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Ellipsis & Metaphor

Victor M. Eskew




A.     A figure of speech “is simply a word or sentence thrown into a peculiar form, different from its original or simplest meaning or use” (Bullinger, xv).


B.      In today’s lesson, we will be examining two figures of speech:  an ellipsis and a metaphor.


I.             ELLIPSIS


A.     Definition

1.       The word “ellipsis” comes from a Greek term that means “a leaving in.”

a.       In essence, words have been left out of the text so a gap has been left in.

b.       In English, we would refer to this as an omission.

2.       “The figure is a peculiar form given to a passage when a word or words are omitted; words which are necessary for the grammar, but are not necessary for the sense” (Bullinger, 1).


B.      Two important considerations:

1.       “The omission arises not from lack of thought, or lack of care, or from accident, but from design, in order that we may not stop to think, or lay stress on, the word omitted, but may dwell on the other words which are thus emphasized by the omission” (Bullinger, 1).

2.       Sometimes the KJV will italicize words in the text that have been supplied by the translators.

a.       Usually, these involve an ellipsis.

b.       The word was supplied in order to provide clarity and understanding to the reader.

c.       It is italicized so the readers will know that it has been added and that it is not part of the Greek text.


C.      Examples of ellipsis:

1.       Matthew 14:19


And he commanded the multitude to sit down on the grass, and took the five loaves, and the fishes, and looking up to heaven, he blessed and brake, and gave the loaves to his disciples, and the disciples to the multitudes.


a.       As this sentence is written, it looks like Jesus gave the disciples to the multitude.

b.       The omitted word(s) are:  “gave” or “gave the bread.”  “…and the disciples gave the bread to the multitude.”

c.       The emphasis is put on Jesus as the Giver of the bread.

2.       Ecclesiastes 12:13


Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:  Fear God, and keep his commandments:  for this is the whole duty of man.


a.       The word “duty” is in italics.  It has been supplied by the translators.

b.       The translators felt that the word “duty” helps the reader to understand the passage better.

c.       Some people feel that this addition was not necessary.  “Fear God, and keep his command-ments:  for this is the whole of man.”

3.       Genesis 14:19-20


And Melchizedek king of Salem brought forth bread and wine:  and he was the priest of the most high God.  And he blessed him, and said, Blessed be Abram of the most high God, possessor of heaven and earth:  and blessed be the most high God which hath delivered their enemies into thy hand.  And he gave him tithes of all.


a.       When a person reads the text, it appears that Melchizedek gave tithes to Abraham.

b.       The proper name is omitted from the text and a pronoun is put in its place.

c.       Fortunately, we have the answer divinely supplied in Hebrews 7:4.


Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils.


d.       The text of Genesis 14:20 would be clearer if it read:  “And Abram gave him tithes of all.”

4.       II Samuel 14:1


And again the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.


a.       The word “he” in the text makes it seem that God moved David to number Israel and Judah.

b.       The word “he” should read “Satan” or “the adversary” moved David against them.  Why?

1)      The Lord would not move David to do something sinful.

2)      In the margins of some Bibles, the word “Satan” is given as a footnote.

3)      See also I Chronicles 21:1


And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.


5.       I Corinthians 1:17


For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel:  not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.


a.       Some use this text in an effort to teach against the necessity of baptism in the salvation process. 

1)      They emphasize that Paul said:  “Christ sent me NOT to baptize.” 

2)      They reason:  “If baptism is important to salvation, why was Paul sent not to baptize?

b.       Two points:

1)      The Great Commission commands baptism (Matt. 18:18-20; Mark 16:15-16).

2)      Paul did baptize some in Corinth (I Cor. 1:14, 16).


I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius…And I baptized also the household of Stephanos:  besides, I know not whether I baptized any other.


c.       The word “only” should follow the word “baptize.”  “For Christ sent me not to baptize only, but to preach the gospel…”


II.            METAPHOR


A.     Definition

1.       The word “metaphor” comes from a Greek term meaning “a transference” or “carrying over.”

2.       “A figure of speech in which a term or phrase is applied to something to which it is not literally applicable to suggest a resemblance” (www.dictionary.com).

3.       A declaration that one thing IS another.


B.      Examples:

1.       Luke 13:32


And he said unto them, Go ye, and tell that fox…


a.       In the context, Jesus is speaking about Herod (Luke 13:31).

b.       Herod is not a literal fox.

c.       Herod possesses some of the qualities of a fox:  cunning, crafty, and able to hide evil intentions.


2.       Matthew 5:13


Ye are the salt of the earth…


a.       Disciples are not literal salt.

b.       We do, however, possess some of the qualities of salt:  flavor, healing, and preservation.

3.       A lion

a.       Jesus is called a lion (Rev. 5:5).


And one of the elders saith unto me, Weep not:  behold the lion of the tribe of Juda, the root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loosen the seals thereof.


1)      Jesus is not a literal lion.

2)      He is, however, noble, heroic, strong, and unconquerable.

b.       Satan is called a lion (I Pet. 5:8).


Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour.


1)      The devil is a spiritual being, an angel, but not a lion.

2)      He is a lion in the sense that he roars, is predatory, and seeks to destroy.

3)      NOTE:  This is not strictly a metaphor.  It uses the word “as” to compare.  It is a simile.  We will learn about those later.

c.       Wicked men and tyrants are called lions (Psa. 22:21).


Save me from the lion’s mouth…


1)      The evil enemy tyrants are referenced by David.

2)      Evil men are fierce, outrageous, and cruel to weaker men like lions.

4.       The elements of the Lord’s Supper.

a.       Bread:  “This is my body” (Matt. 26:26).  Easily torn and without leaven (sin)

b.       Fruit of the vine:  “This is my blood” (Matt. 26:28)  color, life-giving properties


5.       All of the “I Am” statements of Jesus are metaphors.

a.       I am the bread of life (John 6:35, 48).

b.       I am the light of the world (John 8:12; 9:5).

c.       I am the door (John 10:9).

d.       I am the good shepherd (John 10:11).

e.       I am the resurrection and the life (John 11:25).

f.        I am the way (John 14:6).

g.       I am the truth (John 14:6).

h.       I am the true vine (John 15:1).




A.     We have examined two figures of speech from the Bible:  ellipsis and metaphor.


B.      They each serve an important function.

1.       Ellipsis:  makes us think about the words of the text

2.       Metaphor:  helps us to understand the attributes of something or someone