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Parallelism and Imageri, in Hebrew Poetry


Parallelism is the adjustment that exists between some words from a poem sentence. A full parallelism is called a row. Each line contains 2, sometimes 3, 4 or more (rarely) clause poetry. Paragraph 2 clause that has called bicolon; 3 clause called tricolon. Poetry sentence with one clause also exists and is called monocola.

When we read these lines of Hebrew poetry carefully, we will see that the clause relating to the meaning of the main clause. But, uniquely clause always bring more thoughts contained in the main clause.

Parallelism has similarities and differences between children sentence in a row. The equations make us read the two sentences at a time. And variations contained in the second clause causing growing understanding of the psalm.

Parallelism Semantics (related to the meaning of words):

  1. Parallelism Synonyms:

Wearing synonyms. Thoughts in the second clause is synonymous with mind in the first clause. The second sentence child / children next sentence repeat or strengthen the mind in the first row.

I will divide them among the children of Jacob

and scatter them among the children of Israel. (Genesis 49: 7b)

The heavens declare the glory of God;

the skies proclaim the work of his hands; (Psalm 19: 2)

  1. antithetic parallelism:

Wearing antonym (a word that means the opposite with a different words: thin / fat, gentle / bearish). The same thought expressed from two different perspectives and often contradictory.

Clause second or subsequent child in contrast to the mind in the first sentence. The statement in the first sentence of children confirmed by his opponent in the second row.

he wise shall inherit glory

but fools will receive scorn. (Proverbs 3:35)

Against the pure thou holy applicable,

the person who hooked you apply devious. (Psalm 18:27)

  1. Synthetic Parallelism:

Thoughts on the child continued and developed the first sentence in the second row. So the content in the second or subsequent clause added to the first sentence children to provide further information or making it perfect.

So now my head was erect,

overcome the enemy around me. (Psalm 18:27)

Rescuer-savior will rise to the top of Mount Zion

to judge the mount of Esau;

then the LORD’s will be the owner of the kingdom. (Obadiah 21)

  1. Coat Parallelism (Emblematik):

This parallelism is clearly making an analogy. In this parallelism used a word comparisons (eg similar) for integrating two minds of two different living world. Said comparison is used to provide illumination for a teaching theology or teachings that are educational.

Like birds fluttering swallows fly,

So a curse without cause does not come to rest. (Proverbs 26: 2)

As the deer longs for flowing streams,

so my soul longs for you, O God. (Psalm 42: 2)

  1. Parallelism Repetitive (Stairs / Reaching Climax):

Most of the children repeated the first sentence in the clause following clauses and supplemented with new elements so as to reach a climax.

Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones,

ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due His name;

worship the LORD in the splendor of His holiness. (Psalm 29: 1-3, NIV)

Let us sing for joy to the Lord,

cheering on the rock of our salvation.

Let us draw his face with thanksgiving,

cheering for Him with the singing of psalms.

For the LORD is a great God,

and a great King above all gods. (Psalm 95: 1-3)

  1. Parallelism Pivot Pattern:

Having a compound word or phrase that is located in the middle of a sentence, and called the sentence shaft. The word must be read with the words A and B. sentences

In the presence of the Lord, (A)

O earth tremble,

in the presence of the God of Jacob. (B)

(Psalm 114: 7, following the translation of Dr. Longman)

The phrase “O earth trembled”, should be read with the words A and B with the sentence:

In the presence of the Lord, O earth trembled.

In the presence of the God of Jacob, O earth trembled.

  1. Parallelism chiasm (Introvert):

So named because the Greek letter “Chi” in the form of two crossed lines (a big X). When made diagram, a line will form an X chiasm:

Have mercy on me, O God,

According to your Unfailing love;

According to Your great compassion

blot out my transgressions. (Psalm 51: 1, NIV)

In His hand are the depths of the earth,

and the mountain peaks belong to Him. (Psalm 95: 4, NIV)

Chiasm can also be found at a higher level structure in the psalms. For example, Psalm 2, which consists of 4 stanzas composed as chiasm. Stanza I (verses 1-3) and last (verses 10-12) associated with the kings of the world and the actions that occur in the world. Stanza II (verses 4-6) and III (verses 7-9) to tell what happened in heaven.

Most of the examples that we saw earlier is a complete parallelism (complete parallelism). That is, every part of the child first sentence parallel with each section contained in the second clause.

Sometimes children second sentence does not use some of the words of the clause first, with the understanding that the first part of the clause which is not used in the clause be read a second. Usually that is not used is the verb.

You have put me in the grave at the bottom,

in darkness, in the deep water. (Psalm 88: 7)

The verb does not exist in the second clause, but we understand that the definition of the second clause:

(You have put me) in the darkness, in the deep water.

Such means of poetry called an ellipsis. The point is to unite more closely two clauses, and to disclose something briefly.



In addition to parallelism, means of Hebrew poetry that stands out is imageri. The poetry of the Old Testament is rich with the images (picture / painting). For example in the book of psalms God is described in many ways: he is a shield, castle, rock, dark clouds, a shepherd, a hero, an archer, the chariot driver, king, etc.

Thus, if we do not understand the workings imageri, we will lose a lot of news psalms and other passages in the form of poetry. Imageri speak through painting words with a comparison.

Sometimes these comparisons directly and called Simile. A simile is a comparison that made it became clear by using the word like. Example :

As the deer longs for flowing streams,

so my soul longs for you, O God. (Psalm 88: 7)

O Lord, my God, in You I take refuge;

save and deliver me from all them that persecute me,

lest like a lion pouncing on me

and dragged me, with no one to deliver. (Psalm 7: 2-3)

Imageri second type is a metaphor, which is a comparison that is not directly, without using the word like. A metaphor to communicate a clearer image than a simile because metaphor provides indirect comparison and described the comparison is closer. example:

The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. (Psalm 23)

How can an image function?

An image comparing the two the same thing in several points of view, but also has the inequality in the other perspective. This inequality overawe and make us pay attention. Then we will pay attention to the existing equation and draw lessons from it.

For example, read Psalm 127: 3-5.

There, the boys are like a bow in the hands of a hero. To understand this simile we must ask: In what way the boys are like an arrow? We also have to ask: In what ways different boys with arrows?

We begin to answer the obvious thing we know: the psalmist did not compare the physical form of the children with arrows. There is no literal or physical relationship between the boys with arrows. Here’s the difference.

But how can they be the same? How it compares with the darts can explain the psalmist mean that boys are grateful for their father?

The answer: Arrows belonged to a soldier. The arrow is a weapon that helps soldiers in the war. Likewise, the boys can be a source of strength for a father when he fought in this world; her children would support him.

The suggestions in investigating imageri:

Identify existing comparison.

Think carefully existing comparison. In what ways are they similar and in what ways they are not the same?

Remember that imageri Hebrew poetry comes from the ancient cultures of Israel and not the modern culture.

So we have to learn the cultural background to be able to interpret correctly. For this purpose we can use references both as a tool.

In addition to parallelism and imageri, ancient poet Jews “beautify” and develop their creations poems by various other means somewhat less important because rarely are. Among the most interesting and the most prominent and important enough to understand the psalm is Inclusio, ie a repetition of the opening and closing of a poem. Example :

Psalm 8, in the opening paragraph and closing paragraph, namely paragraph 2 and 10:

O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is thy name, in all the earth!

Psalm 106, opened and closed with Hallelluyah hebrew word, which translates to Praise the Lord!

A Inclusio create a psalm to have unity, and more importantly, determining the mood of the entire psalm. In Psalm 8, Inclusio evokes a reverence for God.

Hebrew has the emotional character so that abstract ideas can be conveyed with concrete terms, a beautiful and lively. This is evident from a direct call to inanimate objects with feeling (ie. Zech 11: 1-2). Or using words that are anthropomorphism or anthropopathisms to God (eg, Ps 10:12). It can even deliver the words that seem cruel (ex. Ps 137: 9).

Therefore, we must be careful. Do not do exegesis (find the original meaning) by trying to find special meaning in every word or phrase, which is not intended author. As an example:

“God our unwavering fortress”.

This does not mean God is a kind of fortifications or buildings / walls are impenetrable, but rather it is a way of thinking about God.

“In sin my mother conceived me” (Psalm 51).

The psalmist did not trying to build doctrine that contains the sin, or that his mother was a sinner, or “original sin” applies to children who have not been born, etc.

She is using hyperbole to express strongly and clearly that he was a sinner.

“For You …, weave me in my mother’s womb” (Psalm 139).

There is a connecting word “weave” with a tangle of human DNA.

Such an idea is unacceptable, because actually it is a metaphor used to describe how God psalmist personally involved in the creation process itself.


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