isa. 14:53.) So of the early prophetic writers, especially the early prophets. Now, according to this classification of Hebrew poetry, it should be an easy and profitable work for the reader to classify all the poetry of the Bible. This can be readily done with the American Standard Revised Version in hand. All the poetry of the Bible is written in poetic form in this version, and every student of the Bible should have it.
1. What can you say, in general, of the Hebrew poetry as we have it in the Bible?
2. What of the character of the poetry of the Hebrews?
3. Where do we find the first poetry in our Bible and what ia the nature of this little poem?
4. Locate all the poetry found in the Pentateuch.
5. Locate all the poetry found in the historical books (Josh.; Esther).
6. Locate the poetic passages in the prophets.
7. Where do we find the great bulk of Hebrew poetry in the Bible?
8. What of the poetry of the New Testament and how may it be located?
9. What book commended by the author on the forms and kinds of Hebrew poetry?
10. What the general characteristics of Hebrew poetry?
11. What is meant by rhythm and what renders an appreciation of verbal rhythm in the Hebrew now so difficult?
12. What is meant by correspondence of words? Illustrate.
13. What is meant by inversion? Illustrate.
14. What is meant by the archaical character of Hebrew poetry?
15. What is meant by parallelism and what the three most common varieties? Define and illustrate each.
16. What the less common varieties of parallelism? Define and illustrate each.
17. How are the lines in Hebrew poetry grouped? Give example of each.
18. What is a stanza in Hebrew poetry? How many and what kinds are found?
19. How many kinds of Hebrew poetry? Name, define, and illustrate each.
20. What suggestion by the author relative to classifying all the poetry of the Bible?