In the book "Mevo Lekitvei Hakodesh" - "Introduction to The Holy Scriptures" by Shmuel Shrira, he writes that there are different types of poetry or songs ("shirah") in the Tanach and brings examples for the different types. For example, victory songs or poems include Shirat Hayam and Shirat Devorah, eulogy songs or poems include the Kinah of David after the fall of Shaul and Yonatan and so forth. At the end of the list he writes:

"אשר לשירה האפית אין ספרי התנ"כ עשירים בה. יש רק שירים אחדים, שתכונה אפית להם. את החסרון הזה ממלא הסיפור התנ"כי, שבו אנו מוצאים לפעמים אופי אפי מפורש."

Translation: "As for the epic poetry/song, the books of Tanach are not rich from it. There are only a few such poems/songs, that have epic characteristics. This lack is filled by the Tanachic story, in which we sometimes find a clear epic characteristic."

Unlike the other types of poems/songs, Shrira doesn't bring examples for this.

Therefore, I was wondering whether anyone knows to which few bits of poetry/songs in Tanach he may have been referring to, which can be defined as "epic poetry/songs"?

Note: As I pointed out, he defined famous classics like Shirat Hayam and Shirat Devorah as "victory poems/songs", so it seems he wasn't referring to those.

  • 1
    Ps. 78 seems to fit the bill quite well.
    – Tom W
    Commented Jan 9, 2021 at 17:56
  • 1
    @TomW Sounds right, thanks. You could write that as answer. Any other ideas?
    – Harel13
    Commented Jan 9, 2021 at 18:12
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    the only other possibility I have come up with is the second half of Ps. 105. I’ll put that in an answer but I am not sure it is conclusive.
    – Tom W
    Commented Jan 9, 2021 at 18:16
  • Not answering your question, but on the subject of epic poetry: Cassuto comments that in epics, when instruction is given and subsequently carried out, the latter repeats almost verbatim much of the language of the former. This style is common in the Torah (eg. Eliezer, Mishkan construction).
    – magicker72
    Commented Jan 10, 2021 at 0:00

1 Answer 1


Ps. 78 probably deserves to be called epic, and also the second half of Ps. 105. Both recount the deeds of Hashem and Israel in tandem over a broad sweep of time, manifesting Hashem’s (and occasionally Israel’s) ‘heroic’ aspects. I’m not a literary critic so can’t say much more than that.

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