Poetry of the Bible: The Poeticals

The Lord is my shepherd;
I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;
He leads me beside the still waters.

He restores my soul;
He leads me in the paths of righteousness
For His name’s sake. (Psalm 23: 1-3)

 This is what first comes to mind when most people think of biblical poetry. The Twenty-third Psalm is actually more like a hymn, one of many composed by David, a shepherd, a warrior and a king of Israel.

The Bible contains some of the most beautiful poetry in existence. This includes Job (a didactic poem), Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon (aka Song of Songs). As well, several of the prophets wrote in poetic form, especially Isaiah and Jeremiah. One of my favorite passages is found in Isaiah 18, verses 1 & 2 (NIV):

Woe to the land of whirring wings
along the rivers of Cush,

which sends envoys by sea
in papyrus boats over the water.

I’m not really sure why this appeals to me. The first reading excited my imagination with its “whirring wings,” and “papyrus boats.” Other translations substitute gnats, flies and/or mosquitoes for the whirring wings, and reed boats for papyrus. Doesn’t have the same appeal, does it? Of course, the passage speaks of Egypt with its many rivers and abundant papyrus reeds.

While papyrus was widely used for paper, it was also used for weaving baskets. It was most likely the medium used for Jochebed’s (Yocheved) basket used to hide Moses.

In Ecclesiastes 3:1, we find one of its most often-quoted scriptures:

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

You may remember its use in Turn, Turn, Turn, made famous by The Byrds in 1965.

Here is another of my favorite poetic passages, found in Job 38: 4-7 (NKJV) In this passage, the Lord speaks out of a whirlwind to reveal His Omnipotence to Job:

Who is this who darkens counsel
By words without knowledge?

Now prepare yourself like a man;
I will question you, and you shall answer Me.

Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?
Tell Me, if you have understanding.

Who determined its measurements?
Surely you know!
Or who stretched the line upon it?

To what were its foundations fastened?
Or who laid its cornerstone,

When the morning stars sang together,
And all the sons of God shouted for joy?

And of course, I cannot neglect the grace and beauty of the Song of Solomon 4:10-12 (KJV)

Thou hast ravished my heart, my sister, my spouse; thou hast ravished my heart with one of thine eyes, with one chain of thy neck.

How fair is thy love, my sister, my spouse! how much better is thy love than wine! and the smell of thine ointments than all spices!

Thy lips, O my spouse, drop as the honeycomb: honey and milk are under thy tongue; and the smell of thy garments is like the smell of Lebanon.

A garden inclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.

These are just a few of my favorite passages. When I wrote my fantasy-adventure novel set in the second century after Christ, I thought it would be interesting to have the people sing the Psalms. This was their way to pass the songs from generation to generation. Through their songs, they taught their children about the God of their fathers. My heroine’s favorite song is found in Psalm 29. “Ascribe to the Lord, ye sons of the mighty….” She sings it to remind herself of her homeland, and to encourage herself as she makes a difficult journey.

What is your favorite biblical psalm, song, or poetic passage? I hope you’ll take a moment to share it with us. If you’d like more information regarding these passages, you can click on the links below. The Westminster link illustrates poetic structure.

I challenge you this week to complete the writing prompt in poetic form. As always, thanks for reading!

Prompt: As the clouds part, light spills forth and ignites…