Divine Redundancies

Written by Drew on August 11th, 2006

In preparation for this Sunday’s lessons, I was perusing E.W. Bullinger’s Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (thanks to my brother Barton who loaned me his copy). I was particularly interested in a figure of speech Bullinger calls “epizeuxis,” the repetition of a word in close and immediate succession. We might style it “redundancy.”

There are times when it is proper for us to visit the “Department of Redundancy Department.” The prophets used duplication for emphasis. Isaiah described seraphim in heaven who cried, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts” (6:3). Jeremiah cried, “O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the Lord” (22:29).

When the repetition is divine, it is often designed to grab one’s attention. Just as Abraham was about to slaughter his son as an offering to the Lord, an angel of the Lord called out to him, saying, “Abraham, Abraham!” (Gen. 22:11). From the burning bush the Lord seized Moses, calling, “Moses, Moses!” (Ex. 3:4). At first the boy Samuel thought his mentor Eli was summoning him when he heard a mysterious voice say, “Samuel! Samuel!” (1 Sam. 3:10). Can you imagine Saul’s alarm when he encountered the risen Lord on the road to Damascus, who said, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” (Acts 9:4).

Sometimes the repetition of a person’s name adds tenderness to correction that has to be given. So Jesus gave pause to Martha’s preparations with the words, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.” (Lk. 10:41-42). And Peter was softly admonished, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail” (Lk. 22:31-32).

The Lord never repeated Himself in order to compensate for weaknesses that might hinder His will. Frustrated, parents may call out a child’s name a hundred time with no results. By contrast, when it came to displays of power, Jesus never had to repeat Himself. Jairus’s daughter was raised by only two words in Aramaic, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise” (Mk. 5:41). And Lazarus lived again when the words “Lazarus, come out” fell upon his cold ears (Jn. 11:43). Marshall Keeble was fond of saying that the Lord could have raised Lazarus without calling his name, but if he hadn’t specified his friend by name, the entire cemetery would have soon been empty!

As is the case with all things pertaining to God, there is purpose in divine redundancies. Never does God repeat Himself without cause. Neither does He need to beg for our attention with “vain repetitions.” Because He speaks with full authority, He does not have to tell us what we need to know more than once. We had better listen.


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