Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Word Duplication in the Hebrew Portions of the Bible

The Hebrew portion of the Bible contains an intriguing technique to strongly emphasize an action: word duplication. If you said, “I will obey obey God” in English, it would make little sense. In Hebrew, that duplication gives very strong emphasis to the commitment to obey. You might say instead, "I will totally obey." My hope in this article is to teach how you can recognize this duplication technique – that is, how the Holy Spirit inspired the scriptures with this technique.

This literary device is also known as iteratio and subjunctio.

This rhetoric occurs when a word is repeated. Using the book of Zechariah (NASB), here are some instances of word duplication:

“Those who are far off will come and build the temple of the Lord.” Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. And it will take place if you completely obey the Lord your God. (v6:15)

The inhabitants of one will go to another, saying, “Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts; I will also go.” (v8:21)

“Woe to the worthless shepherd
Who leaves the flock!
A sword will be on his arm
And on his right eye!
His arm will be totally withered
And his right eye will be blind 1.” (v11:21)
Footnote: 1 Lit completely dimmed

It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it. (v12:3)

Many times, an adverb [recognized by the -ly at the end of the word] indicates a duplicated Hebrew word.

In a sense, our English diminishes the word repetition. If you said, “I will jump jump over the candlestick”, that does not infer a jump that is twice as high. Rather, it points to the wholehearted commitment to jump over the candlestick. No burnt pants from that jump!

In our effort to hear the voice of God through the Holy Spirit, even the little things in language can provide a strong look into the heart of God. See if you can find examples of word duplication in these verses from Deuteronomy (NASB):

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that you will surely perish quickly from the land where you are going over the Jordan to possess it. You shall not live long on it, but will be utterly destroyed. (v4:26)

You should diligently keep the commandments of the Lord your God, and His testimonies and His statutes which He has commanded you. (v6:17)

And when the Lord your God delivers them before you and you defeat them, then you shall utterly destroy them. You shall make no covenant with them and show no favor to them. (v7:2)