David the Hebrew Song Master and the Elements of Hebrew Poetry
David, son of Jesse, was many things: he was a shepherd boy, a singer/song writer, a warrior, a king, a murderer, and finally he was a man after God’s own heart. David started his life as the youngest and least of 8 brothers, and was consigned to the outer fields to tend and defend the sheep. But it was there in the fields that he was being prepared to care for and defend the nation of Israel. And the prophet Samuel was perceptive enough to see that, so that according to Hebrew Scripture he was moved by the Spirit of God to anoint David the next king to supplant the despot, backsliding King Saul.
And in the course of due time through a series of alliances by marriage between his family and the kings family, David was called to serve in Saul’s royal court as a singer and amour bearer to the increasingly depressed and defunct King Saul, gaining Saul’s great favor. But when it was found that David could hold his own in the battle, even to killing a man many times his size with a well placed stone from a slingshot, David increased in popularity as the envious King Saul declined and was himself in battle, along with his son and David’s close friend; thus David was finally placed on the throne.
But, alas, David had his own great moral failure when he fell in love with another man’s wife, by the name of Bathsheba, and impregnated her. So to cover up his sin, King David sent her husband Uriah, one of his chief warriors, to the front lines to fight the enemy in order to deliberately get him killed. And yes, he was tragically killed, however Davids sincere remorse over his crime, his repentance, and his continued devotion to God saved his throne, and he was thence called “a man after God’s own heart” also being promised by the prophet through a word from God that the Christ would be born through his line of heirs.
But although he was a King and a great warrior, David also had his fame as a great singer and song writer, and we call his work the Psalms, These famous Psalms he wrote, many recorded in the Bible, covered the whole gamut of the ups and downs human experience from fear and deep depression to high praise for the God of the universe. Two good examples of these highs and lows can be found in Psalm 43 and Psalm 103:
Psalm 43 is a cry for help and shows the frail human side of the great king, without, however, ever losing hope because of his faith in the Hebrew God.
Psalm 43 King James Version (KJV)
And then we find the glorious joyful highs of David’s life as expressed in Psalm 103, verses 1-6.
Psalm 103 King James Version (KJV)
David wrote in the markedly seductive repetitive ancient cadence of ancient Hebrew parallelism in which the same thought is repeated in different ways from line to line for emphasis, and there are five such poetry books in the old testament which are: Job, Proverbs, Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Solomon. However, this ancient form of verse was also repeated in the New Testament in the Beatitudes of Jesus in the Sermon on the mount in which Jesus says “Blessed are the poor in spirit…Blessed are the pure in heart…Blessed are the meek,,,blessed are the peacemakers…, and again in Paul’s love chapter to the Corinthian’s in which he wrote, “love is patient…is kind…love envy’s not…is not puffed up….
So unlike English poetry which has meter and rhyme and derives from the Greek and Latin traditions, Hebrew poetry is markedly free verse, without a set form, rhythm or rhyme and was born of the Canaanite middle eastern tradition of a hypnotic repetitive parallelism.