From Prose to Poetry

The man said,
“This is now bone of my bones
    and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called ‘woman,’
    for she was taken out of man.”
That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Genesis 2:23-24

Lamech said to his wives,
“Adah and Zillah, listen to me;
    wives of Lamech, hear my words.
I have killed a man for wounding me,
    a young man for injuring me.
If Cain is avenged seven times,
    then Lamech seventy-seven times.”

  • Genesis 4:23-24

But Ruth replied, “Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you.  Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay.  Your people will be my people and your God my God.  Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried.  May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.”  When Naomi realized that Ruth was determined to go with her, she stopped urging her.

  • Ruth 1:16-18

During the sermon, the Sunday before writing this, the pastor said that when you shift from prose to poetry, something important is about to happen.  His sermon was on Ruth 1, and that is significant for all of us.  We are to follow God as fervently as Ruth followed Naomi, even though Ruth was going to a foreign land where people did not get along with Moabites.  Just the thought of never going home is a sacrifice.  Of course, the pastor was talking about us, as the congregation traveling to spread the Gospel.  I am surprised that he did not quote Mark Batterson’s All In, where he starts the book with missionaries that left on their missionary journey on a steamer ship with their belongings packed into a coffin, signifying that they were not coming back.  Ruth saying that I will be buried with you is the same concept.

But since the NIV writes most poetry in verse form and the prose in paragraph form, it is fairly easy to spot.  I thought that I would see if what the pastor said is true.  He said, “Important,” which is easy to deal with since Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16 that all Scripture is God-breathed and useful for instruction.  Thus, we should consider all poetry bracketed by prose to be important.  The pastor did not say, “Please, memorize all the poetry.”

I showed the poetry in three of these instances in bold text above.  Luke starts with two songs (poetry) with Mary’s Magnificat and Zechariah’s song, both quite important.  But let’s look at the first two, since we have already touched Ruth 1.

The first after the Creation story is when God makes Eve from one of Adam’s ribs.  The message is quite clear regarding gender, but just look at what is being said and the emotion being expressed.  Adam wrote the first love song and shared it with Eve.  If you have ever written a bit of sappy poetry for the person that you love, or even great poetry, you owe it to Adam – the first thing that he did, as in the first that was recorded.

The next poetry in Genesis (not quoted above) is in two parts.  After Adam’s and Eve’s fall, God curses the serpent, but throws in a Messianic prophecy into the poetry.  Then after a one-liner of prose, God cursed Adam and Eve for their breaking the trust God had bestowed upon them – not just doing what they were told not to do, but defying God in the process.

But then, after Cain kills Abel and Cain’s descendants are detailed, it goes into a genealogy of Cain.  Lamech is Cain’s great-great-grandson.  Lamech turns to his two wives and says some of the most absurd words that could be said.  Even though Cain is expelled by God, God shows mercy by passing a judgment upon anyone who seeks to kill Cain as revenge for killing Abel.  God can grant that type of protection, not Lamech, the murderer.  And the person who harmed Lamech did not do much harming, since Lamech killed him. The old “Old West” adage that if you harm someone, make sure they cannot get back up.  And why does Lamech say this poetry to his wives?  Could it mean “Don’t mess with me or you get the same thing?”

That second poetry that is quoted above is important in that it is one of many signs that humankind cannot be trusted to solve our own problems in a vacuum.  In just a few short generations of ignoring God, the family line of Cain has become totally depraved.  They are a law unto themselves.  They kill people that disturb them.

I think it was in that story of Claudius where Caligula has his own son killed because he was coughing and would not stop.  These days people claim that people who disagree with their way of thinking “harm” them.  Thus, did a young man disagree with Lamech and died for saying the wrong thing?  How much further down into the cesspool, that is this fallen world, do we have to go before we are doing the same thing?  It is probably already being done and we do not know about it.  Unlike Lamech, they aren’t going to confess their crimes in writing.  They would have to announce their crime and their motivation for the crime for us to know if we have fallen that far.

While the first poem could be memorized as a love poem, of sorts, who would ever want to repeat Lamech’s poem?  I would not threaten my wife although I have said things in jest and my wife has responded by asking if that was a threat or a promise.  Note: nothing like that lately, we would be too tired trying to work up to it to do any following through…  We’ve already talked about no one admitting murder, but I will be honest.  I have not killed anyone, and I do not plan on doing so.  I will not set myself up as God, providing my own protection that my death is eleven times more severe (by order of the number that will be avenged) than that of my great-great grandfather who killed his brother.  Note: I have no proof that I have a great-great-grandfather who killed anyone but with the family leaving Virginia and North Carolina and moving west toward Tennessee, Alabama, and eventually Mississippi in the early 1800s, it could be possible.

I may return to this concept in the future.  I have already found a couple of similar transitions in 1 Chronicles.  Most in the New Testament are quoting the Old Testament, but I suppose that counts also.

And in whatever fashion, God has a variety of ways to get our attention and say, “Pay attention now, this next little bit is going to be a good one.”  … As if they all aren’t good ones.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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