The Poems and Psalms of the Hebrew Bible

Series: Oxford Bible
Because of the command not to make 'graven images' the creativity of the ancient Jews was always somewhat constrained: instead of the visual arts, poetry and story became the two most important forms which depicted the relationship between God and his people. This book concentrates on the poetry of the Hebrew Bible. After considering the essential elements of Hebrew verse, it looks as the most familiar poems - the Psalms, the Song of Solomon, and the poetry in Job and Proverbs - as well as at less familiar examples of poems which by contrast are embedded in narrative, such as war poetry, harvest hymns, elegies, prayers of protest, and thanksgiving songs. Much of this poetry suggests an earlier setting in the life of the people - from a more popular family or clan setting as well as the official royal court, and from local outlying sanctuaries as well as at the Temple in Jerusalem. Hence although these biblical poems should be understood primarily as ancient literary texts, many also have a setting in life beyond the text, offering a broader framework of reference on account of their pre-literary history. This is a study for those who already have some grounding in the contents of the Hebrew Bible, but it is also designed to be read by non-specialists, and no knowledge of Hebrew is presumed. A select bibliography following each chapter offers suggestions for further study. This study completes the Oxford Bible Series.