Work of the Fellows: Monographs

Major Poems of the Hebrew Bible: At the Interface of Hermeneutics and Structural Analysis

By J. P. Fokkelman (NHC Fellow, 1990–91)

Assen, Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1998

From the publisher’s description:

This book presents a comprehensive discussion of three famous poems which are studied as works of art. A full description of their prosodic regularity, as well as the variations on it, is given, and goes hand in hand with a detailed structural analysis of the lower and higher textual units. Great care is taken to find the correct delimitation of cola (half-verses), verses, strophes and stanzas, and, in the case of Deut.32, of its four big sections, after which all things fall into place.

The articulation of the higher units underpins the discursive or argumentative structure of Deut.32 and Job 3 and is a solid basis for an interpretation that tries to honour the thematic developments in these songs. In the case of Ex.15, of which the stanzaic division is already known, the attention shifts to the lower levels. The contours and rhythms of its short cola, and its verses and strophes are studied and accounted for. The chapter on Job 3 has a special feature. The count of premasoretic syllables is shown to be an essential part of the numerical perfection of this poem.

A major point of departure for this book, which is corroborated by its results, is that these poems are so complex (read: of such many-layered significance) that they cannot be given their due by a simple set of techniques or fixed canon of interpretive procedures. This poetry requires a flexible approach which tries to cover the full range of its brilliant usage of language, style and structure. 

Religion / Literary Criticism / Poetry / Biblical Studies / Hebrew Bible /

Fokkelman, J. P. (NHC Fellow, 1990–91). Major Poems of the Hebrew Bible: At the Interface of Hermeneutics and Structural Analysis. Studia Semitica Neerlandica. Assen, Netherlands: Van Gorcum, 1998.