Home > Hermeneutics > The expositor needs to be on the alert to detect ironical language

The expositor needs to be on the alert to detect ironical language

Arthur PinkAgain, the expositor needs to be on the alert to detect ironical language, for it usually signifies the very opposite to what is expressed, being a form of satire for the purpose of exposing an absurdity and to hold up to ridicule. Such language was employed by God when He said,

“Behold, the man is become as one of Us, to know good and evil” (Genesis 3:22),

and when He bade Israel,

“Go and cry unto the gods which ye have chosen; let them deliver you in the time of your tribulation” (Judges 10:14);

by Elijah, when he mocked the prophets of Baal:

“Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is… in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awakened” (1 Kings 18:27);

by Micaiah when he answered Jehoshaphat,

“Go, and prosper: for the Lord shall deliver it into the hand of the king” (1 Kings 22:15);

by Job,

“No doubt but ye are the people, and wisdom shall die with you” (12:2);

in Ecclesiastes 11:9:

“Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth… walk in the ways of thine heart, and in the sight of thine eyes”;

by Christ, when He said,

“A goodly price that I was prised at of them” (Zechariah 11:13);

and by Paul,

“now ye are rich, ye have reigned as kings without us” (1 Corinthians 4:8).

Nor are we to take literally the language of hyperbole or exaggeration, when more is said than is actually meant, as when the ten spies said of Canaan,

“the cities are great and walled up to heaven” (Deuteronomy 1:28),

and when we are told that their armies were

“even as the sand that is upon the sea shore in multitude” (Joshua 11:4).

So too the description given of those that came up against Gideon:

“like grasshoppers for multitude; and their camels without number” (Judges 7:12),

and

“there is no nation or kingdom, whither my lord hath not sent to seek thee” (1 Kings 18:10).

Further examples are found in:

“They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths” (Psalm 107:26);

“Rivers of water run down mine eyes” (Psalm 119:136);

“A little one shall become a thousand, and a small one a strong nation: I the Lord will hasten it in his time” (Isaiah 60:22);

“Their widows are increased to Me above the sand of the seas” (Jeremiah 15:8),

which should be borne in mind when reading Revelation 7:9;

“And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written (John 21:25).

Arthur W. Pink-Interpretation of the Scriptures

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