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The Poetical Books

The term "poetical" is not to be taken as implying fancifulness or unreality, but as relating to form only ...
  • John Scofield
  • 2007 24 May
The Poetical Books

The books classed as poetical are Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, and Lamentations. The term "poetical" is not to be taken as implying fancifulness or unreality, but as relating to form only. They are the books of the human experiences of the people of God under the various exercises of earthly life; but those experiences are, apart from the mere external setting, wrought in them by the Spirit, interpreted to us by the Spirit, and written by holy men of God as they were moved by the Spirit. While this is true of all these books, the Psalms included, the latter have also a prophetic character.

The Hebrew poetic form is peculiar, and demands a word of explanation. Rhythm is not achieved by the repetition of similar sounds, as in rhymed verse; nor by rhythmic accent as in blank verse, but by repetition of ideas. This is called parallelism; e.g.

    "The Lord also will be a refuge for the oppressed,
    A refuge in times of trouble." (Psalms 9:9)

Parallelism is called synonymous when the thought is identical, as in the above instance; antithetic when the primary and secondary thoughts are in contrast; e.g.

    "For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous:
    But the way of the ungodly shall perish" (Psalms 1:6);

and synthetic when the thought is developed or enriched by the parallel; e.g.

    "And thou shalt be secure, because there is hope;
    Yea, thou shalt dig about thee, and thou shalt take
    thy rest in safety." (Job 11:18)

Under this method the Poetical Books are epic, lyric, and dramatic, and supply examples of literary expression unmatched in uninspired literature.


Article from Scofield Reference Notes (1917) (Public Domain)

For over 90 years people have relied on this reference work in their daily study of God's Word. Written originally in 1909, C. I. Scofield's intent was to provide a concise but complete tool that would meet the need of someone just beginning to read the Bible.