How to Read the Bible: Poetry


We have been learning how to read biblical narrative and showing how the Bible is one unified story. But 30 percent of the Bible is made up of ancient poetry. I don’t know about you, but I don’t read a lot of stories where one out of three pages is some kind of poem. Yet poetry is everywhere in the Bible. Some biblical books are entirely poetry. Most of the Hebrew prophets wrote masterful poems. And the majority of God’s speech in the Bible is represented as poetry. It is also very common in biblical narrative for the story to pause while a character breaks out in poetic song. Like in the Exodus story. There is a narrative about Moses leading the Israelites through the waters of the sea. That is followed by a beautiful poem about the very same thing. Why a story and a poem? Wouldn’t one version suffice? Well, poetry has a different purpose than stories. Instead of describing the difference, let’s just experience it. Okay. So, one part of the story goes like this: “The waters were divided and the Israelites went through on dry land, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” That seems pretty clear. Right. Now the poem telling the same event. Oh, Lord, by the blast of your nostrils, the waters piled up. Surging waters stood like a wall. Deep waters congealed in the heart of the sea. Whoa! A wall of surging water like jello? Divine nostrils? This is intense. Yeah, the poem ignites your imagination through the experience of verbal art. Biblical poets did this with a specific set of tools. That is what we are going to look at: The Art of Biblical Poetry. The basic unit of any poem is the line. Then, many lines are designed together to make a poem. Okay, I am used to this kind of poem. There is a meter, cadence. Bum bum bum BUM Bum bum bum BUM And, there is rhyme. But, poems in the Bible don’t work like this. Yeah, biblical poems are what you could call “free verse”. They don’t use meter like some traditions of poetry do. And, they don’t use rhyme in the same way, either. So, biblical poems have no order to them? No, they just have a different kind of order. Biblical poems are most basically structured by couplets, two short lines that are carefully worded and placed beside each other. The first line makes the basic statement. Then, the second line develops it in some way. It can do this by completing the thought, or deepening it with different words or images. or by contrasting it in some way. So, check out the opening of Psalm 51. You can see it in action. In the first couplet, the poet asks God to show grace and love. But, how exactly? In the second line, he requests forgiveness for his failures. Okay, so this couplet is finishing one complete thought. Right. And then the next couplet opens with “washing” as a metaphor. Then the second line offers a more vivid image, that of a priest in the temple purifying things so they can be in God’s presence. Okay, so taking an image and deepening it. Right, and then this third couplet opens with the poet’s awareness of his sin, deep inside. That is followed by a description of the sin being outside. It is like it is in public, visible to themselves and other people. So this couplet takes an idea and contrasts it. Exactly. So, couplets by nature are a bit repetitive. But the repetitive language forces you to slow down and linger over the feeling and meaning of it all, looking at each idea from more than one angle. Then, groups of couplets can come together around one key idea. It is like a diamond with many facets, each line offering a different glimpse into the same core reality. So, this poem is exploring what it is like to be forgiven, offered a second chance. That is the kind of experience that can change a person. It is worth savoring and pondering. Now, biblical poets also use repetition on the larger scale. In many poems, you will find a key line that is repeated multiple times. That is called a “refrain”. Or, they will open and close the poem with a similar couplet. That is called an “inclusio”. So, biblical poets love design. Oh, yeah, these are works of verbal artistry. These poets use repetition to create all kinds of elaborate patterns that invite the reader to make connections between different parts of the whole poem that open up even deeper layers of meaning. Cool. So, I am feeling at home with ancient Hebrew poetry. But remember, poetry isn’t something you master and then move on. Biblical poems are a bottomless well. They are packed with a surplus of meaning for those who are willing to slow down and ponder them. And, they are trying to pull my mind in new directions and discover new ideas. Exactly. There is even one more tool that biblical poets have to do that very thing and that is what we will look at in the next video. You guys thank you for watching this video on how to read biblical poetry! Is our first video about poetry, we have a lot more in this ‘How To Read The Bible Series’ about how to read other parts of the Bible. We are crowdfunded non-profit, and that means that everything we make is free and it’s produced because of generosity of people like you who watch and pitch in for more, you can see everything we’ve made on the YouTube channel and at thebibleproject.com
Thank you guys!

100 thoughts on “How to Read the Bible: Poetry

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  2. I am so blessed with The Bible Project. Praise God for your ministry. May you guys continue to educate us with God's Word in a very creative way. Thank you for sharing us your wisdom and revelations from the Lord. I very much appreciate your gifts and annointings. May the Lord Jesus Christ stretch out His blessing hand to your ministry. To God be all the glory! God bless. πŸ™‚

  3. this channel is a Godsend… great bible learning resource topped with superb art and animation!

  4. You guys are crazy wise and blessed. It almost makes no sense to say "God bless you" because you already are πŸ˜€

  5. I have a doctorate in education and have been watching your videos. They are excellent! You guys are wonderful teachers. God bless you. Praying for you guys and your ministry.

  6. The animation is absolutely gorgeous ! 😍 and I learned a lot. Not gonna skip the songs that pop up in the narratives like I usually do!

  7. Just an open thought, could it not also be that things such as meter and rhyme have been lost in translation? The bible has been around for a long time, and has been trandlated many times over, especially in reformed Christian communities, or is there lingual and historic evidence which point toward a tradition with more free verse. The reason for wondering is that I myself lack perspective on my end, having just started out reading the Bible. I'm Swedish and the edition I'm reading was recently translated and published in the year 2000. Really like your videos, they are entertaining and super interesting.

  8. This is beautiful, you guys. The thought put into the Bible, which you explain through your videos, always stir in me a great desire to glorify God. He is, indeed, the greatest Author!
    God bless you! Keep on with the awesome work!

  9. Biblical poetry is beautiful as it speaks to the heart about God's truth. I love reading Psalms in particular.

  10. ❀❀❀ he seguido todas sus series! las veo subtituladas πŸ”₯ son de mucha bendiciΓ³n y he podido entender muchas cosas! esto es bΓ‘rbaro!

  11. What more can an art and literature student ask for?!! Seriously in depth and fantastic, really unpacks literary devices!

  12. thank you bible project. I am sharing this with my girlfriend who is starting out in understanding the Bible. I pray that she will one day accept Jesus as her Lord and Saviour. πŸ™‚

  13. Also dont forget that poetry is rythmic making it easier to recite/remember

  14. Such creativity brings me look at at God's word differently and get a deeper understanding of God's character. It's simply amazing. May God bless and provide for you to make more videos to strengthen the body of Christ.

  15. there are more layers to it if you look at its original language of hebrew where it has patterns in sounds as well for example

  16. Repent from your sins people, and be born again, believing is not enough, we need to repent, because that is real faith, Jesus loves us tho, that is why he gave himself on the cross, for our sins, repent and let us accept the Lord Jesus,
    You wont regret it.
    He changed my life,
    Let him do the same to you.

  17. This was excellent! I'm a literature minor and have ALWAYS LOVED literature, all sorts of literature, but I've always struggled with the Scriptures. Can't memorize it for the life of me, and while re-reading certain passages and books helps me to understand them, I apparently never had the tools to PROPERLY analyze what I was reading, especially poetry. This video is INVALUABLE to me! Thank you so much!!!

  18. I have been feeling a lack of passion recently, but I watched this whole series up to here and now I'm jacked! Thanks so much! God is really using you guys

  19. You guys are awesome. I hope you are able to make an entire series on the books of the Bible. It's important to go through all the books for their unique contexts and meanings. πŸ˜€

  20. I can't wait to watch and hear more from the Project. Each new video and teaching has blown my mind and really helped me internalize the deep truth and complexity of scripture. Thanks and much love!

  21. Is there a version of the bible in print or electronic format where the poems and prayers are identified to differentiate them from narrative text? I welcome your suggestions

  22. Thanks for all the videos that you have made πŸ˜πŸ˜‚πŸ‘ŠπŸ»πŸ€©πŸ€—

  23. You guys are amazing so blessed by watching your videos please never stop πŸ™πŸ½πŸ™πŸ½πŸ™πŸ½πŸ™πŸ½πŸ™πŸ½πŸ™πŸ½πŸ™πŸ½πŸ™πŸ½πŸ™πŸ½god continue to make it easy for them supply all there needs so they will continue to bless us with with there knowledge amen thank you Jesus

  24. I'm a visual learner – this was so good for me. I studied the Bible when in college but that was, er – a long time ago. Great video!!!.

  25. So grateful for these videos! Could y’all recommend some bible commentaries? I typically use Matthew Henry and am not familiar with more recent ones.

  26. I am so Glad that there isn't any hate on this channel! After the video, I would look at the comment section for rude people to try to fix it. There isn't any bad people on here! This is such a blessing

  27. Aww man! I feel so uneducated! But, I am gonna become so educated watching your videos. God bless you guys! πŸ™

  28. "I don't read a lot of stories where one out of three pages is some kind of poem." Don't ever read Tolkien, then, haha.

  29. I was just Imagining at Tim and Jon's part: Two small kids with full hearts of innocence and their parents praising Lord for giving them such blessed children of God.

  30. LOve it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!❀️❀️❀️❀️❀️❀️❀️❀️❀️❀️❀️❀️❀️

  31. Hiya thank you for Sharing what's name of the music you are playing on the thanks

  32. These videos are what I needed….in this day its so easy to just read the bible and put it down.,,,, understanding how it works cuts through bullshit leaving me wanting more…..THANK YOU SO MUCH πŸ™‚

  33. you should do bible comics, it would be awesome with that art style

  34. Does anyone have any advice for someone who really dislikes poetry but wants to read the Bible all the way through? I find the poetry books extremely valuable when I can read a single chapter at a time. Yet getting through 2 full books at once (Psalms followed by Probverbs) has ended my Bible read through twice. I want nothing more than to finally read the entire Bible, but weeks & weeks of nothing but poetry is daunting.

  35. The bottomless depths of meaning are what convinced me of the Divine nature of the Bible. There is no work authored by any human that embeds limitless semantics into a few lines of text. In fact, the amount of information present in biblical text appears to violate information theory (there is more information present than the scope of the space that combinatorial mechanics would allow).

  36. I’m really enjoying this series. God bless y’all in Jesus’ name✝️❀️

  37. It's very good. bless you. I write it in Korean, becuase I am used to expressing my mind Korean.

    μž₯λ‚œ μ•„λ‹ˆλ„€μš”. μ—„μ²­λ‚©λ‹ˆλ‹€. μ—„μ²­ 영적이고, μ˜ˆμˆ˜λ‹˜μ— λŒ€ν•΄μ„œ μ•Œκ²Œ ν•΄μ€˜μ„œ κ³ λ§™μŠ΅λ‹ˆλ‹€. μΆ•λ³΅ν•©λ‹ˆλ‹€. μ—¬λŸ¬λΆ„μ„ μœ„ν•΄ κΈ°λ„ν• κ²Œμš”.

  38. The animation in this video is mesmerizing and beautiful. God bless.

  39. Blast of your nostrils = released anger πŸ™‚ like when angry people breath heavily through the nostrils

  40. Roses are Red 🌹
    Violets are blue πŸ”΅
    Sugar is Sweet
    And So are you

  41. how can these poems be good when the original bible is not english? if those are just mere translation, how can it be as powerful as the original text considering that poems have cadence and rhyme?

  42. t

    @TT 1/14/19

    Beginning of Eternity.

    There are planets cooling, suns exploding, regurgitating, even now creation, recreation on and on it goes always has been always will be.

    Without beginning or end. I Am that I Am, To Be that I Be. All from one eternity. Father Son the Spirit one.

    Light from light God from God all through Logos we see. By Wisdom we know what surely be, by knowledge we recognize reality.

    Yes yes I see the majestic glory as far the eye lets me. Even then it just begins.

    The end is the beginning of eternity.

  43. Every good story has a beginning a middle and an end now even christians are baffled by the beginning cain getting a wife just one of many puzzling events which needs a real stretch of imagination or just have plain cognitive dissonance the beginning is the foundation and the bible has more flaws than the twin towers and we all know what happened there…they collapsed into rubble.

  44. Has anyone else noticed that these poetry tools translate through languages? All other poetry tools such as cadence, rhyme, onomatopoeia are instantly lost in language translation. It's like Hebrew poetry preference is set up to maintain its beauty, should it ever be translated into any language ever.

  45. This is great! There should be similar projects for all the great ancient texts – the Torah, the Q'uran, the ancient Hindu and Buddhists texts.

  46. "verbal art" cool term
    @3:22 couplets.. repetitive languge in poetry.. forces you to slow down and consider the meaning and the feeling of what is being said. Looking at the idea from different angles.
    .. it is the kind of experience that "can change a person"

  47. Mom and dad is not the best dad ever and you ever ever be. God 😜 never ever see God never ever again the Bible is not to say anything to you is not the good things you cannot not the best ever for the best best ever god ever for 😏😏😏😏😏😏😏😏😱😨😰πŸ˜₯πŸ₯ΆπŸ˜­πŸ˜­πŸ˜­πŸ˜­πŸ˜­πŸ˜­πŸ˜­πŸ˜­πŸ˜­πŸ˜­πŸ˜­πŸ˜­πŸ˜­πŸ₯ΊπŸ₯ΊπŸ₯ΊπŸ¦‹πŸ¦‡πŸ¦‡πŸ€βš½οΈπŸŽΎπŸπŸ€βš½οΈπŸŽΎπŸπŸ€βš½οΈπŸŽΎπŸπŸ€ΎπŸ½β€β™‚οΈπŸŒπŸ½β€β™€οΈπŸŒπŸΌβ€β™‚οΈπŸŒπŸ½β€β™€οΈπŸŒπŸΌβ€β™‚οΈπŸ§˜πŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ§˜πŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ§˜πŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸŠπŸΌβ€β™‚οΈπŸŠπŸΌβ€β™‚οΈπŸŠπŸΌβ€β™‚οΈπŸŠπŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ„πŸ½β€β™‚οΈπŸ„πŸΎβ€β™€οΈπŸ„πŸ½β€β™‚οΈπŸ„πŸΎβ€β™€οΈπŸ„πŸΎβ€β™€οΈπŸ„πŸ½β€β™‚οΈπŸ₯‰πŸ‡°πŸ‡²πŸ‡¨πŸ‡»πŸ‡°πŸ‡²πŸ‡­πŸ‡·πŸ‡¨πŸ‡±πŸ‡§πŸ‡ΎπŸ‡§πŸ‡§πŸ‡§πŸ‡§πŸ‡§πŸ‡²πŸ‡§πŸ‡²πŸ‡¨πŸ‡»πŸ‡²πŸ‡½πŸ‡·πŸ‡ͺπŸ‡ΉπŸ‡΄πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸ΄σ §σ ’σ ·σ ¬σ ³σ ΏπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸ΄σ §σ ’σ ·σ ¬σ ³σ ΏπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡ΈπŸ΄σ §σ ’σ ·σ ¬σ ³σ ΏπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¬πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¬πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¬πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¬πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡¬πŸ΄σ §σ ’σ ·σ ¬σ ³σ ΏπŸ΄σ §σ ’σ ·σ ¬σ ³σ ΏπŸ΄σ §σ ’σ ·σ ¬σ ³σ ΏπŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ Mom I’m bored mom what are you doing why are you saying nothing OK that’s it I’m going to call 911 under arrest mom

  48. πŸ˜’πŸ˜’πŸ˜’πŸ˜’πŸ˜’πŸ˜‡πŸ˜‡πŸ˜‘πŸ˜‡πŸ˜‘πŸ˜‡πŸ˜‘πŸ˜‡πŸ˜‘πŸ˜‡πŸ˜‘πŸ˜‡πŸ˜‘πŸ˜‡πŸ˜‘πŸ˜‡πŸ˜‘πŸ˜‡πŸ˜‡πŸ˜‘πŸ˜‡πŸ˜«πŸ˜˜πŸ§πŸ˜›πŸ˜«πŸ§πŸ˜–πŸ˜«πŸ˜πŸ˜©πŸ˜˜πŸ˜πŸ˜€πŸ˜©πŸ˜›πŸ˜°πŸ˜€πŸ˜©πŸ˜›πŸ˜€πŸ™ƒπŸ€¨πŸ€¨πŸ₯³πŸ˜›πŸ˜«πŸ˜πŸ˜³πŸ˜˜πŸ˜­πŸ˜­πŸ˜­πŸ€―πŸ€―πŸ˜›πŸ˜€πŸ˜©πŸ˜°πŸ˜±πŸ˜±πŸ˜±πŸ€—πŸ€£πŸ€£πŸ€£πŸ€£πŸ˜‚πŸ‡¨πŸ‡±πŸ₯‰πŸŠπŸΌβ€β™‚οΈπŸŠπŸΌβ€β™‚οΈπŸŠπŸΌβ€β™‚οΈπŸ§€πŸ₯©πŸ”πŸ₯©πŸ₯©πŸ§€πŸ€ΈπŸΎβ€β™‚οΈπŸŠπŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸ›ΆπŸ§‘βœοΈπŸ΄πŸ΄πŸ΄πŸ΄πŸ΄πŸ΄πŸ΄πŸ΄πŸ΄πŸ΄πŸ΄πŸ‡²πŸ‡Ύ

  49. πŸ€–+πŸ‘πŸΎ=😻
    1234 and Abcd. How are three sounds boring duo boo-boo boo boo boo boo for Bible project

  50. Does in genesis when is says something along the lines of
    God said let there be light and there was light
    and
    God said let there be a vault between the water
    would that count as a refrain?

  51. 3:35 this video has got to be one of the most beautiful videos I've seen from TBP. I absolutely love it, especially the art. Kudos to everyone behind the animation. πŸ’–

  52. No meter/cadence or rhyme ? Was it like that also in their original language? It's my understanding that gematria is of crucial importance to bible scholars , as much as each word decided to use for each verse. Wasn't it also essential to memorize exactly each piece (as we do with modern music of poetry) to preserve the works through time with as much fidelity as possible since for a long time they weren't supposed to write it down?

    i think they don't rhyme in modern languages because translators are more occupied with capturing the meaning, as literal and as close as possible, as it would have been intended and that's why there is debate over some words even today. No?

  53. Psalms 6 got me through my depression and helped me turn to God. It's so simple and powerful!

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