It’s as Plain as the Nose on Your Face

Photo by Angela Roma

Idioms are funny. In English, when we describe someone caring and kind, we say they have a “big heart.” The Greeks say the same person as having “kidneys.” The Jewish people focus on the nose. Just before the tenth plague, after Moses warned Pharaoh about what was to come, “Moses, hot with anger, left Pharaoh” (Exodus 11:8). Literally, Moses was “hot of nose.” [1] Elsewhere, if someone has a “long nose,” they are patient, but if they are “high of nose,” they are arrogant. English has the same expression. We say an arrogant person has their “nose in the air.”

We use figures of speech all the time to make our words memorable. “That argument doesn’t hold water.” “My cup overflows.” “Stand up for the Word of God.” “I was tickled to death.” Songwriters are especially good at this. I like the line, “Her teeth are like the stars above – they come out every night.”

Sometimes I think James, the brother of Jesus, must have been a songwriter. He was undoubtedly a wordsmith introducing many new terms into the Greek language. For example, a person like Lot’s wife who wants to be saved but also desires to live in Sodom is dipsuche: a person with two souls (James 1:8). Likewise, James describes the rich man who comes to worship dressed in fine clothes and adorned with jewels. The man has so many rings on his hands, James says the man has “golden fingers” (chrusodaktulios, χρυσοδακτύλιος James 2:2).

D.K. Campbell writes, “The Bible contains hundreds of figures of speech. E.W. Bullinger grouped the Bible’s figures of speech into more than 200 categories, giving 8,000 illustrations from the Scriptures, with the table of contents taking 28 pages to list the 200 categories!”[2]

Take note of figures of speech as you read your Bible. Sometimes they will shock you. They will make you laugh at other times, but they will always be memorable.

Here in Kansas, our farmers are praying for much-needed rain. I wonder if it will be a “gully washer” or a “toad strangler.” What do you say?

  [1] Mounce, W. D. (2006). In Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words (p. 898). Zondervan.

[2] Campbell, D. K. (1991). Foreword. In C. Bubeck Sr. (Ed.), Basic Bible Interpretation: A Practical Guide to Discovering Biblical Truth (p. 143). David C. Cook.

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