The Bible, or the Scriptures, has existed for more than millennia, its writings both mystical and powerful. Among all, two books in the Old Testament stand out, particularly the Book of Psalms and Proverbs.
If one would consider the Bible as a basis for Hebrew poetry, we will notice that most of the verses do not rhyme and scholars agree that it is truly difficult to measure the metric system used since, according to Isaacs (1918), the biblical poems are derived from folklore or improvised, thus the unnatural rhythm. Also, Briggs (1886) stated that Hebrew Poetry “does not count the syllables or measure the feet; but it counts the words and measures by the beats of the accent”(164). Yet one cannot deny the beauty of the prose since theories suggest that the unique movement of rhythm can be ascribed to the fact that the poet is working under the influence of his strong emotions (Isaacs 20)
The Book of Psalms is consisted mostly of prayers: praises to God, prayers for aid and for wisdom and strength. The themes of the prayers are the following: prayers for battle, the greatness of God, prayers for the forsaken, prayers for salvation, for forgiveness and for wisdom. It also deals with delight with the laws of the Lord and emphasizes them not being burdensome. Solomon wrote the Psalms as his tribute to God and all the blessings that he received; he wrote the contents of the book under extreme emotion which adds mystique and depth to his works. The book was written to be sung, thus adding to its unique nature. Below is an example of one of the verses found in Psalms:
“For evildoers shall be cut off: but those that wait upon the Lord,
they shall inherit the earth.” (Psalms 37:9)
The Book of Psalms also tackle the rewards of those who are worthy and the punishment of the wicked.
The Book of Proverbs mainly deals with “nuggets of wisdom” or advices on how to conduct oneself and to live one’s life. The Book of Proverbs focuses on Wisdom and its manifestations, namely righteousness, truth, diligence, peace, Fear of the Lord, a merry heart, humility, friendship and integrity. It also emphasizes its importance as a factor to us having a successful life.
According to Rev. David Merrill:
“In the constitution and government of the world, God has given no encouragement to idleness…And so if he would be wise unto salvation, he must strive for that wisdom; or rich toward God…”
According to Rev. Merrill’s sermons, wisdom is a key to prosperity—religion is founded on principles and is not only consistent but also a source of joy and comfort. And once this has been achieved, the ones who believed will be glorified since the church will be enlarged and most of the population would be encouraged to be part of the congregation:
“The Proverbs of Solomon.
A Wise son maketh a glad father: but a foolish son is the heaviness of his mother”(Proverbs 10:1)
The two verses above are similar in their writing style for they employ the “Antithetic Parallelism” that is prevalent in the Bible. Parallelism itself is common in the Bible but these two verses specifically use “Antithetic Parallelism”: the first and second line usually contrast with each other. It is interesting to note that although both Proverbs and Psalms’ style are similar in terms of their usage of parallelisms, the Proverbs are more inclined to be narrative in a nature compared to the Book of Psalms which is more whimsical. Also, the most prominent theme in both books is the lesson of wisdom. As Rev. Merrill emphasizes, there should be a thirst for wisdom so that not only will there be prosperity but also glory that comes from God. Merrill suggests that deriving from the book Proverbs, man should ‘walk in wisdom’ and by doing so, set himself apart from other people and be viewed different in a positive light.
In conclusion, though the Book of Psalms and Proverbs differ in style in terms of the former having a whimsical nature and the latter a narrative approach, majority of the verses in both books possess the structural style of “Antithetic Parallelism”, wherein the first and second line contrast with each other. Although the Book of Psalms usually talks about praises, prayers and hymns to God while Proverbs offer advice, they both tackle the same theme which is the importance and the acquisition of wisdom. God given wisdom, as the books discuss it, is important to lead a successful, principled life
Bratcher, Dennis. 2007. Parallelism in Hebrew Writing. Biblical and Theological Resources for Growing Christians. (Bible Topics). Retrieved March 28, 2009 from http://www.cresourcei.org/parallel.html.
Briggs, C. A. (1886). Hebrew Poetry. Hebraica, Vol. 2, 164-170. Retrieved March 22, 2009 from http://www.jstor.org/stable/527473
Isaacs, E. (1918). The Metrical Basis of Hebrew Poetry. The American Journal of Semitic Languages and Literatures, Vol. 35, 20-54. Retrieved March 26, 2009 from http://www.jstor.org/stable/528587
Merrill, D. (1855). Sermons. Harvard University: Vermont Chronicle Press.