Poetry may be hard to understand

In Unlocking the Old Testament, Victor L. Ludlow explained that Old Testament poetry - including Psalms, Proverbs and much of Isaiah - is hard to understand and recognize for several reasons:

"1. We usually do not know the Hebrew forms of speech, the Israelite cultural settings or the symbolisms found in the writings."2. The poet or prophet usually does not explain everything. He leaves much interpretative work to us.

"3. When a poetic work is highly structured . . . the material is sometimes stilted, stretched, or forced by the author to fit the pattern.

"4. Sometimes we want to read into the material more than the author originally tried to present.

"5. We are usually unfamiliar with the parallelistic poetic style, and only as we read and study it can we better recognize and appreciate it."