Brush Up Your Hebrew Poetry

And have an exciting time doing so.

Samuel S. T. Goh’s The Basics of Hebrew Poetry is a gem. Here is a compact and reliable guide to gaining the most from the poetry of Scripture. God used poetry to communicate His will because poetry can do things in the souls of receptors that narrative or other forms cannot. And Dr. Goh’s book is an indispensable guide for leading us through this exciting hermeneutical adventure.

The book is divided into two parts. In the first part, chapters 1-4, Dr. Goh addresses the various poetic devices that make Hebrew poetry poetic. His work is firmly rooted in the history of Hebrew poetry studies, as well as in its most current research. His chapters explain such poetic devices as parallelism – not just of thoughts, but words, morphemes, sounds, and more – terseness, ellipsis, meter, and figurative language. He fully explains each of these and shows how they function in Hebrew poetry from a wide variety of sources and examples.

In chapters 5-7, Dr Goh analyzes in glorious detail three examples of Hebrew poetry: Psalm 1, Ecclesiastes 1.3-8; and Job 42.2-6. Here he brings together all his conclusions from the first part of the book to show the uniquely poetic aspects of these texts, and to draw out from them Christocentric teaching and sound redemptive applications. He provides a reliable hermeneutical model for studying Hebrew poetry, whether for personal enrichment or for preaching and teaching. An Epilogue reviews the whole book and serves as an excellent touchstone for future refreshing and review.

Each chapter includes section and chapter summaries which remind us of the important issues discussed and conclusions reached. The various aspects of his argument are bolstered and clarified by hundreds footnotes from a wide range of theological resources.

Reading this book makes me want to pay more attention to the poetry of Scripture, as well as to poetry crafted from within the Christian tradition. I highly recommend this book for anyone who teaches the Word of God, and for anyone who wants to learn to read it better.


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