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What the Bible says about Parallelism
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Unlike Greek, biblical Hebrew is a rather concrete language, expressing itself in colorful, often earthy terms, and emphasizing its meaning with repetition and rephrasing. Because his vocabulary was limited by a relatively small number of words, a Hebrew writer relied on syntax, metaphors, puns, and other figures of speech to make his meaning clear. Perhaps chief in his bag of verbal tricks was parallelism.

Parallelism is similar to the use of appositives in English. When we say, "Fred Jones, the pharmacist, often rode his bicycle to work," we restate the subject of our sentence and add information at the same time. The Hebrew writer did the same thing, but he was not limited merely to renaming nouns; he worked in phrases, clauses, and whole sentences. For instance, a well-known parallelism appears in Psalm 51:2: "Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin." Many of the proverbs of Solomon also follow this form, for example, "Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'Perfect In His Generations'

Related Topics: Bible Study | Biblical Imagery | Parallelism


 

Exodus 35:21

The context is the building of the Tabernacle in the wilderness, and the subject is "spirit." Spirit is what impels and motivates.

We need to understand the structure of verse 21. The second phrase, "and every one whom his spirit made willing" is parallel with the first phrase, "they came, every one whose heart stirred him up." Parallelism is a Hebraic syntactical form used to clarify and reinforce a statement.

The human heart, the blood-pumping muscle, is invisible to sight, being inside the body, but it is the activating and animating source of physical life: "The life is in the blood." The Hebrews knew that, and so they used "heart" in a way that parallels "spirit." In their speaking and writing, Hebrews used the heart to symbolize the seat of the intellect, as well as the emotional and spiritual life. To them, it was also, not only the animating part of physical life, but also the invisible energizer and motivator of activity in the areas of intellectual, emotional, and spiritual life. They simply made a connection between the physical heart and its energizing physical life, and spirit, which energizes intellectual, emotional, and spiritual life.

Thus, in this verse, "heart" and "spirit" are brought together as though they were one, involved in stirring, exciting, or motivating people into action to build the Tabernacle. We could take this one step further to say that spirit was exciting or inclining the mind to be willing to choose to give of themselves.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part Three)

Psalm 111:1

"The assembly of the upright" and "the congregation" are not necessarily different. It is a parallelism in which the one reinforces the other. It is very clear before whom God is going to be praised.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Ten)

Related Topics: Congregation | Parallelism | Praising God


 

Proverbs 8:13

What does "the fear of the LORD" entail? Another proverb, Proverbs 9:10, helps us to understand: "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding." While Proverbs 8:13 defines what the fear of the Lord is, Proverbs 9:10 shows what it produces. Understanding the effect of the fear of the Lord will help us to understand the cause.

This verse uses a Hebraism in which the two clauses are written in parallel. The "fear of the LORD" in the first clause is linked to "knowledge of the Holy One" in the second, while the "beginning of wisdom" corresponds to "understanding." Most translations hide the fact that the Hebrew word rendered as "Holy One" is actually plural. It refers to both holy, divine Beings—the Father and the Son. We can more fully grasp this in conjunction with John 17:3, where Jesus says that knowing the Father and the Son—having personal, intimate knowledge ofthe Holy Ones—is eternal life.

In tying these things together, we see that the wisdom and understanding in Proverbs 9:10 are not abstract concepts but are related to eternal life. They are foundational to being able to live eternally. The reverential awe and respect—fear—of God is what produces wisdom in making sound choices, in having good judgment, in understanding cause and effect. The fear of God makes for a good life—not just for the self, but also for everyone for all time.

James describes such "wisdom from above" as "first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy" (James 3:17). These elements produce a good life, a life of spiritual wisdom. All of them are opposites of evil, of causing harm. Godly fear causes a man to evaluate properly and to arrive at the correct conclusion about what he should or should not do. Ultimately, the fear of the Lord teaches us to live eternally—to live with the skill that the Father and the Son have in living.

Returning to Proverbs 8:13, we can see how hating evil fits into this. When we are vehemently opposed to all that does harm to life and liveliness, and our lives reflect this, we are beginning to live as God does. However, we have to put wisdom in the context of eternity. What may seem "harmless" in the short term may bear evil fruit in the long term. Unless we are able—and willing—to look as far forward as possible to see the outcome, we may not be able to see the harm.

Because of man's fickle and shortsighted nature, God has explicitly defined what is good and evil in His law, and the evil that is defined is sin. It may not be immediately obvious to mankind that burning incense to the Queen of Heaven causes harm because mankind is shortsighted enough not to realize that he is paying homage to a worthless substitute of the true Creator, the One who gives life. Thus, God spells out that we can have no other gods (Exodus 20:3).

Mankind may not see the harm in a "little white lie" (Exodus 20:16), but the One "who inhabits eternity" knows that truth and life are inextricably linked. When falsehood enters in, so do defilement and ultimately death.

Humanity may not be aware of the harm caused by coveting (Exodus 20:17), but the One "who knows the end from the beginning" and who created the human intellect and human heart, knows that sin begins in the heart. The best way to stop sin at its source is to help mankind to guard his heart, before any sin can be produced.

David C. Grabbe
Hating Evil, Fearing God

Proverbs 26:4-5

In his article, "Is Proverbs in Contradiction on Answering Fools?" James Patrick Holding feels that the alleged contradiction between Proverbs 26:4-5

wins a major award for silliness. What we have here is not contradiction, but dilemma—an indication that when it comes to answering fools, you cannot win—because they are fools, and there is no practical cure for foolery (as this citation demonstrates). So: It is unwise to argue with a fool at his own level and recognize his own foolish suppositions, but it is good sometimes to refute him soundly, lest his foolishness seem to be confirmed by your silence.

In his Alleged Contradictions in the Bible, B.J. Clarke points out that the close proximity of these verses (back to back) would rule out the idea of discrepancy even for the most sophomoric of scholars. James Jackson, in his article, "Answering the Fool,"suggests that "such close proximity reflects design, not disorder."

Dr. E. W. Bullinger suggests that the connection between these verses can be explained by an ellipsis (something deliberately left out to grab the reader's attention) beginning in verse 3, which compares reasoning with a fool to reasoning with a donkey. Rather than considering these proverbs as absolute commands, the reader finds cause-and-effect cautions: If you answer a fool, you will be like him, but if you do not answer a fool, he will assume you are like him. Either way, we would lose.

Along with ellipsis, the technique of parallelism (repeated similarities used for rhetorical effect) is used throughout Proverbs to amplify meaning. Consider Proverbs 28:1: "The wicked flee when no one pursues; but the righteous are as bold as a lion." In this light, Proverbs 26:4-5 can be read: "Do not answer a fool according to his folly, lest you be like him. [But on the other hand,] answer a fool according to his folly, lest he be wise in his own eyes."

Paradox provides another explanation for the alleged "contradiction." Lynn Anderson, in his article "The Case for Mystery," asserts that the Bible embraces paradoxes throughout. The apostle Paul, for example, in the same chapter (Galatians 6:2, 5), urges, "Bear one another's burdens," and three verses later suggests, "Each one shall bear his own load." Similarly, Paul warns Christians not to be "burdened again by a yoke of bondage" (Galatians 5:1), while teaching elsewhere that we are to become "slaves to righteousness" (Romans 6:18). Jesus Christ provides the most sterling example of paradox when he warns His disciples that whoever desires to lead must become a servant (Luke 22:26) and whoever would save his life must be willing to lose it (Luke 17:33).

A special instance of paradox is the conundrum or riddle. Stephen Tecklenberg, in his article "No Matter What You Do,"maintains that the "Answer not a fool . . . Answer a fool" juxtaposition is just that, a conundrum focusing more on the "readiness" to answer rather than on the answering. He adds, "If appropriate, give answers. If not, withhold."

Thomas Henry Reardon, in his article "Folly to Be Wise?" points out that while much of Scripture demands making right choices, certain decisions, especially in the Wisdom literature (Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, etc.), demand discernment, prudence, and choosing wisely between alternatives.

David Jon Hill, in his article "Twelve Rules for Bible Study" (Tomorrow's World, July 1969), substantiates the turn of phrase and accent explanations, asserting that differing circumstances account for the so-called contradictions:

Actually, these two verses are not contradictory—but complementary!

The use of either verse—that is, its principle applied to a particular use—depends on the set of circumstances. Both these verses contain gems of wisdom that each one of us needs to learn to properly apply in answering other people's questions.

The last part of each verse holds the key which unlocks the meaning of these verses—and shows them to be practical, usable and wise principles.

Verse four reads, "Answer not a fool according to his folly, lest thou also be like unto him." The last part of the verse holds the key: don't degrade yourself by descending to his level in an argument! Don't harangue—don't bite back—don't try to "argue back" with someone who is obviously trying to stir contention.

Robert Deffingbaugh, in his Bible study, "The Fool,"says of Proverbs 26:5:

We should not allow the fool to drag us down to his level. The fool is exasperating; he is looking for trouble, and he often tempts us to oblige him. Since the fool will spout off and speak his mind, we are tempted to lose our temper with him as well. Proverbs instructs us not to allow him to get the best of us, lest we be lowered to his level.

When Donald Trump mistakenly got into a name-calling contest with Rosie O'Donnell, it gave her a fallacious, elevated estimation of her debating abilities, deluding her into a false sense of importance and wisdom, and at the same time, it artificially boosted the ratings of The View. Fred Thompson, on the other hand, when asked to debate the merits of "universal" health care with Michael Moore, who lauds Fidel Castro's system in Cuba, made it clear that he would not lower himself to Moore's foolishness.

David F. Maas
To Answer a Fool—or Not

Daniel 9:24-27

These four verses are not only prophecy, but they are also poetry. A poet can take a bit of license, especially with form. Hebrew poets (and angelic ones) are no different, and one of their favorite devices was contrast. They would take subject A and contrast it with subject B, as in Proverbs 15:18: "A wrathful man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger allays contention."

Gabriel does the same with this prophecy. It is composed of two similar contrasts that we will label A1/B1/A2/B2. Verses 25-26a = A1. Verse 26b = B1. Verse 27a = A2. Verse 27b = B2. The verses below are formatted this way to help in understanding the prophecy. This is very important because if it is not heeded, one will credit Antichrist with things that should be credited to the true Messiah.

Introduction: 24 Seventy weeks are determined for your people and for your holy city, to finish the transgression, to make an end of sins, to make reconciliation for iniquity, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy, and to anoint the Most Holy.

A1: 25 Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the command to restore and build Jerusalem until Messiah the Prince, there shall be seven weeks and sixty-two weeks; the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublesome times. 26a And after the sixty-two weeks Messiah shall be cut off, but not for Himself;

B1: 26b and the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. The end of it shall be with a flood, and till the end of the war desolations are determined.

A2: 27a Then He shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; but in the middle of the week He shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering.

B2: 27b And on the wing of abominations shall be one who makes desolate, even until the consummation, which is determined, is poured out on the desolate.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
'Seventy Weeks Are Determined...'


 




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