The Bible remains one of the bestselling books in the world; more people have read it than any other text. The Bible is all around us and yet most are unfamiliar with its contents. As noted last week, the Bible is filled with figures of speech. For the Bible reader to understand these figures of speech one must follow some basic rules.
Previously mentioned, were the first four rules of recognizing figurative language. This week brings the conclusion of these rules.
V. The inspired penman may say it is figurative. John did just this regarding Jesus’ statement about the Jews destroying “this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19-22). John tells the reader that the “temple” is figurative for Jesus body. Jesus was not speaking about the physical temple of God.
VI. When the definite is put in place for the indefinite, this is figurative language. An example of this exchange is seen when Jacob accused Laban of changing his wages “10” times. This was likely a hyperbole (described in more detail later) for multiple times.
VII. A statement made in mockery. In 1 Kings 18:27, Elijah mocks the prophets of Baal saying: “Call out with a loud voice, for he is a god; either he is occupied or gone aside, or is on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and needs to be awakened.” Baal is not a god but only mocked as one.
VIII. Finally, common sense should tell us some things. Figures of speech sometimes occur when we have to depend on the things we know, in order to decide if the language is figurative or literal. Paul wrote, “I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able” (1 Corinthians 3:2). Did the apostle Paul actually feed the congregation milk, withholding literal solid food? No. When we use common sense we can understand that he was using a figure of speech.
These rules will help the reader to identify figures of speech in the text of God’s word. Knowing the difference is crucial to properly understanding the Bible. In the coming weeks we will endeavor to learn new figures of speech and make Biblical application.