Principle 7

Small scale repetition: the text repeats a word several times in a short passage in order to signal something of importance.

EXAMPLE  (Genesis 6:11-13):

This technique is usually limited to a short passage and is used to express one specific idea. In the Flood story, for instance, it illustrates an important biblical concept: just punishment. In the passage below, the word “ruin” sounds first three times, to stress the damage that human beings have done to the world; the fourth time, it appears in a causative form, showing God’s retaliation in the same terms:

Now the earth had gone to ruin before God; the earth was filled with wrongdoing.
God saw the earth, and here, it had gone to ruin,
for all fleshed had ruined its way upon the earth.

God said to Noah:
An end of all flesh has come before me,
for the earth is filled with wrongdoing through them;
here, I will bring ruin upon them, along with the earth.   [italics mine]

The Bible uses this same measure-for-measure approach in other stories, such as the Tower of Babel (Gen. 11), where the repeated word is “Come-now”), and the early part of the Yaakov (Jacob) cycle, through the repetition of “firstborn” and “blessing.” Small-scale repetition is another example of how the form of the text embodies its message.


Principle 8 »