Our Poetry Study/Psalm 150

Dear Reader,

In our homeschool we have been going through a free unit study on poetry. It uses the Random House Book of Poetry and discusses various poetic devices like rhyme, alliteration, etc. Overall it has been very good. This week was symmetry or structural devices. For example, one poem had the same two lines at the beginning and end of the poem.

While the study has been good overall, we found this week’s examples hard to understand. The poem’s themselves are simple and kid-friendly. But the structural devices for the  most part seemed little more than repetition of words and phrases (which had been covered a previous week). The fact is, English poetry doesn’t seem to use structure as a unifying force . It use rhyme and rhythm.

Hebrew poetry, on the other hand, uses parallelism and structure as its main devices. It does not use rhyme and does not seem to use rhythm (there are many books on Hebrew poetry which will discuss rhythm but as they can’t come up with one unifying theory, I take it to mean that rhythm is not a major device in Hebrew poetry).

So I pointed this out to the children and said that I would have to find them some good examples from the Psalms. My 11-year-old replied that Psalm 150 does this with the phrase “Praise the Lord.” (See the benefit of singing the Psalms? He knows many of them now without forced memorization.) So we looked it up and here is what we found:

Praise the LORD!

Praise God in his sanctuary;
Praise him in his mighty heavens!

Praise him for his mighty deeds;
Praise him according to his excellent greatness!

Praise him with trumpet sound;
Praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance;
Praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals;
Praise him with loud clashing cymbals!

Let everything that has breath praise the LORD!

Praise the LORD!

[Psalm 150; ESV]

I have rearranged the verse divisions to show what we discovered. As you can see, the psalm begins and ends with “praise the Lord!” All the other lines (with the exception og the final one) also begin with “praise.” The first section, two lines, tell where to praise the Lord. The next section, also two lines, tell why to praise the Lord. The third section, six lines, tell how to praise the Lord. And the final section, one line, tells who should praise the Lord. Isn’t that wonderful? Isn’t that a beautiful way for the Psalter, the church’s own book of praise, to end?

Honestly, I can’t think what else to say. The Psalm says it all so beautifully. I hope to find other psalms to go over in this way with my children and to post here.

Happy Sabbath.


One response to this post.

  1. […] have begun studying Hebrew poetry and how it works. (See this earlier post on Psalm 150.) My approach is to write out a psalm, or some verses of  a psalm, and to give each […]


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