The Poetic Structure of the Book of Job and the Ugaritic Literature -- By: Charles Lee Feinberg

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 103:411 (Jul 1946)
Article: The Poetic Structure of the Book of Job and the Ugaritic Literature
Author: Charles Lee Feinberg

The Poetic Structure of the Book of Job and the Ugaritic Literature

Charles Lee Feinberg


Within the short period of less than half a century (1887–1929) the scholarly world was placed under heavy debt to two peasants. Through a peasant woman at Tell El-Amarna in Egypt the valuable Amarna Tablets were brought to light (1887), and through the plowing of an Alaouite peasant at Ugarit in Syria the even more important Ras Shamra texts were later unearthed by the French archaeologist Schaeffer (1929). The texts resulting from these discoveries date from a period about the middle of the second millennium B.C. The findings at Ras Shamra have opened to us the vast extent of the Canaanite civilization: its society, commerce, political institutions, and religion.1 These had formerly been only imperfectly known through allusions in the Hebrew Bible and from Greek sources. As study progresses much light is being thrown not only upon Hebrew lexicography, grammar, and poetry, but also upon the cultural milieu in which Israel came to live in Canaan.

The task of comparing the Biblical literature with the Ras Shamra alphabetic texts is an exacting one and has many ramifications. The purpose of this article is to compare the poetic structure of both literatures. The matters

of similarities and differences in grammar, vocabulary, and concepts will occupy us in future studies.

Hebrew Metrics

Though unanimity has not been achieved on all points and much remains yet to be done, the study of Hebrew meter has made definite advance. Some of the early deliverances on the subject were those of Josephus and Philo, who held that Hebrew poetry had meter.2 Whether they were judging by Greek models or not, as some affirm, it is impossible to determine. Toward the end of the eighteenth century Lowth made his contribution to the study in his lectures at Oxford.3 To him we are indebted for characterizing the basic relationship in Hebrew verse as parallelismus membrorum.4 This phenomenon had been noticed before him by Ibn Ezra (twelfth century) and Kimchi (thirteenth century), but the latter had not designated it in the clear fashion which Lowth did. Lowth also maintained that the utterances of the prophets especially, as well as other parts of the Hebrew Bible, were originally in metrical form. Subsequent study has borne out the validity of this position. His shortcomings were that he drew his examples from Greek and Latin sources, since he was not conversant with Oriental lit...

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