I was today years old when I learned that there are some obvious, and not so obvious uses of hyperbole in the Bible.
They say that using literary devices makes for good writing. Well, the Bible is no exception!
Hyperbole, or exaggeration, is used to make a point. You know, like when one is super hungry he may say, “I am hungry enough to eat a cow”. He is making the point that he is very hungry, but obviously, he couldn’t eat the whole cow!
We had a couple of examples, in our reading this week.
In the first chapter of Mark, when Jesus had just healed Peter’s mother-in-law, word got out that he was at her house. Mark writes, “At evening, when the sun had set, they brought to Him all who were sick and those who were demon-possessed. And the whole city was gathered together at the door.” (1:32-33)
The whole city? At the door? No one person stayed home to perhaps be with their sleeping children? And, the whole city was at the door? No-one had stepped into the house? Not one was further out in the front yard? All were at the door?
This is an obvious example of hyperbole to express,...it was crowded!
Old Testament writers used hyperbole as well. 2 Kings 18:5 says, that Hezekiah trusted in the Lord...so much so, “that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor who were before him”
Really? Before him? David was before him....
In addition, just 5 chapters later, in 2 Kings, you can read about Josiah and the writer says, “Now before him there was no king like him, who turned to the Lord with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his might, according to all the Law of Moses; nor after him did any arise like him.” (23:25)
Well, that sounds familiar doesn’t it? No one before or after? What about Hezekiah?
I heard a Bible teacher say, this is a form of hyperbole that Jewish people used to stress their point. These kings were really good at trying to follow the Lord, but in reality, others were good before and after them as well.
I loved learning this idea of hyperbole this week because it gave me a new understanding to King Solomon. God used hyperbole when he said of Solomon, “I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you,” (1 Kings 3:12). We know this is hyperbole for two reasons, one, is that eight chapters later we read that Solomon turned his heart from the Lord and did evil in the sight of the Lord (11:6). That’s not a wise thing to do! And, two, Jesus came after him. Boom! You can’t get wiser than Jesus!!
So, if God used hyperbole in the Old and New Testament, it makes sense to read Matthew 13:31-32, Matt. 24:21, Mark 1:4-5, John 4:39, John 3:26 with the frame of mind of looking for the point being made, and not get hung up on the words that were meant to stress a point but not to be taken literally.
That sheds a lot of light on these verses!!! I love learning stuff like this. 🤯