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Bible Figures of Speech find their origins and roots in one of the oldest languages on earth: Hebrew. The Hebrew used in the Bible, however, is known today as Paleo-Hebrew, or historic Hebrew and sounds different than what is spoken in Israel today.
It was spoken by the sons of Noah: Shem, Ham, and Japhath. Shem became the father of the Shemites, or Semites. His brother Ham went on to occupy the land of Canaan which became an Aramaic-speaking land.
The language Abraham found when he came to Canaan is what is now referred to as early Aramaic. Two languages, one root. Jesus spoke both of these languages, only he commonly spoke what is known as late Aramaic. There was yet the third branch of Noah's family who some scholars say was the predecessor of the Chaldeans, which is why Jews taken captive by these people were able to not only learn this language but author some portions of the Old Testament in this language.
This is the Hebrew Root which survived the confusion of languages known as Babel, from the famous tower by the same name. Here are some examples:
Baruch atah Adonoi Eloheinu Malech ha'olam.
El malei rachamim mashiv haruach.
Dayyan ha'emet shomei'ah ts'akah.
(Translated: Blessed are you Lord, our God, King of the universe. God full of compassion who makes the wind (spirit) blow. The True Judge who attends to calls for help.)
(Adapted from Hebrew prayers in use today)
Galeed, ca. 2100 B.C., Genesis 31:47, (witness heap)
Vahev v'suphah, ca. 1500 B.C., Numbers 21:14,
(the Ancient places, that thing Moses did)
Lismi Wehu Peli s, ca. 1300 B.C., Judges 13:18
(My name it is incomprehensible, wonderful, a mystery, secret)
Shiloah, ca. 750 B.C., Isaiah 8:6, (sent)
Messiah, ca. 540 B.C., Daniel 9:25, (Anointed One)
Bethlehem Ephrathah, Ruth 4:11; 1 Chronicles 4:4; Micah 5:2,
another name for Jerusalem
Jegar Sehadutha, (witness heap) early Aramaic ca. 2100 B.C., Genesis 31:47
Talitha Cumi, late Aramaic ca. 31 A.D., Mark 5:41, (Little girl arise)
Ephphatha, late Aramaic ca. 31 A.D., Mark 7:34, (Be opened)
Hosanna, late Aramaic ca. 31 A.D., Mark 11:9,
(Save us, Help us we pray)
Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachthani, late Aramaic ca. 33 A.D., Mark 15:34 (My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?, a parallel verse from Psalm 22:1)
Siloam, late Aramaic ca. 31 A.D., John 9:7 (Sent)
Jesus, late Aramaic ca. 1 B.C., Matthew 1:21 (salvation)
B’siyata d’shmaya, with the help of heaven
Open my riddle...
"I will incline my ear to a proverb. I will open my riddle on the harp."
Psalm 46:4 (WEB)
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It has been said that the New Testament reveals that which is in the Old Testament concealed, and vice versa.
No matter where we look in the Bible we can find gems and pearls, crowns and cloaks, doors and porches, pillars and high places. See Pillars of the Earth, or Crown Royal. They are found to the left under "P" for Pillar of Smoke and "C" for Cedar of Lebanon.
It is best to look at both sets of writings, for in so doing, many discoveries are made, ideas are planted and then grow, prophecies explained and fulfilled, and doors found for the key in your hand. The Top 100 verses page has a section known as parallelism, a figure of speech type, which compares 100 Old Testament verses to 100 New Testament verses. The Figure of Speech Dictionary to the right explains this term and many others.
A curious thing about the parallel verses section is that from time to time the New Testament counterpart fulfills its Old Testament prophecy or shows something in reverse, or perhaps may complete a set of thoughts...
"They are all plain to him who understands, right to those who find knowledge."
Proverbs 8:9 (WEB)
"His disciples said to him, “Behold, now you speak plainly, and speak no figures of speech."
John 16:29 (WEB)
"To know wisdom and instruction; to discern the words of understanding; to receive instruction in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity; to give prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young man: that the wise man may hear, and increase in learning; that the man of understanding may attain to sound counsel: to understand a proverb, and parables, the words and riddles of the wise.
Proverbs 1:2-6 (WEB)
Here we see Bible verses, and Bible quotes, from Bible characters using figurative language and even Jesus' own disciples had commentary about this figurative language.
These figures of speech are found either as a single word or two, as seen above, known as a trope.
Otherwise they are found as a grammatical rearrangement, rhyme, or repetition structure known as a figure.
The term "rhetoric" is an adaptation stemming from a figure of speech type known as a rhetorical question. Rhetoric is what many people debate over, as in deliberation.
The term "figurative language" is an eloquent reference to illustrious spoken language using particular figures of speech. It became popular to display one's cleverness through mastery of the use of figurative language in the 18th and 19th centuries and at the same time implied one's stature in the Kingdom for being so "blessed." This became a trap and a snare.
During the latter part of the 19th century the study of figurative language got carried away by this mindset which caused the study to become abhorred due to a lofty, charismatic stature associated with its use and abuse. It did alot of harm to the image and principles of true christianity:
"Which say, Stand by thyself, come not near to me; for I am holier than thou. These are a smoke in my nose, a fire that burneth all the day."
Isaiah 65:5 (KJV)
"He said, “To you it is given to know the mysteries of God’s Kingdom, but to the rest in parables; that ‘seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’"
Luke 8:10 (WEB)
We have a collection of tropes here to the left where they are called Bible Figures of Speech. Tropes can be found individually or in group formation and clusters as above.
Sometimes they include signs and wonders embedded in their midst, such as with the following:
"What do you mean, that you use this proverb concerning the land of Israel, saying, The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?"
Ezekiel 18:2 (WEB)
Photo Credit: Bibleplaces.com
When they become a larger species, they become a linguistic entity of which there are four types. These types of classifications are found to the right in the Figure of Speech Dictionary.
Consider this well known example of Anadiplosis, which is a repetition:
"Leave them alone. They are blind guides of the blind. If the blind guide the blind, both will fall into a pit."
Matthew 15:14 (WEB)
The four linguistic classifications are as follows:
Phonology, the attributes associated with the sound of spoken words such as with rhymes and poetry;
Morphology, the attributes associated with the way words are constructed and the word root, with variations, conjugations, and evolution, also known as etymology;
Syntax, the arrangement or groupings of tropes and other word phrases which have pleasing or musical sound qualities which include cadence, pattern, and rhythm;
Semantics, the meaning of words, the double meaning of words, and the similarities of other words that are identical, similar, or sound like another; and clever substitutions. Beware of cleverness.
Figure of speech study is a way of analyzing truth according to what we read. Logic is an interesting subcategory of figures of speech and falls under this domain. There are 8 types of logic as found in the Figure of Speech Dictionary to the right.
In logic there is one set of values such as 1 + 1. There is also only one possible outcome: 2. In applying the same principle to a sentence of written truth, we see that when encountering a short saying (which is a trope by definition), that more than one possible outcome could be. This would be considered illogical.
This is where a logical system fails and a system of faith rules by way of prayer and supplication. Faith requires the understanding of many things associated with language since language is our only clue, but submission of multiple truths to counsel from above provides the certainty of our path. Many mistakes made by people of faith is that they think God didn't answer their prayers.
Since we are only looking for one outcome, we often overlook another option which was the answer sought and given. And the Bible tells us the path to the answer we seek may contain a 40 day or 40 year journey, not the answer we had in mind.
The origin of the word, "Behold," is found in the Hebrew language where it is seen written as הִנֵּה . Most people in the "Western World" looking at this would probably say "huh"? rather than "hey", its real meaning. They would certainly not be able to pronounce it, so a convenient form of Hebrew known as the transliterated form, has emerged, similarly to what happened to the Japanese language in the latter 20th century.
"Behold", in a transliterated form, is written "Hinei", which is a compound word in Hebrew found more than a thousand times in the Bible.
The Hebrew Root word of this figure is "hey", which is also the fifth letter of the Hebrew alphabet. The Hebrew Root section up above provides access to knowledge about the Hebrew language, its alphabet, and figures of speech, both in traditional Hebrew script and in transliterated Hebrew.
Each letter is a core value from which all other words evolve and are built from, from the center outward. Single syllable words have "sounds like" qualities tied to an alphabetical letter. Multiple syllable words merge the concepts of multiple alphabetical letters to build the bigger word. If the bigger words change meanings, there is a shift of paradigm or reality.
"Behold", means "hey look" in Hebrew. It consists of three letters, and basicly starts and ends with an "H" sound.
A Proverb is an example of one of the oldest forms of figurative writing style as found in the Bible. There are hundreds of classifications of Figure of Speech types and a Proverb is probably the most well-known of all.
Parables are also well known as early examples of figurative language as is the popularity of Hebrew parallelism. These two latter types are elementary in their simplicity and ease of understanding.
A Proverb by definition is, "a succinct expression of truth". The word succinct has a meaning of, concise or “neat and tidy”, maybe also short and sweet.
By unearthing small truths or simply studying the linguistic attributes of "Figures of Speech", we are led closer to God and the origins of mankind.
The farther back we go, the closer we get to the beginning, and in so doing, it paints a clearer picture of our purpose here in this temporary place and provides a degree of certainty about tomorrow.
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