Psalm 24

Dear Reader,

We 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 child a copy to color up and then to discuss is all together. Hebrew poetry is based primarily on parallelism, not on rhyme or rhythm (see here and here). So I instruct the children to look for things that are repeated or go together in some way, perhaps synonyms or opposites. They seem to have gotten the hang of this pretty quickly and I think  as we go through more psalms together, they will become more adept ast seeing the parallels and what stands out as significant.

The first portion we attempted in this way was the beginning of Psalm 24:

“Belonging to the Lord (is) the earth and its fullness

the world and its inhabitants

For He, upon the seas, he founded it

and upon the rivers he established it.”

(Ps. 24:1-2; my translation)

I can’t seem to get the words to line up correctly here, but on the copies i made for them I had “the world . . . ” below “the earth” and “upon the rivers” below “upon the seas” so the parallels are very easy to see.

I picked these two verses to begin with because the parallels are obvious. In the first two lines, “the earth” corresponds to “the world” and “its fullness” to “its inhabitants.” In the second pair, “upon the seas” is paralleled by “upon the rivers” and “he founded it” by “he established it.”

One good question to ask ourselves once we have marked up the things that are clearly parallel is what is left? What things do not have matchers? In the first set of lines, “Belonging to the Lord” has no parallel. But what my 7-year-old noticed is that the “He” in the third line refers to the Lord in the first. So he had colored these the same color. This is actually a really good observation. It is not so obvious in English, but Hebrew like Spanish, Greek, and other languages does not require one to use the personal pronoun with the verb. The person is included in the verb form. For example in Spanish, “I have” is “tengo.” I don’t need to say “yo tengo.” To do so emphasizes the “yo” (“I”). In this verse of Psalm 24, the Hebrew has done just that. Line three (which is verse 2 of the psalm) begins with the personal pronoun. This emphasizes that it is “he”, that is the Lord, who has done these things. I have tried to convey this in English by saying “he” twice, which I suppose is what the Hebrew is essentially doing.

So our analysis of just these two verses led to two good conclusions:

1. The two pairs of verses are connected because they both begin with a reference to the Lord (“the Lord” and then that “He”).

2. This emphasizes that it is the Lord’s doing. The focus is on Him.

I was really pleased with how our first session with a psalm went. I hope to do one weekly for a while and will post about our observations. There are not necessarily right answers here so if you have other observations I would love to hear them.

If you would like to do something similar, please feel free to use my psalm translations. If you want to do other bits and can’t translate from the Hebrew yourself, I would suggest just getting a good translation and trying to line up the verses so that the parallels can be easily seen. Ignore English punctuation and verse divisions! These came later and are themselves interpretative. They may lead you astray.


One response to this post.

  1. […] our study of Hebrew poetry by analyzing a selection from Psalm 6 (for a little background see this post). Here is the text we were working with: Lord, how long in your anger will you reprove […]


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