Why Does the Bible Include Poetry?

Why Does the Bible Include Poetry?

One of the unique features of the Bible is, despite being a religious text, it consists of multiple genres. Many sacred books take the form of an epic, or a set of rules surrounded by narrative. The Bible has narrative, letters, proverbs, and even poetry.

There are whole books of recorded poetry and poems that were spoken by individuals through history. While the books of the Bible had human writers, God’s Holy Spirit guided these people to write. So why would God put poetry in His sacred texts? Because of the infinite and complex nature of God’s existence and character, He is capable of communicating with His creation in a myriad of ways. He is also a creative being, who gave that same nature to the people He made.

The Bible also speaks to the character and behavior of humans, which is full of creativity, and a desire to find unique ways of communicating with one another. The Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, is full of poetry and poetic language because of God’s creative nature, and because He imprinted that creativity onto mankind.

Here are five reasons why there is poetry in the Bible:

1. God Is Multifaceted, and Communicates in Many Ways

The person of God is incredible. He is Triune in nature, being three yet one. The Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are each unique in personhood and function, but still one and co-equal. He is infinite and has unlimited ways to communicate with people.

As the Holy Spirit guided people to write history, prophecy, and praise, He led them to use rhyme, meter, and structure sometimes for a more creative and personal mode of touching the hearts of people. In the Bible, God communicated through prophets, through dreams and visions, and even through a gentle wind. In His infinite capacity, He created poetry, and used it to relate to His people not just in orders and commands, but through an emotional connection created through the poetic form.

There is poetry in the Bible because God is a being who creates, and He created poetry.

2. It Is a Form of Self-Expression for People

The concept of imago dei - meaning made in the image of God - is not just about the physical body. When God made man, He gave Adam, Eve, and their descendants parts of His nature.

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27).

He gave man the ability to reason, to think, to create, and to contemplate. God is logical, so humans are capable of logic. God exerts His will over the world, so people can exert their will over things, though not to the same extent as the Sovereign Lord. Because God is a creative being, so are people. In fact, the Bible seems to indicate that it is written on men’s hearts to know they have some connection with the divine.

When giving an appeal to the Greeks at the Areopagus, he asserted that even as pagans they knew they bore the image of God; “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place, that they should seek God, and perhaps feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his offspring’” (Acts 17:26-28).

Because God expresses Himself and His being through creation, people do as well, and poetry is one of those creative forms available to humanity. Part of why there is poetry in the Bible is because there were human writers who expressed themselves in that way.

Sometimes poetry expresses joy, and other times sadness. The book of Psalms is full of both. When David was at the highest points of his life, from being crowned king, to bringing home the Ark of the Covenant, he wrote Psalms of Joy 100 and 126. At his lowest moments, he wrote laments like 42 and 88. Not everyone’s form of self-expression is poetry, but seeing how people use their personal talents to express themselves and demonstrate their relationship with God through poetry highlights the personal nature of the relationship between the individual, and the Creator.

3. It Is a Way to Engage Creatively with the Creator 

Poetry is an inherently creative act, but it is not purely a way for one person to put themselves out into the world. As a modality, it uses words and language, another gift from God that distinguishes people from other created beings.

God spoke the world into existence, and Jesus is described by the Apostle John, as the Word, “All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). When it is time to communicate with God, it is done through words. For those who are so inclined, they can structure words together to create poems as a way of using the unique gift of language in a special way to glorify God.

Not everyone will be inclined to engage with God through poetry. Some men like Moses and Daniel did not write poetry, while men like David and Solomon did. While everyone is different, some people do connect with God through the unique art of poetry. It is present in the Bible, in part, to demonstrate that God has gifted everyone differently, and wants His people to engage with Him with those gifts, and to seek Him in a myriad of ways.

4. It Is a Way for Men and Women to Express Themselves Romantically to One Another

Throughout human history, poetry has been deeply associated with the romantic love between men and women. Even in the Bible, or perhaps especially in the Bible, there are deep connections between poetic language and romance. When simple language is not enough to communicate how one person feels about another, there is a style of writing and expression available to help convey the depth of emotion.

One of the most unique poems in the Bible comes early in Genesis. When Adam first saw Eve, he declared, “This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man” (Genesis 2:23b). While in many languages it is not evident, in the original Hebrew in which it was recorded, it does have a poetic form. In other words, the first words uttered by a man to a woman, constituted a poem.

The deep relationship between love and poetry was present even in the beginning, before the fall. Relationships between a husband and wife were intended to be deep and romantic. While the world may twist what romance and love are, the Bible does demonstrate that marriage can be more than just a contract of adjoining assets between two consenting adults. When done correctly, marriage can be built on a foundation of the kind of romantic love that inspires poetry, but it must be pursued through God’s ways and in His timing.

When addressing what a healthy marriage and sexuality looks like, God also chose to inspire someone to do it through poetry. The Song of Songs - also called the Song of Solomon - contains poems about relationships between men and women. It documents love between a couple, with highs and lows and ups and downs. God could have inspired someone to write instructions on love, marriage, and sexuality with commands and orders, but He chose to inspire Solomon to write poems.

The love between a man and a woman, when brought to its apotheosis in marriage, represent the relationship between Christ and His church. Expressing the nature of this love through poetry reflects the depth of feeling that can exist between two people, as well as its symbolic importance.

5. It Is a Form of Worship, Like Singing

One of the ways that Christians worship together corporately is through singing. However, believers understand that is not the only way of worshipping, particularly on an individual basis. Many things, if done with the right heart and attitude, can be lifted up to the Lord as a form of personal worship. For those who are gifted in poetry and with words, taking the time to create something new that expresses the glory of God and the human need for Him is a form of worship.

The poems codified in the Bible have also become avenues and outlets for others to worship. Sometimes they set the poems to music, and other times it gives a person something to meditate on. For others, they are something they use as a prayer during times of great joy or sorrow. Poetry can be a unique way of worshipping the Lord, and a good reminder that worship is more than just singing or playing an instrument on Sunday morning.

Poetry is one of the examples of how God endowed people with the capacity to do more than just survive. Humans can create, and lift their eyes toward nobler truths, and express those truths in ways that are beautiful, not just practical. Poetry is in the Bible as a divine example of love, of expression, and of the higher things.

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8).


Barnstone, Willis. Poets of the Bible from Solomon’s Song of Songs to John’s Book of Revelation. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2017.

Bullock, C. Hassell. An Introduction to the Old Testament Poetic Books. Chicago: Moody Publishers, 1979.

Kugel, James. The Great Poems of the Bible. New York: Free Press, 2012.

Photo credit: Unsplash/thoughtcatalog

Bethany Verrett is a freelance writer who uses her passion for God, reading, and writing to glorify God. She and her husband have lived all over the country serving their Lord and Savior in ministry. She has a blog on graceandgrowing.com.