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Bible Lexicons

Bullinger's Figures of Speech Used in the Bible

Homoeopropheron; or Alliteration

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The Repetition of the same Letter or Syllable at the commencement of Successive Words

Ho-mœ-o-proph´-e-ron, from ὅμοιος (homoios), like, and προφέρω (propherô), to carry, or place before: i.e., Successive words which carry the same letter or the same syllable before, or at the beginning.

This figure, therefore, is the repetition of the same letter or syllable at the beginning of two or more words in close succession. Its English name is ALLITERATION (from ad, to, and litera, letter). Churchill speaks of "Apt Alliterations Artful Aid."

This figure is seen, of course, only in the Hebrew and the Greek. It is difficult to reproduce it in a translation. And where it occurs in the English it may be only accidental, and carry no weight or emphasis.

The song of Deborah, in Judges 5:1-31, abounds with examples of Homœopropheron, which add great fire and force and beauty to the original. It is impossible to accurately and literally reproduce it in English, but with a little liberty we can give the English reader some idea of the use of this Figure.

We may as well, at the same time, do so according to its structure (see under Correspondence) and we present the structure first in outline, before setting it out in full.

The structure of Judges 5:1-31 in outline:

A 2-. Praise to Jehovah for the avenging of Israel.

B a -2, 3. Israel. The peoples voluntary service.

b 4-8. Contrasted states of the country.

a 9. Israel. The leaders voluntary service.

b 10, 11. Contrasted states of the country.

B b 12-18. Contrasted conduct.

a 19-22. The Enemy. Assault and defeat.

b 23-27. Contrasted conduct.

a 28-30. The Enemy. Presumption and disappointment.

A 31. Praise to Jehovah for the avenging of Israel.

Adhering to this form, we may set the song forth thus:-

A 2. Bless ye Jehovah,

B a That the Leaders in Israel took the lead;

That the people willingly offered themselves.

Hear, O ye kings; Hearken, O ye princes;

I, even I, will sing to Jehovah,

Will strike the strings unto Jehovah, Israels God.

b Jehovah, when thou settest forth from Seir,

When thou wentest forth from Edoms field,

The earth trembled, yea, the heavens dropped;

Yea, the clouds dropped down water,

The mountains melted away before Jehovah,

Even yon, Sinai, before Jehovah, God of Israel.* [Note: Hyperbole (q.v.).]

In the days of Shamgar, son of Anath,

In Jaels days,

The highways were effaced;

The travellers had to walk in tortuous ways,

Effaced were Israels hamlets-effaced

Till I, Deborah, rose up-rose up a mother in Israel

New gods had they got them,

Therefore the press of war approached their gates.

Was there found shield or spear among forty thousand in Israel?

a My heart is with the leaders of Israel,

Who willingly offered themselves among the People:

Bless ye Jehovah.

b Ye who ride upon white asses,

Ye who recline upon rich rugs,

Who walk by the way-Speak!

Instead of the shouting of the archers among the water-drawers.

They praise there the righteous acts of Jehovah,

His righteous acts in His villages in Israel.

Then the People of Jehovah hastened down to the gates.

B b Awake, awake, [Note: Geminatio.] Deborah!

Awake, awake, speak the song!

Barak, arise! conquer thy conquest,

Thou son of Abinoam.

Then down against the robust rushed a remnant;

Jehovahs Host rushed with me against the powerful,

From Ephraims stock-the victors over Amalek:

After thee marched Benjamin among thy peoples;

From Machir came the Masters,

Men that wield the Marshalls staff out of Zebulun.

But the princes of Issachar were with Deborah,

Yea, Issachar was like Barak,

When into the valley his men threw themselves at his feet,

While by the brooks abode Reuben,

With great resolutions of heart.

Why sittest thou among the folds listening to the shepherds flute?

By the brooks Reuben has great searchings of heart.

Gilead stays beyond Jordan,

And Dan-Why does he abide in his ships?

Asher stays still on the shore of the sea,

Staying still in its bays,

But Zebulun hazarded his soul unto death

With Naphthali, upon the heights of the field.

a Kings came to fight-then the Kings of Canaan fought

At Taanach and by Megiddos Meres;

Silver gained they none.

From heaven they strove; the stars in their courses

They strove against Sisera:

Kishons stream swept them away-

A stream of succours was Kishons stream.

Tread strongly on, my Soul!

When struck the sounding hoof of the rushing steed-

Of the rushings [Note: Epizeuxis (q.v.).] strong ones.

b Curse ye Meroz, commands Jehovahs Angel,

Curse ye, curse ye her inhabitants,

Because they came not to Jehovahs help,

To Jehovahs help* [Note: Epizeuxis (q.v.).] amid the mighty.

Blessed above women be Jael,

Heber the Kenites wife,

Blessed above women [Note: Anaphora (q.v.).] of the tents!

He asks for water, she gives him milk;

In a beauteous bowl she carries him cream:

With her left hand she takes the tent-peg,

With her right the heavy hammer,

She swings it over Sisera, smites his head,

Crashes through and transfixes his temples,

At her feet he falls-he lies,

At her feet [Note: Anaphora (q.v.).] he lies, writhes again, and falls,

As he writhes himself again he falls-dead! [Note: Asyndeton (q.v.).]

a Siseras mother looks from the window-edge,

She looks from the lattice-ledge and laments:

"Why lingers his car so long?

Why stop his chariots steps?"

Her wise ladies answer her,

But she repeats her words to herself:

"Will they not find booty and share it?

Two maidens for each man;[Note: Some critics have quoted this as a specimen of the low moral standard of theScriptures, not seeing that it is merely telling us what the heathen woman (Siseras mother) said! And in that womans language we have the key to the victory which one woman won; and to the vengeance which another woman wrought.]

Booty of purple robes for Sisera,

Yea, booty of purple robes!

Two for each neck of the captors?" [Note: Aposiopesis (q.v.).]

A So fall all thy foes, O Jehovah,

But let them that love Him shine forth as the sun in his strength.

Romans 11:33.-"How unsearchable (ἀνεξερεύνητα, anexereuneeta) are his judgments, and his ways past finding out (ἀνεξιχνίαστοι, anexichniastoi)!"

Here, the two important words are rendered still more emphatic by commencing with the same syllables.

His judgments are anexereuneeta (unsearchable), and His ways anexichniastoi (untrackable).

This means that His judgments are incomprehensible, and His ways untrackable. The former word occurs nowhere else in the N.T.; the latter only here, and in Ephesians 3:8, where it is rendered "unsearch-able":-"The unsearchable riches of Christ." This does not merely vaguely express that Christs riches are uncountable or untold, but that they cannot be traced out. The context shows that this present interval between "the sufferings of Christ" and "the glory that should follow," had been kept a secret (μυστήριον, musteerion, or mystery), and had not been revealed, until it was made known by the Spirit through Paul (Romans 16:25-26. Ephesians 3:2-11. Colossians 1:26-27). The prophets sought to know the secret as to "what or what manner of time" the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify: but, it was untrackable; they could not follow it: His ways were "past finding out."* [Note: See The Mystery, by the same author and publisher.]

1 Thessalonians 1:2.-"We give thanks to God always for you all." The last words are emphasized by being put as a beautiful Homœo-propheron. The Greek is πάντοτε περὶ πάντων (Pantote Peri Pantôn), i.e., always concerning you all.

1 Thessalonians 5:23.-We give our own rendering: "And may the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly (ὁλοτελεῖς, holoteleis), and may your whole being (ὁλόκληρον, holokleeron), the spirit, and the soul, and the body, be preserved (i.e., reserved, see 1 Peter 1:4. 2 Peter 2:4; 2 Peter 2:9; 2 Peter 2:17; 2 Peter 3:7. Judges 1:6; Judges 1:13), unblamable at (ἐν) the parousia (presence or coming) of our Lord Jesus Christ."

Here the two words are "holoteleis kai holokleeron."

Hebrews 1:1.-"God who at sundry times and in divers manners, etc." πολυμερῶς καὶ πολυτρόπως πάλαι (polymerôs και polytropôs palai), "in many parts and many ways of old."

Here, there is both Homœopropheron and Homœteleuton: the two words both beginning with poly- and ending with -ôs.

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Bibliography Information
Bullinger, E. W., D.D. Entry for 'Homoeopropheron; or Alliteration'. Bullinger's Figures of Speech Used in the Bible.

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