The Story of Biblical Poetry
Open the Bible. It is an old book, compiled over hundreds of years, composed in vast deserts and along raging river beds, recited on slate-capped mountain tops and in cities built of white stone gleaming in the hot red Mediterranean sunset. It tells the story of families, deceits and pleasures, of simple men and women, heroes, villains, and kings, terrible battles and astonishing miracles. It paints the portrait of a wrathful, punishing God, a loving, nurturing God. And of God’s relationship to individuals – personal, poignant, perplexing. It tells the story of human experience.
Human beings are creatures of habit; one of our most consistent habits is storytelling. How do we tell our stories? Orally, and in writing. The history of written language is rife with myths, legends, tales – and poems. Indeed, one of the oldest forms of storytelling is the poem. It is a compact, compressed form of expression. Every word has a precise weight and measure. The poem, whatever its length, shows an economy of literary expression. It has texture, tone, image, rhythm, meter, and sometimes rhyme.
Open the Bible. Its poems show you the anguish of Lamentations, bewailing the devastation of Jerusalem by Babylon; the playful eroticism and luscious imagery of Solomon in Song of Songs; the humor and wit of the Wisdom Writings; the joy and devotion of praising God in song; the fantastic imagery of kingly dreams and visions; the tender approach of the psalmist to healing, death, parenting, the presence of the divine in day-to-day human life. Hills of Spices is not intended as a comprehensive