Document Type

Book Chapter

Date

1993

Embargo Period

2-4-2011

Keywords

Hebrew, prose, Bible, inset poetry, Judaism

Language

English

Disciplines

Biblical Studies | Religion

Description/Abstract

The Hebrew Bible contains many passages in which prose narrative surrounds conspicuous poetry. The various theoretical and practical difficulties in distinguishing Hebrew prose from verse in other texts do not negate this observation. Explicit genre labels often appear in both the prose frameworks and the beginnings of poems, telling readers that the genre and mode have changed. The interpretive problem then becomes, not whether this is verse, but why poetry appears precisely here. What does poetic expression accomplish that Hebrew prose narrative cannot or will not do?

Comparative study of conspicuous inset poetry suggests that Hebrew narratives use it to achieve certain distinguishable effects. The placement of poetry within prose became an established convention of Hebrew narrative, and the broad lines of this convention's development can be discerned in the history of First and Second Temple Jewish literature. Beginning with the explicit markers of poetic genres, I will survey the voicing, narrative roles, and history of Hebrew inset poetry.

Additional Information

From the book "Verse in Ancient Near Eastern Prose."

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