Interpretation of the symbolism used in poetry

Interpretation of the symbolism used in poetry

Interpretation of Symbolism

Understanding Symbolism in Psalms

  • Biblical Hebrew poetry often uses symbolic language to express deep, spiritual concepts.
  • In the Book of Psalms, symbolic language is utilized as a form of spiritual metaphor, turning common, everyday items into symbols of spiritual truths.
  • Knowing the cultural context of the biblical Hebrew era is critical for understanding the meanings of these symbols.

Common Symbols

  • Water: Frequently symbolising life and blessing. In the vulnerable desert environment of ancient Israel, water was a precious commodity.
  • Mountains and hills: Often represent political or religious power. They can also symbolise the presence of God, as God often reveals Himself on mountains (e.g., Mount Sinai or Mount Zion).
  • Light and darkness: These often symbolise good and evil, respectively. Light also stands for truth and divine revelation.

Symbolism in Specific Psalms

  • In Psalm 3, the psalmist describes God as a shield, symbolising divine protection and safety.
  • In Psalm 4, the request for God to “lift up the light of your face upon us” is symbolic of desiring God’s favour and blessing.
  • In Psalm 5, God is depicted as the hearer of prayers in the morning, symbolising His attentiveness and readiness to respond to our prayers.
  • In Psalm 7, God is likened to a judge, symbolising His justice and righteousness.
  • In Psalm 8, the psalmist uses the symbol of the heavens to represent the majesty and awe of God.
  • In Psalm 9, God is described as “a stronghold for the oppressed”, symbolising His protection and security.

Exploring Symbolism

  • The significance of these Hebrew poetry symbols is best explored through comparative examination, understanding the context of the psalm and its place in the biblical narrative as a whole.
  • Pay attention to reoccurring symbols throughout different Psalms. Often symbols serve as thematic links between different Psalms.

Contextualising Symbols

  • Remember, symbolism varies significantly across different cultures and eras. Understanding the historical or literary context of a psalm can provide insights into the intended meaning of a symbol.
  • Keep in mind that a single symbol can also carry different meanings in different contexts. Don’t limit your interpretation to a single, rigid definition. Be flexible in your analysis.