Hebrew PoetryArticle from The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, K-QBy John R. Neal
This dictionary article on “Hebrew Poetry” is thorough but arranged ina format that is easy to read and follow. The author begins by stating thatthe Hebrew poetry makes up one-third of the entire Hebrew Bible, anastonishing fact that shows the need to understand the workings of poetry. The books of “Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Songs, Lamentations, Obadiah,Micah, Nahum, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah are poetic in their entirety.”
Onenormally thinks of the poetic books being limited to Psalms, Proverbs, andSong of Songs, but this is an incorrect view of Biblical poetry. One must alsotake into consideration the fact that many books in the Old Testamentconsist of some type of poetic material (some extensive, while some just afew verses): Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Judges, 1 and 2Samuel, Ecclesiastes, Ezekiel, Daniel, and Zechariah. There are only sevenbooks which “contain no poetic lines” whatsoever: Leviticus, Ruth, Ezra,Nehemiah, Esther, Haggai, and Malachi (according to Gottwald).
There isalso poetry in the Deutrocanonical books (Apocrypah/Pseudepigrapha). Yetthe form of Hebrew poetry can also be found in the New Testament (the firstchapter of Luke and the book of Revelation). Even Jesus’ teachings, whilenot perhaps poetic, is based firmly upon the Old Testament Wisdom tradition
1 George Arthur Buttrick, Gen. Editor. The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, E-Q. (New York: Abingdon Press, 1962), s.v. “Hebrew Poetry,” by Norman K. Gottwald, 829.2 Ibid.