Studies In Hebrew Poetry -- By: B. B. Edwards

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 005:17 (Feb 1848)
Article: Studies In Hebrew Poetry
Author: B. B. Edwards

Studies In Hebrew Poetry1

Prof. B. B. Edwards

Age of the Alphabetical Poems

When we investigate the unknown forms of ancient poetry, it must be regarded as an advantage if we meet with anything, proceeding from the authors or their times, which exhibits an authentic division of the verses. Dispensing with conjecture and experiment as to the manner in which the text is to be separated into members, we can at once examine the condition of the single divisions of the verses, the incidental grouping of them into strophes, and the entire external structure of the poem; and from these observations, we can look at the other poems and see how far the same or similar forms may be revealed in them, and thus enlarge and complete our inquiries. Such an advantage is furnished to the student in the field of ancient Hebrew poetry by those alphabetic poems whose external form is distinguished by the alphabetic arrangement regularly appearing at the beginning of each verse or group of verses. We have no inconsiderable number of them. They are Psalms 9 and 10, 25, 34, 37, 111, 112, 119, 145, Prov. 31:10–31, Lam. 1–4. Hence an inquiry on the form of Hebrew poetry has to begin with these; especially the preliminary question, whether the Hebrew poets in general composed in prescribed forms, must here first find its solution. Still, before we proceed to the examination of these poems, it will be proper to ascertain the age of this alphabetic structure, since on this may depend the utility of the results. If the alphabetic Psalms as such belong to the latest period of Hebrew poetry, then the conclusion in respect to the forms of these pieces, in relation to those of the older poems, would be the more doubtful from the fact that they have been assigned to a period when true poetry was extinct, and an artificial structure had usurped the place of a free poetic inspiration, and thus a form foreign to the old poetry may have been introduced. Certainly in this respect modern critics have passed a judgment on this species of poems in

the highest degree unfavorable. De Wette, in his Introduction to the Psalms, remarks: “I consider the alphabetic arrangement as a contrivance of the rhythmical art, a product of a...

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