The 2001 Translation Translator NotesNote

Hebrew Songs and Poetry

While we as translators claim no in-depth knowledge of the Hebrew language (the OT portion of this Bible is taken from the Greek Septuagint text), we do find the prophecies, blessings, and songs both interesting and beautiful, because they were written, spoken, and sung poetically.

In both Ancient Hebrew and Greek, you’ll find that rather than putting the words together in a rhyme in their poetry, as we commonly do in English today where ending words must sound alike; The sentences fit together so that the thoughts follow each other in an orderly progression, which makes them easy to remember and to sing.
For by this method;
As long as a person understands the thought, the poetry can be correctly repeated even when slightly different words are used.

You’ll notice that many Hebrew songs were broken into four lines per verse, the thoughts of which followed in a logical order (the first sentence is followed by the same thought in the second sentence). A classic illustration of this style of Hebrew poetry can be found at Psalm 18:4, 5, where we read:

‘By the pangs of death, I once was surrounded…
I was being attacked by floods of the lawless.
Of the place of the dead, I was in fear…
And I was expecting death’s snares.’

Unfortunately, however, we don’t always find such symmetry throughout the texts, and we don’t know if this is because it was originally written that way, or because of our misunderstanding of the Ancient Hebrew methods or words, or due to the fact that much has been lost in transcribing or translating over time.

Yet, you will notice that in this Bible, entire books (such as Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, etc.) and most of the words that God or His messenger spoke in the prophetic works (such as in Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc.) were written as poetry.
And notice that even Jesus (in many of his parables) spoke that way…
The ‘beatitudes’ in Matthew 5 are a good example of this.

We know that these texts were originally written as poetry or songs, because in the translating process, we could recognize the cadence from the order and progression of the words. In fact, although we didn’t write it that way, the entire First Chapter of Genesis was clearly written as a poem or song…
Just look at the order and the starting words of each paragraph.

Why did God’s spokesperson and the ancients speak in poetry?
It was probably done so that the words could be remembered and sung…
For songs were the ancient method of mass communication before the printed page.

Notice that wherever we found the natural poetic rhythm in our translating, we have tried to restore the cadence for your benefit. This required some rearranging and the addition or removal of extraneous words, but we have zealously worked to maintain the true meanings of the texts.

Why did we do this?
Well, not only does it provide a more pleasant reading, but also in places where the lyrics can’t be resolved, it is easy to see where something may have been lost through the years due to poor translation or deliberate forgery.
Note Proverbs 25 and 26 for example;
For the lack of natural cadence and harmony there makes us wonder whether something has been lost in copying or translating.
Remember that those were SONGS!

Also note two verses of the song that the IsraElite women were singing when Saul and David returned from a battle, as found at 1 Samuel 18:7:

‘Saul has cut down his thousands,
And David his tens of thousands.’

Although these were just two lines of a much longer victory song, the particular words offended King Saul;
For he felt that David was being considered more important by the people than he was.
Yet, if you understand Hebrew poetry, you can see that the words were just part of a natural poetic progression and they weren’t necessarily chosen to offend Saul.
Rather, Saul was being a bit over-sensitive.

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