Hills of Spices: Poet­ry From the Bible

Rena Potok, ed.
  • Review
By – November 11, 2011

Hills of Spices sin­gu­lar­ly con­veys bib­li­cal poetry’s beau­ty, which not only engages the mind and heart but also touch­es the soul or spir­it. This schol­ar­ly col­lec­tion includes an intro­duc­tion by Andrea L. Weiss dis­cussing the indi­ca­tors that dif­fer­en­ti­ate poet­ry from prose in the Bible. Par­tic­u­lar­ly ana­lyz­ing pas­sages in the Tanakh, Weiss shows how par­al­lelism, meter, rhythm, terse­ness, imagery, metaphor, sim­i­le, rep­e­ti­tion, pat­tern­ing, para­noma­sia (manip­u­la­tion of rhetoric to pro­duce var­i­ous rhetor­i­cal effects, such as the rhetor­i­cal ques­tion) clear­ly delin­eate bib­li­cal poet­ry. Such styl­is­tic tech­niques serve to enhance the sacred effects expe­ri­enced by humans who have spo­ken, heard, or read these vers­es for thou­sands of years. 

Orga­nized into nine sec­tions, the read­er may enjoy and uti­lize appro­pri­ate poems for spe­cif­ic events: bless­ings, prayers and songs of praise, poet­ic moments relat­ed to var­i­ous top­ics, tes­ta­ments and pro­nounce­ments, laments, judg­ment ora­cles, prophe­cies of sal­va­tion and con­so­la­tion, wis­dom writ­ings, and love songs. 

Indeed, after perus­ing and rel­ish­ing this grand col­lec­tion, you will agree with the Psalmist: It is good to praise the Lord,/to sing hymns to your name, O Most High,/…I shout for joy at Your handiwork./How great are Your works, O Lord,/how very sub­tle Your designs!”

Deb­o­rah Schoen­e­man, is a for­mer Eng­lish teacher/​Writing Across the Cur­ricu­lum Cen­ter Coor­di­na­tor at North Shore Hebrew Acad­e­my High School and coed­i­tor of Mod­ern Amer­i­can Lit­er­a­ture: A Library of Lit­er­ary Crit­i­cism, Vol. VI, pub­lished in 1997.

Discussion Questions