Loving the Psalms

“Sing to him a new song; play skillfully on the strings” Psalm 33:3

One thing to keep in mind as you read the Psalms is that they are written as poetry. There is skillfulness involved in how the thoughts are phrased. And so,
having a basic understanding of how Hebrew poetry works can help you better understanding the point being made. Hebrew poetry is driven, not by rhymed sounds, but by what is called “Rhythm of Thought” communicated through the use of “parallelisms”– two parallel lines that play off one another in specific ways.


For example, in Synonymous Parallelism, the same thought is expressed twice using synonyms for the purpose of emphasis. The word “and” is a clue. So for example, in Proverbs 29:22, there aren’t two men, one angry and the other hot tempered, but both refer to the same man whose sin stirs up dissension.

Prov 29:22 An angry man stirs up dissension,
and a hot-tempered one commits many sins.

In Antithetical Parallelism, the first line expresses one thought, while the next gives its opposite. The word “but” is a clue. Notice Psa 1:6 from last week

Psa 1:6 For the LORD watches over the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

Inverted (reversed) Parallelism, like synonymous parallelism, expresses the same thought twice, but the word order is reversed for poetic emphasis.

Psa 51:3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.

A Metaphorical (or emblematic) Parallelism builds on a picture or metaphor to make a point using a well-known image. Look for words like “so” or “as”

Psa 103:13 As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him;

Finally, in a Synthetic (or Progressive) Parallelism, the first line expresses a thought that is then built on by the next and possibly several additional lines. Words like “for” or “because” are clues to this type of parallelism.

Prov 4:23 Above all else, guard your heart,
for it is the wellspring of life.

As poetry, the Psalms are meant to make you think. They are meant to be read slowly and prayerfully as you consider what the is meant to convey.

There is beauty in the Psalms worth exploring!

Pastor Scott