He relates that this is not readily discernible in the Bible for various reasons: 1) the Old Testament as a work of prose dominated the approach to all Biblical literature; 2) much of the rest of the Bible, though actually poetic in character, was copied as prose; and 3) because of the treatment of the Bible as sacred literature and the concern to fix the exact wording of the text to establish an authoritative interpretation, poetry was leveled out as prose.
While the "word of God is predominantly [written down in] the prose narrative ... the original medium was poetry ... a product of the divine spirit" (1980:1). Freedman reiterates that from the beginnings of prophecy in Israel at least until the exile, poetry was the central medium of prophecy. In subsequent centuries the revival of prophecy brought with it a revival of poetry. Other authors who agree with Freedman state, "It seems that the Spirit of God often used poetry as He lifted up the prophets to the highest of spiritual experiences" (Ridderbos and Wolf 1986:891).
The only other ancient Semitic languages with comparable bodies of poetic literature are Ugaritic and Akkadian. Ugaritic tablets discovered at Ras Shamra (an ancient city on the north Syrian coast) contain over 4,000 lines of verse dating to about 1400 B.C. The term Akkadian (Asyro-Babylonian) denotes the poetic literature of ancient Mesopotamia written 1000 B.C. to 800 B.C. It includes most of the forms of parallelism found in the Hebrew literature.
[I]t is only since the discovery of poetic texts in
Ugaritic and Akkadian that certain techniques of
poetry could be recognised [sic] in Hebrew. This
knowledge is expanding: at the same time as these
techniques are becoming better understood ...
Scholarship has pro translation from both Ugaritic and Akkadian is reliable and therefore poetic analysis is possible (Watson 1984:1-2).
Entire Old Testament books such as Psalms, Proverbs, Lamantations, Micah, Obadiah, Nahum, Habakkuk, Zephaniah and others are entirely poetic. The greater portions of Isaiah, job, Joel, Amos, Hosea and Jeremiah are also poetry. In addition, Hebrew poetry has also been identified in the New Testament.