Using Hebrew Poetry
By Jeff A. Benner

There are many different styles of Hebrew poetry as found in the Bible but, one in particular can assist us with uncovering the ancient meanings of Hebrew words. This style of poetry is called "parallelism", the expressing of one idea in two different ways. Psalms 119:105 is an example of this. ''Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.'' The phrase "lamp to my feet" is paralleled with "light for my path". This verse is not saying two different things, rather, one thing in two different ways.

Let us examine the word "believe" using this method. First we need to find the Hebrew word behind this translation by using the concordance and dictionary as discussed in the previous session. By looking up the word "believed" in the concordance we find Strong's number 539 assigned to this word. Below is the dictionary entry for this number.

539.

אמן aman {108x} , a primitive root; properly to build up or support; to foster as a parent or nurse; figurativly to render (or be) firm or faithful, to trust or believe, to be permanent or quiet; morally to be true or certain:- believe {44x}, assurance {1x}, faithful {20x}, sure {11x}, established {7x}, trust {5x}, verified {3x}, steadfast {2x}, continuance {2x}, father {2x}, bring up {4x}, nurse {2x}, be nursed {1x}, surely be {1x}, stand fast {1x}, fail {1x}, trusty {1x}.

We now know that the Hebrew word for "believe" is "aman" and has a very different meaning from our understanding of "believe". The Hebrew word "aman" appears to have the more Hebraic meaning of "support". Going back to the concordance we can look up this word looking for verses that contain parallels. Below are several verses with the word "aman" (#539) within them. As the books of Psalms and Proverbs are all poetic, this is the best place to find parallels.

Believed (116)
Because they b not in God Ps 78:22 539
b not for his wondrous works Ps 78:32 539
Then b they his words Ps 106:12 539

Now we look up each of these verses in the Bible and examine the poetry within them.

Psalm 78:22 Because they believed not in God, and trusted not in his salvation.

In this passage "believed not" is parelleled with "trusted not" and "in God" is parelleled with "in his salvation". The idea of "trusted" then is parelleled with "believed".

Psalm 78:32 For all this they sinned still, and believed not for his wondrous works.

Interestingly we find that in this passage "sinned" is parelleled with "believed not".

Psalm 106:12 Then believed they his words; they sang his praise.

Here "singing" is parelleled with "believing".

We are no longer confined to the English translation of any of the words within the passages above and can examine them from a more Hebraic perspective using the concordance and dictionary. To do this we go to the concordance and look up the word "sinned" looking for this particular passage. We then look up the Strong's number assigned to this word in the dictionary.

Sinned (119)
For all this they s still Ps 78:32 2398
2398.

חטא chata {238x} , a primitive root; properly to miss; hence (figuratively and generally) to sin; by inference to forfeit, lack, expiate, repent, (causative) lead astray, condemn:- sin {188x}, purify {11x}, cleanse {8x}, sinner {8x}, committed {6x}, offended {4x}, blame {2x}, done {2x}, fault {1x}, harm {1x}, loss {1x}, miss {1x}, offender {1x}, purge {1x}, reconcile {1x}, sinful {1x}, trespass {1x}.

The concrete meaning to "sin" is "to miss" as when aiming at a target. From the parellels between "believe not" and "sin" we find that if one "sins" they do not believe God showing that a belief in God is dependent upon our actions. We also found that "singing" is synonymous with "belief" as a belief in God is something to be expressed outwardly.