One may note that the number of stresses in synonymous parallelism (in classical Hebrew) will also often be mirrored in the colas. A very good example of this can be found in Deuteronomy chapter 32. The Penguin book of Hebrew verse commenting on Deuteronomy 32:1-4 notes that “There are 3 + 3 stresses in each of the first two pairs of versets, and 2 + 2 stresses in the last pair (though here the first words are long and could have been pronounced as having a secondary stress, making the lines equivalent to the previous ones)” (page 59).
When words found in parallel in a
it is not immediately apparent that the paired nouns in each of the following two lines are matched in gender:
כסה שמים הודו
His GLORY (m.) covered the HEAVENS (m.),
ותהלתו מלאה הארץ
and the EARTH (f.) was full of his PRAISE (f.) (Hab 3:3)
Once the pattern has been noticed by analysis, the poetic device ‘gender-matched synonymous parallelism’ can be recognised. The next essential step, then, is to find out why this poetic device has been used here. Closer inspection suggests it functions as merismus (meaning that certain representative components of a larger object are mentioned instead of the whole). Another look at the couplet shows the polar word-pair ‘heavens//earth’ to be present, and, more significantly, the verb מלא, ‘to be full’. All these elements—gender-matched synonyms, the verb, and the word-pair and the verb ארץ—שמים combine to convey the idea of completeness which fits in with the meaning of the couplet. In other words, the main function of the poetic features identified is to express merismus.
Watson, Wilfred G. E. Classical Hebrew Poetry: A Guide to Its Techniques. Vol. 26. Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1986. Journal for the Study of the Old Testament Supplement Series.
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