Biblical Poetry

Classic Christian Poems

Bible Poetry.
Beautiful Christian Poems, classic poetry. View Poems.



An amazing fact about Biblical poetry involves its form. As you know, most poetry cannot be translated without losing its poetic form. For instance, one of Robert Frost’s poems ends: But I have promises to keep
And miles to go before I sleep.

I exaggerated the rhythm, of course, to make it easy to hear that every other syllable is accented, and you can also hear the rhyme—keep, sleep. But were the poem translated into another language, these poetic qualities would obviously be lost—as happens also with most poetry written in any language.

But miraculously, Biblical poetry does not lose its poetic qualities in translation because it uses a form called parallelism. For instance, one form of parallelism called synthetic involves the repetition of an idea or thought. For instance, David wrote in Psalm 19, a verse you all know,

“The heavens declare the glory of God
And the firmament sheweth his handiwork.

You can easily hear the echo of the first phrase in the second line.

If we skip down a few lines, these well known verses illustrate the same form, giving a cadence to the Psalm that would be lacking in prose.

The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul:
The testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple.
The statues 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 forever:
The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether.
More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold:
Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

Antithesis is another form of parallelism. In Psalm 127 you will hear one thought, and then an opposite statement follows:

Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it,
Except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.
It is vain to rise up early
To sit up late,
To eat the bread of sorrows,
For so he giveth his beloved sleep.

Let’s go back to Psalm 19, and listen to the second verse:

Day unto day uttereth speech,
Night unto night showeth knowledge.

In a third form of parallelism, called climatic, the verses leading to a final statement may be synthetic, but they build to a climax.

Listen to the first few verses of Psalm 103:

Bless the Lord O my soul: and all that is within me
Bless His holy name.
Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits:
Who forgiveth all thine iniquities;
Who healeth all thy diseases;
Who redeemeth thy life from destruction;
Who crowneth thee with loving kindness and tender mercies;
Who satisfied thy youth with good things;
So that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Turn to Psalm 6 ---mostly synthetic structure but building to a climax--

O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger,
Neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.
Have mercy upon me, O Lord; for I am weak:
O Lord, heal me; for my bones are vexed.
My soul is also sore vexed;
But thou, O Lord, how long?
Return, O Lord, deliver my soul:
Oh save me for thy mercies’ sake
For in death there is no remembrance of thee:
In the grave who shall give thee thanks?
I am weary with my groaning;
All the night make I my bed to swim;
I water my couch with my tears.

Mine eye is consumed because of grief;
It waxeth old because of all my enemies.
Depart from me ye workers of iniquity;
For the Lord hath heard the voice of my weeping.
The Lord hath heard my supplication;
The Lord will receive my prayer.
Let all mine enemies be ashamed and sore vexed:
Let them return and be ashamed suddenly.

Of course not all the parallelism is exactly parallel, but in much of the very best English poetry, the poets avoid a constantly repetitive rhythem. Otherwise the poetry could become singsong like nursery rhymes:

Mary had a little lamb
Peter, Peter, pumpkin eater.
Listen to these lines from a Shakespeare sonnet:
Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediment
Love is not love which alters when it alteration finds
Or bends with the remover to remove.
Ah, no, it is the star to every wandering bark
Whose worth’s unknown although its height be taken.

Psalm 1 uses a variety of parallel structure:
Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly,
Nor standeth in the way of sinners,
Nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.
But his delight is in the law of the Lord;
And in his law doth he meditate day and night.
And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water
That bringeth forth his fruit in his season;
His leaf also shall not wither;
And whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.
The ungodly are not so;
But are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.
Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.
For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous:
But the way of the ungodly shall perish.

Finally, let’s read together the last Psalm where David uses synthetic structure to lead to a climax.

Praise ye the Lord.
Praise God in his sanctuary;
Praise him in the firmament of his power
Praise him for his mighty acts:
Praise him according to his exellent greatness.
Praise him with the sound of the trumpet:
Praise him with the psaltery and harp.
Praise him with the timbrel and dance:
Praise him with stringed instruments and organs:
Praise him upon the loud cymbals:
Praise him upon the high sounding cymbals.
Let every thing that hath breath praise the Lord.
Praise ye the Lord.

Written by Marilyn Morgan