The Conventions of Biblical Poetry

A brief introduction to the devices and characteristics of in this biblical genre.

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Lamentations mourns Babylon's destruction of Jerusalem and as a substitute for a fall festival, but without celebration. Three dirges alluding to the usually festive pilgrimage, enthronement ceremony, and banquet emphasize Jerusalem's terrible suffering (Lamentations 1,2,4). The supplications for the atonement ceremony (Lamentations 3) and judgment (Lamentations 5) plead for restoration.

The Song of Songs consists of dialogue between a king and a young woman accompanied by young men and maidens who sing their wedding songs. Most songs have parallel stanzas; some are chiasms. Parallel episodes each include several songs, and are separated by interludes. Song of Songs is traditionally considered a wisdom book and rightly so, judging by its praises, motifs, and allusions to a moral story in Proverbs (Proverbs 5:1-6:5, 6:20-27). Song of Songs 5:2-7 is based on an allegorical poem about personified Wisdom (Proverbs 1:20-28).

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Jennifer T. Parkhurst received her Ph.D. in Developmental Psychology from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. She is currently enrolled as a graduate student in the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.