Parallelism in Psalms

February 8, 2012 at 12:12 pm | Posted in Selected Psalms | 1 Comment
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There are 150 Psalms in the Book of Psalms. Each and every one of them was authored by the the Holy Spirit, Who used various human instruments to write them. He used David to write 73 of them. He used the sons of Korah to write 11 of them. He used Asaph to write 12 of them. He used Solomon to write 2 of them. He used Ethan and Moses to write 1 each. That leaves 50 Psalms where we do not know which human instrument the Holy Spirit used, but we know that all of them are inspired by God.

The Psalms may be divided into five sections based on the Pentateuch (the first 5 Books of the Bible – or the so-called “Books of Moses”). The Psalms are songs written for stringed instruments. Since they are songs, their style of writing is considered to be poetry.

Hebrew poetry is big on parallelism (saying the same thing twice, but in a slightly different way or with a different emphasis). There are different types of parallelism. One type is called “synthetic parallelism.” Here is an example of synthetic parallelism:

The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

Psalm 19:7-9

In synthetic parallelism the second line explains and expands the first line.

One of the clearest examples of Hebrew parallelism in the Bible outside of the Psalms is one of (if not the) first poems in human history:

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 to my wounding, and a young man to my hurt.

Genesis 4:23 (emphasis added)

The evil bigamist Lamech bragged to his wives about killing a man, and it almost sounds like he killed two men instead of one unless you understand the parallelism in his song/poem. The “and” does not denote a separate killing. It is his way of expanding and emphasizing the fact that he killed a man – and not only that – but he killed a young man for a mere offense.

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