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Old Testament

Wisdom and Poetical Books

If the psalms are poems, why don’t they rhyme?

Hebrew poetry does not rhyme. There is structure, though. Some psalms are acrostic. In other words, some psalms are structured so that the first letters of the stanzas are the Hebrew alphabet in order.

Another common literary device in the psalms is parallelism. This means that the first line in a stanza expresses the same or opposite of what is expressed in the second line of a stanza. One example is found in Psalm 38:11 (KJV). It reads, “My lovers and friends stand aloof from my sore, and my kinsmen stand afar off.” The same idea is expressed twice.

In Psalms 37:21 (NRSV), the second idea contrasts with the first idea: “The wicked borroweth, and payeth not again: but the righteous showeth mercy, and giveth.” Parallelism is common in the book of Proverbs.



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