corner graphic   Hi,    
Finding the new version too difficult to understand? Go to

Bible Lexicons

Bullinger's Figures of Speech Used in the Bible

Hyperbole; or Exaggeration

Resource Toolbox

When more is said than is literally meant

Hy-per´-bo-le is from ὑπέρ (huper or hyper), over and above, or beyond (like Lat., super), and βολή (bolee), a casting, from βάλλειν (ballein), to throw. Hence, a casting or going beyond, overshooting, excess.

The figure is so called because the expression adds to the sense so much that it exaggerates it, and enlarges or diminishes it more than is really meant in fact. Or, when more is said than is meant to be literally understood, in order to heighten the sense.

It is the superlative degree applied to verbs and sentences and expressions or descriptions, rather than to mere adjectives.

The figure is known by several names. It is called EPAUXESIS (Ep´-aux-ee´-sis), growth or increase upon. HYPEROCHE (hy-per´-o-ché), excess, superabundance.HYPERTHESIS (hy-per´-the-sis), a placing or passing beyond, superlative. It was called by the Latins SUPERLATIO (su-per-la´ti-o), a carrying beyond, an exaggerating.

Genesis 41:47.-"And in the seven plenteous years the earth brought forth by handfuls": i.e., one grain produced a handful of grains, which is hyperbolical of a prolific increase.

So verse 49.

Genesis 42:28.-"Their heart failed them." Here the Hyperbole "their heart went out," is thus beautifully rendered.

Exodus 8:17.-"All the dust of the land became lice throughout all the land of Egypt": i.e., wherever in all the land there was dust, it became lice.

Deuteronomy 1:28.-"The cities are great, and walled up to heaven," to express their great height. So Deuteronomy 9:1, etc.

Judges 5:4-5, beautifully sets forth the Divine Majesty manifested in Jehovahs leading the People into the Promised Land.

Judges 20:16.-"Every one could sling stones at an hair and not miss": to describe the wonderful proficiency which the Benjamites had attained in slinging stones. The A.V. [Note: The Authorized Version, or current Text of our English Bible, 1611.] has added breadth in italics, so as to lessen the boldness of the Hyperbole, "an hair breadth."

1 Samuel 5:12.-"The cry of the city went up to heaven," to describe the greatness of the cry.

1 Samuel 25:37.-Nabals "heart died within him, and he became as a stone": i.e., he was terribly frightened and collapsed or fainted away.

1 Kings 1:40.-"So that the earth rent with the sound of them." A hyperbolical description of their jumping and leaping for joy.

1 Kings 10:5.-"There was no more spirit in her": i.e., she was dazed or stupefied, as we say, with astonishment.

2 Chronicles 28:9.-"A rage that reacheth up unto heaven," to express the intensity of the rage.

Ezra 9:6.-"Our trespass is grown up unto the heavens," to express the enormity of their sin.

Nehemiah 8:4.-"And Ezra the Scribe stood upon a tower (marg. [Note: arg. Margin.] ) of wood": i.e., a high wooden structure; or, as we should say, a platform or pulpit.

Job 39:19.-"Hast thou clothed his neck with thunder?"

Glassius gives this as an Hyperbole for the neighing of the horse, but it seems better to take רַעְמָה (ramah), of a flowing mane, from רָעַם (raam), to tremble, shake, wave, as in verse 25.

The word denotes a shaking, as well as the noise caused by the shaking. See Psalms 104:7. Isaiah 29:6. The lxx. has φόβον (phobon), fear, perhaps a mistake for φόβην (phobeen), a mane:-"Thou hast clothed his neck with a flowing mane."

Psalms 107:26.-"They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths": to express the violence of a storm; and waves, as we say, "mountain-high."

Proverbs 23:8.-"The morsel which thou hast eaten shalt thou vomit up": to express the suffering of regrets at having received benefits from such a host.

Isaiah 5:25; Isaiah 42:15.-These are hyperbolical descriptions to set forth the excessive anger and judgments of Jehovah in making the Land desolate.

Isaiah 14:13.-"I will ascend into heaven": to express the pride of Lucifer.

Isaiah 57:9.-"Thou didst debase thyself even unto hell (Sheol)"; to emphasize the indignity of Ahaz, king of Judah in sending to Tiglath-Pileser, king of Assyria, to help him against Israel, saying, "I am thy servant!" (2 Kings 16:7, etc.).

Jeremiah 1:19; Jeremiah 15:20.-"They shall fight against thee" (see below, James 4:1).

The verb, which means to wage war, is Hyperbole when used of a single individual; but it told Jeremiah how bitter the opposition of man would be to his Divine message.

Jeremiah 4:29.-"The whole city shall flee they shall go into thickets." Lit., into the clouds; to express the inaccessible places.

Jeremiah 51:9.-"Her judgment reacheth unto heaven, and is lifted up even to the skies": to express the magnitude of Babylons sin which called for such a judgment (Revelation 18:5).

Jeremiah 51:53.-"Though Babylon should mount up to heaven"; to express the pride of Babylon.

Lamentations 2:1.-"How hath the Lord cast down from heaven unto the earth the beauty of Israel": to express the degradation of Zion and the height of glory from which she had fallen.

Lamentations 2:11.-"My liver is poured upon the earth, etc": to express the depth of the Prophets grief and sorrow at the desolations of Zion.

Ezekiel 27:28.-"The suburbs shall shake at the sound of the cry of thy pilots."

The figure here expresses the greatness of the terror of the defenders of Tyre in the day of its overthrow: "the waves of the sea shall lash themselves at the sound of the cry of thy pilots."

Daniel 9:21.-"Gabriel being caused to fly swiftly." Lit. (see marg. [Note: arg. Margin.] ), with weariness: i.e., with such swiftness as to cause weariness.

Matthew 11:23.-"And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shall be brought down to hell." Or, as in the R.V. [Note: The Revised Version, 1881.] , "And thou Capernaum, shalt thou be exalted unto heaven? thou shalt go down (or be brought down) unto Hades."

Matthew 21:13.-"My house shall be called a house of prayer, but ye have made it a den of thieves." The Lord thus emphasizes the fact which is plainly stated in Malachi 3:8 : "Ye have robbed me."

Luke 14:26.-"If any man come to me and hate not his father and mother": i.e., does not esteem them less than me. So the verb to hate is used (Genesis 29:31. Romans 9:13).

"Anger" is used for displeasure (Deuteronomy 3:26).

"Save" is used for preserve (Job 2:6. Ezekiel 18:17).

"Lose the life" is used of esteeming it as a small matter (Matthew 10:39; Matthew 16:25. Mark 8:35. Luke 9:24; Luke 17:33, as is clear from Revelation 12:11).

To mar is used for hurting (Ruth 4:6): i.e., for his heirs.

To rob is used of receiving wages (2 Corinthians 11:8).* [Note: As we often say, in declining a favour, "I have no wish to rob you."]

Luke 18:5.-"Lest by her continual coming she weary me." True of man-but an Hyperbole as applied to God.

See Anthropopatheia.

John 3:26.-"All men come to him." Thus his disciples said to John, to show their sense of the many people who followed the Lord.

John 12:19.-"Behold, the world is gone after him." The enemies of the Lord thus expressed their indignation at the vast multitudes which followed Him.

James 3:6.-"The tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity." It is a question here, whethor κόσμος (kosmos) does not mean ornament or adorning, as in 1 Peter 3:3 : i.e., the decking or adorning of iniquity, glozing it over and making that which is sinful, appear to be innocent, etc.

James 4:1.-"From whence come wars and fightings among you." The word "war" is used hyperbolically when applied to the quarrels of social life. So Jeremiah 1:19; Jeremiah 15:20 (q.v. [Note: Which see.] ). See above.

Examples pertaining to


are frequent, where one thing is compared with another, when there is nothing common between them:-

The sand of the sea and the dust of the earth are constantly used to express a vast number. (See under Idiom).

Genesis 13:16; Genesis 22:17; Genesis 28:14. 1 Kings 4:20. 2 Chronicles 1:9. Hebrews 11:12 : of Abrahams seed.

Judges 7:12 : of the Midianites.

1 Samuel 13:5 : of the Philistines.

1 Kings 4:29 : of Solomons largeness of heart.

Job 29:18 : of the days of a mans life.

Psalms 78:27 : of the feathered fowl in the wilderness.

Isaiah 29:5 : of other peoples.

Jeremiah 15:8 : of Judahs widows.

Other comparisons may be seen.

2 Samuel 1:23.-Saul and Jonathan "swifter than eagles," "stronger than lions."

So Jeremiah 4:13, and Lamentations 4:19, to express great velocity.

Job 6:3.-Jobs grief heavier than the sand.

Job 41:18.-Leviathans sneezings causing light to shine.

Habakkuk 2:5.-To express great rapacity.

Lamentations 4:7-8.-To express and contrast the dignity and indignity of the sons of Zion.


Sometimes we have Hyperbolical Hypotheses, which are impossible in themselves, but are used to express the greatness of the subject spoken of.

Psalms 139:8; Psalms 139:10.-To show the wondrous omnipresence of God.

Proverbs 27:22.-To show the folly and incorrigibility of the fool.

Obadiah 1:4.-To emphasize the certainty of the coming judgment of Edom. Compare Jeremiah 49:16, and Matthew 11:23 as quoted above.

Mark 8:36. Luke 9:25.-To express the utmost gain and make the strongest contrast.

1 Corinthians 4:15.-To express the difference between pedagogues and parents.

1 Corinthians 13:1-3.-There are many hyperbolical hypotheses in these verses, to show the all-importance of the love of God shed abroad in the heart by the Holy Ghost.

Galatians 1:8.-An angel from heaven preaching a different gospel is inconceivable. The hypothesis is used in order to show the importance of the Gospel of God.

1 Kings 20:10.-"The boasting of Benhadad."

Matthew 5:30.-"If thy right hand offend thee, etc."

It is perfectly clear that Christ does not wish us to mutilate our bodies: so that this must be an hyperbolical or emphatic exhortation to avoid and remove everything and anything that causes us to stumble.

Luke 10:4 is an hyperbolical command not to loiter or delay in ceremonious salutations (such as are common even to the present day).

John 21:25 is also Hyperbole. The verb χωρῆσαι (chôreesai) is to be taken in the same sense, as it is in Matthew 19:11, where the Lord says, "All men cannot receive this saying;" and in verse 12, "He that is able to receive it, let him receive it." The "world" is also put by Metonymy for mankind.

Hence, Thophylact expounds χωρῆσαι (chôreesai), to receive, by νοῆσαι (noeesai), to understand.

Romans 9:3.-"For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ" is an hyperbolical supposition.

Or we may take this sentence as being in a parenthesis, and render the imperfect tense ηὐχόμην (eeuchomeen) in the sense of I used to wish.

The passage would then read, "I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, (for I used to wish myself to be a cursed thing from Christ)."

Judges 1:23.-"Hating even the garment spotted by the flesh." This is an hyperbolical prohibition as to avoiding all contact with defilement.

Copyright Statement
Public Domain

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

Lectionary Calendar
Wednesday, December 2nd, 2020
the First Week of Advent
Search for…
Choose a letter to browse:
A  B  C  D  E  H  I 
M  N  O  P  R  S  T  Z 

To report dead links, typos, or html errors or suggestions about making these resources more useful use our convenient contact form
Powered by Lightspeed Technology