Bible Hebrew Meter Rules? Doctrine Determines!

This webpage was comprehensively revised
and updated into a Word doc, May 2012;
only the videos in the webpage, remain current.
To download the 16-page Word doc, click here.

Scholars have long debated whether Bible Hebrew poetry has meter. They claim you can't find any discernible pattern to qualify as 'meter'. A list of links to some of these debates follows at the end of this webpage: or click here to visit those links now.

So, this webpage demonstrates not only that Bible Hebrew meter exists, but also its METER KEY: how you can find the same meter in any poetic passage of the Old Testament Hebrew. You'll see this Key for yourself, in the videos below. Many hotly-contested doctrines within Christianity would be resolved -- most notably, Trinity, Hypostatic Union and the Rapture -- if we only knew this Bible Hebrew Meter Key. So this webpage will provide it; you can then vet the claims with any OT poetic passage you choose.

Examples of Bible's Hebrew Metering System are provided below in video format using BibleWorks' (version 5) unaltered BHS text from Psalm 90 and Isaiah 53. The text was pasted into Word, and can be downloaded, as you'll see below. Additionally, the videos walk you through the metered 'interaction' between both passages, so you can see the basis of the meter 'rules'. For Isaiah 53 follows 'rules' when he plays off Moses' meter in Psalm 90.

Meter Key, Rules

It's better to just watch and analyze the metering rules play in the videos. Yet a tentative codification of them is needed:

  1. DOCTRINE DETERMINES. Bible Hebrew Meter Rules are based on the Doctrinal Meaning of Numbers in the Bible; the meter chosen depends on the Doctrinal Content of the verse being metered.
    • Accentuation is not an issue.
    • Pronounciation is not at all like the mindless, stilted Sephardic readings, which impose their own harsh rhythms on the text. Rather, Bible never cuts off before a phrase ends, and is in normal speech patterns keyed to syntax. Example: in the Sephardic reading of Isaiah 52:13, breaking at "av'di" is artificial, using six syllables as the breaking point, rather than the syntax (which breaks at the end of the exclamatory "hinneh", and then at "yarum"). Pronounciation is meant to be natural, as warranted by content. For if you learn and live on the Word, it affects you. I tried to show something of the pronounciation difference in the following live reading of Isaiah 52:13-54:1: click here. (See how well the Hebrew meter naturally fits the syntax, despite even my American accent.)
    • Syntax and its syllable count, matter.
    • One ellides the wa, unless the "wa" is stressed due to content. One ellides when a vowel terminates a word with a similar sound beginning the new word. Example: "wa-et" is "wet", and "mi pesha ammi" is "m'peshammi" (Isa 53:8).
    • Most of the letters with Masoretic shewa marks are piggybacked onto the next syllable so the shewa-mark does not denote a separate syllable -- unless the pronounciation would otherwise be confused with another word.
    • Doubled vowels are run together as one syllable -- unless the pronounciation would otherwise be confused with another word.
    • In particular, the Divine Name is usually TWO syllables, and usually pronounced "YehHWAH".
    • When soundplay is employed between two very different words (i.e., between shama and shamem), the sounding of the second word is like that of the first. Context will tell you the meaning, anyway.
    • Words within the 'poem' retain their same sounds, i.e., if "naphesho" is three syllables in one 'line', it remains three syllables in any other line of the same poem where it appears.
    • There are many other rules, and the ones above need refining; I will have to revise this listing. Still, you'll see these rules play in the videos below, when you sound out the meter counts.

  2. DOCTRINALLY SYMBOLIC or DOCTRINALLY CALENDRIC governs meter choice.
    • For example, if a "2" meter is chosen, the symbology is the Hypostatic Union, hence the content of the passage metered under "2" will be related to that Doctrine.
    • If on the other hand the number is calendrically significant, say 70, the content of the passage metered will relate to that doctrine, i.e., voting to depend on God rather than work. The Psalm 90 Epilogue videos (last five in the playlist below) demonstrate how Moses uses the 70's to panoramically depict Time from first to Last Adam, proving that the 2nd Advent was initially scheduled for 'our' 94AD. You'll need to know that, to see how keenly Isaiah 53 updates Psalm 90, and how Daniel 9 merely repeats those prior two prophetic 'calendars', tying to the same scheduled ending date. So Christ really did come at the end of Time, Gal 4:4. It's literal. Other OT Messianic passages should metrically 'balance' to this same 'timeline', since God had Moses use that metrical accounting system.
    • Such meter functions as a rubric, stressing the 'line' in the context of the symbology. Thus you learn what doctrinal 'lens' to use to interpret the purpose and function of the words in that 'line'.

  3. Meter choice per phrase in a 'line' will be 4 through 12, most often 7-9, governed by doctrinal meaning. So a phrase on the meaning of man will be 6 syllables, or some obvious multiple thereof (i.e., 12 to signify the 12 tribes, 12 months, depending on content in the verse).

  4. Any phrase with fewer than 7 syllables is a deliberate factor of its double: so in a 'poem' which specializes in 8 syllables, for dramatic effect you'll find a line of '4' syllables', etc.

  5. Every 'line' will have its factors individually repeated in at least one other line. There will be no orphans.

  6. You then refine the Doctrinal interpretation by the MIX of the meter. For example, if a 'line' has a meter of 9 and 7, then Trinity and Perfection might be stressed as the AGENTS 'behind' the 'line' content, depending on what that content says. If 6's form the meter, then man's (usually inept) action is stressed. So you use the doctrinal meaning of the number, apply it to the 'line' content, and thus learn more about what each 'line' signifies.

  7. These 'lines' combine to form metered 'paragraphs' which are divisible by a Biblically-significant number (usually 7).
      This is the hallmark characteristic of parsing and self-auditing Hebrew Meter in the Bible: the doctrinal concept or subconcept 'divides' at the point where the sum of the syllables of all 'lines' within that 'paragraph', are in SUM divisible by one number which is less than 10. The favored factors appear to be 2,7,8,9 -- going by how Moses and Isaiah parse their own 'paragraphs'.

      It's this self-auditing feature which helps you correct metering mistakes. An individual line might contain two 10-syllable phrases, but on first glance they might seem to be a 12 and 9, or something else. When you finish parsing the meter, you don't see the symmetry of the whole. So somewhere you mis-parsed a 'line'. Usually that will be due to sounding a syllable that in natural speech wouldn't be sounded, or vice versa. So you look for such anomalies, and correct. Important: go by what would be the natural pronounciation, which of course the consonants essentially force. Thus the Masoretic vowel points won't impede parsing. You don't need to alter the text or engage in twisted pronounciation to make the meter fit. And it won't SEEM to fit, until you get to the end. The idea is to show how God weaves everything together, so there is a deliberate variance in the length of one phrase versus another, within the same metered 'paragraph'. Just as in real life things don't seem to be 'going anywhere' but are random.

  8. Some poems will have specific numerical themes representing shorter time periods, like "40" for testing, "70" for sabbatical years, etc. So the meter count will be FACTORED based on these values (i.e., 'lines' of two 10's, two 7's, etc). The total syllable count will be a multiple of, or equal, the doctrinal 'meaning', like "40" for testing, "50" for harvesting the Gentiles or 2nd Advent, etc.

  9. As a longer poem progresses, the total syllable count of the summed 'paragraphs' may change FACTORS, as you'll see in Psalm 90. That means an important doctrinal ontology is stressed.

  10. If the metered verse is prophetical -- and especially, Messianic -- the poem's total number of syllables will act like a calendar from the time of writing to the time of the prophesied event(s). That total number will also be divisible by 7, at the poem's end.

  11. Mirroring Numbers Convergence will govern any Messianic poetic passage's meter, as there was a future Known Ending of Time to which the poetic prophecy 'balances'. This pattern is astonishingly portrayed in the Isaiah 53 videos below. Once you see the pattern there you should find it in other poetic Messianic passages.

  12. Poetic Messianic Prophecy Convergence will result in a poem which 'balances' in its total syllable count, to 490, 560, and/or 1000, 1050, as these are the fundamental Time Grant Units God instituted at Adam's fall. The doctrinal meaning is that God Fulfills His Plan ON TIME. Unfortunately, this doctrine of God's Time Grants is also unknown in Christendom, so for an extensive explanation of those rules in Mirroring.htm, click here. For a summary version on how Daniel 9's 'traditional' interpretation needs correction owing to God's Time Grant Rules, click here, and read #6 through #6b.

      One of the biggest surprises of this Bible Hebrew Meter Key was to find out how both Isaiah and Moses 'balance' their meter based on these Time Grants; how they specialize in using the numerical values of the Voting Time Grants (70 and 50 years, ties to the 120 in Genesis 6) as 'paragraphs' in their respective metered passages. It's a Sabbatical Accounting Method, and you'll see it predictably portrayed in the last five "Psalm 90 Epilogue" videos in the playlist below.

      'Balancing' works just like a checkbook. Given the prayer in Psalm 90:15, this balancing is MIRRORED. Debits and offsetting credits of the same 'amount', and all of them 'looking' at an end-number which itself is a 490, a 560, etc. So if there are debits (losses) against the end-number, the final syllable total will reflect those debits. If credits, then the final total will reflect them, too. You'll see both Moses and Isaiah follow this mirrored balancing rule with respect to the future: specifically, to the yet-future Millennium when Messiah comes back to rule. So all the above rules, plus this balancing-to-the-Millennium rule, prove that these passages a) follow rules, b) are based on a known ending future date of Time itself (pre-Church, remember); c) always end seven years SHORT to depict the post-Messiah Tribulation; d) display so much Doctrinal Numerical Convergence on so many levels, surely God is 'behind' it.

      Since all the prophetical accounting balances to Messiah, the 490-year countdown you see in Daniel 9 is old news: you can't tell this from translations, since METER is used as a calendar to Messiah. That's why Daniel is not surprised, nor does Gabriel explain what the numbers mean. They are axiomatically presented, instead. Yeah, because the METER has long been inculcated, from Moses forward. Now, that still won't seem obvious until you see the numerical convergence of Christ's Birth and Death, which Christendom has misdated for centuries, owing to its misreading of Daniel 9. So click here for PassPlot.htm, an exacting tracking of Bible verses re the Timing of Messiah. For Bible tells us the exact Birth and Death dates, and you can prove them.

Hence the above Meter Rules were deduced from watching how Isaiah 53 plays on Moses' Psalm 90, given the hermeneutical rule that Scripture interprets Scripture. So, rather than impose extra-Biblical ideas of "meter" on Bible text like the 'scholars' do, one should first let the Bible 'tell' you what meter it uses. The above 'rules' therefore resulted from that observation, and there are more yet to list.

Obviously, therefore, other Hebrew prophecy will follow some version of the above rules, if they are correctly stated: you should be able to test any prophetical passage, and most non-prophetical Bible Hebrew poetry, for these rules. You don't track by accents, but by syntax and content. Happily, this makes spotting Bible Hebrew meter easy. For when you recite it, the meter naturally occurs. You will naturally elide the "wa", and naturally run together the vowels, at normal speech speed. The content will slow or hurry the speed, for you will come to know what words are most important in the content, as you recite and appreciate the meaning. For example, in Isaiah 53:5, obviously it goes "wa HU meholal m'pesheynu" because the stress is on HIM being pierced for our sins. Yet notice that stress doesn't alter the number of syllables, but rather only the speed of utterance. So you don't alter Hebrew meter count for delays or speeding. You go by the syllable count. When saying those syllables, you can thus add dramatic effect by slowing down or speeding up.

For you need the syllable count, to assure proper MEMORIZATION. Just as an actor memorizes his lines but then can play those lines at varying speeds, so also the person commanded to know the Word by heart, would have to know the number of syllables to test himself. For ancient Israel had to know these rules, since the point of the rules is to TEACH something. Knowing grammar rules helps one get more out of the nuances in a writer's expression. So too, with meter. Especially, since Bible in Hebrew was given to a populus required to memorize it at least every seven years (i.e., Deut 31:10-12). So they remembered Scripture orally; hence meter would be very important for testing the accuracy of that memory. The meter thus aided memory and communicated vital doctrine. Its rules would have to be obvious, and simple. Its rules would also have to be more sophisticated than man could accomplish -- all within the same words. Thus one is reminded of Divine Genius. You'll see how sophisticated, in the videos below.

Bible Hebrew Meter Displayed in Psalm 90 and Isaiah 53 Videos

Since I'm in the middle of revamping how Bible's Hebrew meter works, the latest information will be in the videos, which you can access below. Each video in Youtube has a description containing the latest pdf or doc links to the passages the videos cover, so you can vet the material at leisure. Text is standard BHS, and I don't play games with syllabification. The syllable counts are disclosed, and the videos go through their significance. So you can prove or disprove what is said, directly. So once you see how it's done, you can vet OTHER passages in Bible for use of the same meter. Or, disprove what's done, your choice. My objective here is to make the material PROVABLE, and obviously since this is new, the information must be thoroughly vetted and compared pan-Bible. That takes many people, not just one 'brainout'.

So here is the main playlist for Psalm 90, Isaiah 53, Daniel 9 and of all things, Paul's Ephesians 1:3-14. Each passage uses HEBREW METER to convey vital Bible doctrine about Time. I didn't learn of the Daniel 9 and Ephesiahs 1 meter until Christmas 2010. So there are over 100 videos to watch, and more are made almost daily.

What follows below shows how Isaiah crafted the 'rules' for Isaiah 53 from Moses' rules in Psalm 90. The interplay with Daniel and Paul follow much later in the playlist. Youtube won't allow more than 50 videos to play outside itself. So beginning with the 50th video, you'll have to view the list in Youtube.

There are other Youtube playlists to view as well, which alike focus on the actual Bible text using BibleWorks (version 5) onscreen, so you can test what you see. Episode 10 of my Greek Geek Stuff series focuses on Paul, but re-covers the same metering ground. Episode 10 of my Yapping Most High series focuses on the actual DOCTRINE of How God Orchestrates Time. Finally and tangentially, the Isaiah 53 Meter Hypothesis playlist shows how I got started down this road, back when (2004) I thought Isaiah 53's Masoretic text had missing words. It has NO missing any words, as you'll see in the second video of the Psalm 90 playlist below.

In sum, this is shocking proof of God's Accounting System for Time being used as a mnemonic, especially when you see how Psalm 90 reconciles to Isaiah 53 and Daniel 9, and even to Ephesians 1:3-14. You'll have total proof that yes, Daniel 9 DOES leave a time gap (initially 50 years) between Daniel 9:26 and 27. Daniel 9:25 simply uses Psalm 90's Bible Hebrew Meter Accounting as a reminder to Daniel, and apes both Daniel's OWN meter in his prayer, as well as Psalm 90:1-3's meter of 63 syllables TWICE, corresponding to the 126 years the Temple was short of its own time grant when it fell! None of this is known to Christendom, and the Jews forgot how to Tell Time during the Hasmonean period. Josephus, for example, is completely screwed up in his accounting of years from Adam, from David, and can't even get David's death age right. 1Kings 1:1-6:1, however, sets the story straight. But lol scholars don't read the BIBLE, but go by Josephus! Ooops.

Be sure to click on the "HD" or "HQ" button at the bottom of the player whenever it appears, and view the video fullscreen, if you want a good visual of the Hebrew text. (The video descriptions contain links so you can download the Hebrew text, the worksheet, the associated webpages, etc.) You'll want to watch the videos several times in order to grasp the complexity, symmetry, and numbers convergence of the meter used. It blows me away, so I imagine its beauty will shock you, too. The mind wants to disbelieve this. Something about the symmetry of the numbers, like prophecy coming true, makes us think that someone tampered with the text, or is playing interpretational games. So vetting via 1John1:9 used, is more vital than normal.

You will also probably need to download the worksheet referenced in the videos, else you won't see the historical predictive significance of Isaiah's meter: click here for GeneYrs.xls.

So why didn't the scholars figure all this out? Easy to empathize: they are busy arguing with each other. A scholar has to memorize the 'positions' of countless other scholars, and endlessly frame his discussion in light of what other scholars have said. When you have a large body of scholars and especially a long past train of scholarly development, Bible kinda tends to get lost in the shuffle. So the tendency is to read the Bible in light of the past scholars' views of it, rather than visiting the Bible de novo for its own 'view'.

That's what always happens in scholarship. It's unavoidable. Every major doctrine which is hotly contested has gotten away from the Bible itself, and instead into what pastor or scholar "A" says versus what "B" says, and anyone not in that group tends to be ignored. Bible is not itself a scholar, so becomes a casualty, within the debate. You see this same problem in the ongoing debate over Calvinism, Catholicism, over when Christ was born or died, when was the Exodus, etc. Extra-Biblical referencing drowns out what the Bible says, every time. Check it out for yourself, see the way the debate flows re Bible Hebrew meter, in the next section. The links provided are representative of the major voices in the debate. Note well how and to whom they phrase their arguments. And that is the reason why so much of what Bible says goes lost, over the centuries. No scholar ever means for this to happen. But we are all human, and when we necessarily fall to debating with each other, we get away from Scripture.

It's time to remember that Bible is First, huh. So let's give the scholars more freedom to differ, cut their tether to the silly rule of past 'consensus'. We laymen need to let scholars know they won't be crucified for making mistakes, for differing from 'consensus'. We sheep can encourage them to revisit the Bible de novo, cut ties with the (very often incompetent!) past, embark again on new research, originality. Let's stop putting them on pedestals, for then they must become demi-gods defending the past. Let's instead let them be human, explore the Word first, with past scholarship, but a second cousin. End commercial message, now to the next section...


The Debate, with Links

A representative sample of links in the debate follows below. I searched on "Hebrew Meter" in Google.

  1. Overall importance and yet neglect of Bible Hebrew poetry, by Petersen and Richards. Read the paragraph in this link about Lowth, the scholar who apparently started Christendom's review of Bible Hebrew poetry. click here.
    • The Petersen and Richards book is best to read for an overview, so here's the title page. Any of the blue links ON the Title Page, take you to that section: click here.
    • This section is on those who criticise Hebrew poetry as having no meter (i.e., O'Connor, whose book follows in #6, below). Click here.

  2. Vignette on the impact of Lowth's Hebrew Meter discovery: click here.

  3. A classic treatise on Hebrew Meter by Stuart: click here. You can't read it online, though.
    • Stuart's bio: click here.
    • Maybe one can borrow the Stuart work: click here. Once you load the page, see the links at its right for borrowing options.
    • This link to Stuart's work appears to include a library listing for pastors: click here. Can't read this book, but on Page 34 of the O'Connor book, you'll find that Stuart contends YES HEBREW HAS METER. Link: click here.
        You'll notice there's a big argument over what constitutes a syllable, since the Masoretic text is a wholescale edit over centuries.

    • Here's the link to the Title page of Stuart's book on OT Exegesis. Each of the blue lines on that page is a link to a section (God bless Google Books!): click here.
    • Here's a syllabus of books within one of Stuart's books on Old Testament Exegesis (inter alia). There are extensive excerpts, so you can read much in Stuart for yourself: click here.

  4. Another classic, by Byington: This link is useful, for the portion you can read demonstrates that scholars have been obsessed with finding the right Hebrew meter for centuries. If you have access to JSTOR through an institution, you can read the whole document for free: click here.

  5. Another classic, by Cobb: click here. Can't read this one.

  6. Another one, by O'Connor, who discredits the idea of meter in Bible Hebrew poetry: click here.
      This one you can read through, and the link begins with a review of Stuart, so that way you can know something of what Stuart contends.

  7. Book by Reymond also covers denials that Hebrew poetry has meter: click here.
    • Here's the Title Page to Reymond. Just click on any of the blue links after this link, to access a portion of the book: click here.
  8. Another classic, this one by Vance, same imposition philosophy of extra-Biblical ideas of meter, and hence a denial of Bible Hebrew having meter. Click here.
  9. Here's another classic, by Watson. The link takes you to a pdf file which is only 3 pages, abstracting the book. Abstract delineates the author's methodology, which alike imposes extra-Bible standards of meter on the Bible text to see commonalities with other cultures.: click here.
    • Here's a syllabus within Watson's book. Again, there are extensive excerpts, so you can skim through Watson's book, itself: click here.
    • Link to Watson's Title Page. Each blue line on the Title Page is a link to that section of the book: click here.
  10. And here is another denial of Hebrew meter, by Hill and Walton: click here.
      However, you get a good sense of how THEY analyze and impose their ideas onto Bible text. Lots of handy terms offered in the excerpts, too.

    Added to the above huge texts, are some shorter pieces:

  11. One-page summary on Hebrew meter debate, pdf: click here.

  12. A blog by Pete Bekins on Bible Hebrew Meter scholarship. click here.

  13. Same Bekins blog, different post: click here.

  14. Webpage bemoaning how meter is ignored, by Witton Davies: click here.
      He considers meter as a feature of literature rather than a feature of Word Of God Teaching. So he thinks the use of rhythm represents the writer's emotions.

  15. Meter review and critique of Freedman's handling of Psalm 119 (death march to Babylon by Jeremiah's students, the alphabet acrostic). The reviewer criticises Freedman for letting the Bible text determine the meter, rather than imposing an external idea ON the text (page 3)! Click here.

  16. Chris Franke's analysis of Isaiah Chapter 46-48, however, acknowledges syllable counting (and its problems), siding with and using, Freedman's methodology. You can read excerpts of his book, click here.

  17. Meter review in Jeremiah's Lamentations by David Galens: click here. This very short extract has the important point that Lamentations is recognized as having meter.

  18. Grace Institute Quick Primer on Bible Hebrew poetry, very rudimentary: click here.

  19. History of Hebrew Versification, by Harshav, but it's in Hebrew. Only the Table of Contents is in English, and the other three pages were all introductory. I couldn't therefore tell if it addressed the question of meter being used as a prophetic calendar: click here.

  20. Another blog, by John Hobbins, a translator of Bible Hebrew poetry. He commented on the first Bekins blog post, above. If you read page 30-36 of the Petersen and Richards book, you'll understand this blog. Else it won't make much sense. Hobbins tells his readers his middle position on whether Hebrew poetry has meter, and how he's giving a paper in Rome about it. He's in the middle of the three Does-Hebrew-poetry-have-meter debate groups that Peterson and Richard talk about, here.

  21. Here's a short entry in the Jewish Encyclopedia on Hebrew Poetry and meter: click here.

  22. ISBE's article on "Poetry, Hebrew": locate it in your copy of ISBE, or click here for the online entry. It was also written by Witton Davies, and as you read it you'll notice that the acknowledged bias against Bible having metered poetry remained -- it's dismissed as ungodlike.
  23. David Steinberg's webpage recognizes you can reconstruct the pre-Exilic Hebrew pronounciation, if you knew the meter. So he attempts to recreate it, and provides extensive excerpts of poetic passages and syllable counts: click here.