Figures of speech

Figures of speech are found in prose as well as poetry, but are generally more frequent and intense in Hebrew poetry.

1. Similes

A simile is a direct comparison between two things.

Example – Amos 5:24

Let justice roll on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream.

2. Metaphors

A metaphor is a stronger comparison, using one object or idea in place of, or in some way equivalent to, another.

Example – Amos 4:1

Hear this word, you cows of Bashan on Mount Samaria,
you women who oppress the poor and crush the needy.

3. Symbols

‘A symbol is a concrete image that points to or embodies other meanings.’ (Leland Ryken)

Example –Isaiah 9:2

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of deep darkness a light has dawned.

4. Hyperbole

A hyperbole is an exaggeration used in order to make a point.

Example 1 – Isaiah 34:9–10

Edom’s streams will be turned to pitch,
her dust into burning sulphur;
her land will become blazing pitch.
It will not be quenched night or day;
its smoke will rise for ever.
From generation to generation it will lie desolate;
no one will ever pass through it again.

Example 2 – Ezekiel 4:9

Because of all your detestable idols, I will do to you what I have never done before and will never do again.

5. Personification

Personification is attributing human characteristics to natural phenomena, objects, or ideas.

Example 1 – Isaiah 35:10

Gladness and joy will overtake them,
and sorrow and sighing will flee away.

Example 2 – Ezekiel 36:1

Son of man, prophesy to the mountains of Israel and say, ‘Mountains of Israel, hear the word of the Lord.’

6. Apostrophe

‘Direct address to something or someone absent as though the person or thing were present and capable of listening.’ (Leland Ryken)

Example 1 – Isaiah 34:1

Let the earth hear, and all that is in it,
the world, and all that comes from it.

Example 2 – Ezekiel 25:1–2

The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, set your face against the Ammonites and prophesy against them.’

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© Tony Watkins, 2020
The Tony and Jane Watkins Trust oversees and supports the ministries of Tony and Jane Watkins in Christian training, education, and communication. It is a charity registered in England and Wales, no. 1062254.
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