Word Pairs

Ancient Semitic poetry with its semantic parallelism makes use of conventional pairings of words. Pairs found in parallel in poetry are often found together in prose also.

Words form such a pair when they:

  1. belong to the same grammatical class (verbs, nouns etc.);
  2. are habitually found together and
  3. are found in parallel.

Such pairs can become the structural or thematic center of a passage:

 Ps 54 (indicating word pairs):

the pair elsewhere:
God, save me by your name,
and vindicate me by your might.
Jer 10:6; 16:21; Ps 106:8
God, hear my prayer;
give ear to the words of my mouth.
Gen 4:23; Dt 32:1; Ps 39:12 (MT v.13)
For the insolent rise against me,
ruthless seek my life;
they do not set God before them.
Is 25:4-5; 29:5; Ez 28:7
1 Sam 25:29; Ps 86:14; Song 3:2
Surely, God is my helper;
Adonai is the upholder of my life.
Ps 68:18,33
Is 63:5; 2 Chron 32:8



In Is 40:28-31 one pair of words is repeated several times and also leads to synonyms thus reinforcing the theme:

 Have you not known?

  Have you not heard?

 The LORD is the everlasting God,        A

  the Creator of the ends of the earth. 

 He does not faint or grow weary,

  his understanding is unsearchable.

 He gives power to the faint,            B

  and to him who has no might 

    he increases strength.

 Even youths shall faint and be weary,   C

  and young men shall fall exhausted;

 but they who wait for the LORD 

  shall renew their strength,            B'

 they shall mount up with wings like eagles, 

  they shall run and not be weary,       A'

   they shall walk and not faint.

This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos,

© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.