Hebrew and You with Lee M. Fields – Hebrew Poetry and Isaiah
According to Duvall and Hayes in Grasping God’s Word , more than one-third of the Old Testament is written in the form of poetry. (373) Modern English versions usually mark off poetry by punctuation, namely, by arranging into poetic lines rather than a continuous running text. This helps us identify poetic sections, but there is still more to understanding Hebrew poetry.
Hebrew and English poetry often use the same devises, e.g., rhyming, figures of speech, forms of parallelism, rare words or forms. But the may use them to different degrees or ways. Of course, it is oftentimes impossible to translate poetic features. Knowing some Hebrew can help us appreciate what authors…
What Has the Nile To Do With the Withywindle? Reading Isaiah Attentively
Guest post by Emily Varner of AcademicPS.com.
When my devotional Bible reading landed me in the book of Isaiah, I decided to take the opportunity to read it alongside the Zondervan Illustrated Bible Backgrounds Commentary: Isaiah. Since the material on Isaiah now exists on its own—separated from its grouping in the hefty hardcover volume that covers multiple books—it finally seemed like the right format for helping me slow down and pay better historical attention to the text without feeling like I was preparing a research paper.
This exercise has startled me, not merely with nuggets of understanding about Isaiah, but through conviction about how lazy my Bible reading has become. Rather than dig deeper into textual elements I didn't understand, I had perfected the skill of skimming over them.
Prophetic literature in particular can start to feel like the Lord of the Rings books—especially their longer poetic portions—except that finding a foothold through prophetic literature can prove even more challenging than keying into the
next plot element of a great story. And readers miss so much in the process. I
don't regret much allowing the words of Tom Bombadil wash over me, to be
forgotten as soon as I read them. But applying this reading strategy to the
Bible is a setup for trouble.
On one hand, I will gladly promote glossing over as a preferable error to asserting mistaken assumptions about a text. But reading Scripture in this default mode for too long stunted my ability to understand Isaiah's profound message about God's ways and work long ago: God simultaneously aligned with the military conquests of pagan nations while calling God's chosen people to hope, to difference, and to submission to God's ways and will.
And though I still have questions about exegeting prophetic literature in relation to the future, failing to consult historical background resources undoubtedly brings overly ahistorical, apocalyptic, or futuristic visions of God's word rushing into the void. Be very frightened when your Bible reading suggests an interpretation with little relevance to people in much different political, economic, and cultural circumstances than your own. I knew this much, but had been avoiding the cure.