During the summer 2012 Book of Mormon class we were studying Isaiah passages in the Book of Mormon. I taught the students about Hebrew poetic parallelism. In the most basic sense, parallelism is this. An idea is expressed. It is then expressed again. The beauty and power of this literary style is found in how the basic pattern is changed, amplified, used, or “mis”used by the author to make a point.
Isaiah 2 is full of parallelism. Yet, sometimes breaking the pattern can be a powerful way to reinforce an overall theme, idea, or doctrine. Just when one has become comfortable with the structure of parallelism, expecting ideas to be repeated in a familiar structure, suddenly the pattern is broken and our attention is driven to ask why. It is then that what is missing, the lack of words that we would expect to be there on the page, that point to the most significant theme of the entire chapter. It is silence that speaks loudest in Isaiah 2:17
A1 And the loftiness of man shall be bowed down,
A2 and the haughtiness of men shall be made low:
B1 and the LORD alone shall be exalted in that day.
We would expect a complimentary phrase in B2 to say something about the Lord in his exalted status. Instead, nothing occupies that place in the text; we are greeted with silence. Why? Isaiah wished to powerfully reinforce that the Lord ALONE shall be exalted in that day. From a Hebrew parallelistic literary perspective, how do you reinforce the concept that the Lord is ALONE in his exaltation? By not having the Lord share that exalted space with even another sentence declaring his exaltation. Brilliant, beautiful, sophisticated.