3. When you come across figurative expressions in the Bible, look for the literal truth they are intended to convey or emphasize. There are many different figures of speech in the Bible. I have indexed nearly 200 different figures of speech found in the Bible in my Bible study reference work, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge, and with even more additions and corrections, in my newest Bible study reference work, The Ultimate Cross Reference Treasury.
The easiest way to identify a figure of speech in the Bible is to make use of the Ultimate Cross Reference Treasury or The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge alphabetical index to the figures of speech. When reading anywhere in the Bible, if a figure of speech is present, it is identified in the information given for that verse.
I developed my figure of speech notes for my Bible reference books from information given in E. W. Bullinger’s work, Figures of Speech in the Bible, The Companion Bible margin notes, other writings of E. W. Bullinger, Matthew Poole’s Commentary on the Holy Bible, and other sources.
I believe that the New Treasury and The Ultimate Cross Reference Treasury contain the most complete listing of figures of speech in the Bible ever compiled in English. Depending on how you “count” the figures, there are well over 200 different figures of speech identified in these two resources.
Figures of speech are used for emphasis, and are important to accurate understanding and interpretation of the Bible.
(1) There are degrees of emphasis in the figures of speech:
a. Simile; or, Resemblance. FS160A. Psalm 1:3. A declaration that one thing resembles another. “He shall be like a tree.” Psalm 1:4, “The ungodly … are like the chaff.”
b. Metaphor; or, representation. FS119. A declaration that one thing is (or represents) another. Genesis 49:9, “Judah is a lion’s whelp.” Psalm 84:11, “The Lord God is a sun and shield.” Mark 14:22 note, “this is (or represents) my body.” John 10:9, “I am the door.” Allegory is continued or extended metaphor, FS7, Genesis 4:24.
c. Hypocatastasis; or, Implication. FS103. Genesis 3:13. Serpent. John 2:19, Temple. Luke 13:22, “that fox.” Note that this figure as used in John 2:19 is important to the defense of the doctrine of the bodily resurrection of Christ. I am sure that most readers here have never heard of “hypocatastasis” before.
(2) A figure of speech may be a powerful aid to defending a doctrine.
a. Hendiadys; or, Two for One. Two words used, but one thing meant, involving nouns. FS93A. Genesis 1:26. “image and likeness” means “in the likeness of our image.” John 3:5, “born of water and of the spirit.” Meaning: born of water, even the Spirit. May also mean “born of spiritual water,” where spiritual water by the figure Metonymy is put for the Holy Spirit himself (see John 7:38, 39). Titus 2:13 note, “the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ” or “our God and Savior Jesus Christ.” The reference is to one person, not two. See also 1 Peter 1:1 for the same construction. “God and our Savior Jesus Christ” or “our God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
b. Hendiadys; or, Two for One. FS93B. Involving verbs. Isaiah 66:11, “may suck…and be satisfied” means “suck to satiety.” Matthew 13:23, “heareth…and understandeth” means “hears with understanding.” Two words but one act.
c. Hendiatris; or, Three for One. FS94. Jeremiah 4:2, “The Lord liveth in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness” means “lives truly, justly, and righteously.” Matthew 6:13, “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory” means “powerful, glorious, kingdom.” John 14:6, “the way, the truth, and the life” means “the true and living way.”
(3) A figure of speech may be a powerful aid to understanding the meaning of the author correctly.
(a) Litotes, or Meiosis; a belittling. A belittling of one thing to magnify another. FS111, Genesis 18:27. Luke 11:4 note. “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” Jesus is not affirming that God will lead us into temptation unless we pray to ask him to do otherwise; the emphasis is upon prayer for deliverance from evil, or the evil one. Ephesians 5:18, “And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit.” Paul is not accusing the Ephesians of having a drinking problem, but emphasizing by contrast, the importance of being filled with the Spirit. Much more could be said to expand these points, but I’ll stop here.
As I typed this up just now, it is Halloween. Halloween really should not be observed by Bible believing Christians. It has been and has come to be even more a high holiday for the occult. The Bible is very clear:
Jeremiah 10:2 Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them.
Learn more by studying the cross references for the key words “Learn not” given below:
Learn not. *Lev 18:3; *Lev 18:27 <rp. Lev 19:26; *Lev 20:23 <rp. *+*Exo 23:2; *+*Exo 23:13; *+*Exo 23:24, **Deut 12:30; **Deut 12:31; Deut 18:14; +Deut 20:18; Deut 22:5, Jdg 6:10, 1Sa 8:5; 1Sa 8:19, 20, 2Ki 5:18; 2Ki 16:10; *2Ki 17:8; *2Ki 17:15, *Psa 16:4; Psa 106:35, Isa 2:6, Pro 22:25, *Isa 2:6, Eze 11:12; *Eze 20:32, Jon 2:8, Mat 6:7, 8; Mat 23:2, 3, %1Co 11:1, %*Php 4:8.