How to interpret Wisdom Literature (Proverbs) PART 2—The Style of the Book of Proverbs.

Some find it difficult to understand the Book of Proverbs, and the reason is because they do not understand the style in which it was written.

The Book of Proverbs was written in the style of Hebrew poetry. Jewish poetry is quite different from Westernized poetry. It did not rhyme as contemporary poems often do.

Jewish poetry used rhymes of thoughts, rather than of sounds. These are known as parallels. So similar thoughts follow after each other, not similiar sounds, in Jewish poems.

See Proverbs 24:1, for example, “Do not be ENVIOUS of evil men, (1st parallel)

Nor DESIRE to be with them (2nd parallel)

The two statements are saying the SAME THING but in different words. This is how Jewish poetry “rhymed” (a rhyme of thoughts, not words).

The most common type of parallelism in Proverbs is the antithetic parallelism, where two opposite thoughts follow each other for the sake of emphasis. An example here is Proverbs 15:1, “A soft answer turns away wrath, BUT a harsh word stirs up anger.

A soft answer” is the opposite of “a harsh word.” A “soft answer” turns away wrath, WHILE “a harsh word” stirs up anger. The word “but” is to show an antithesis. An opposite thought.


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2022.


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