The Bible repeats itself too much—Part 6: Saying the same thing in different ways

This is the sixth in a series of posts about unnecessary repetition in the Bible. This time we’re looking at unnecessary and excessive use of synonyms.

The Bible says Abraham lived 175 years. Then he breathed his last, and he also died. He died at a good old age. He was an old man. He was “full of years”. And then he was “gathered to his people”.

God told Abraham’s son Isaac that Abraham had obeyed him, and that he had done everything he required of him. Abraham had done that by keeping God’s commands, and his decrees, and his instructions, too.

Isaac’s grandsons threw their brother Joseph into a cistern, which was empty. Also, there was no water in it. Pharaoh’s cupbearer didn’t remember Joseph, he forgot him. And when there was a famine, Joseph’s father Jacob told his other sons to go buy some grain from Egypt so they would live, and so they wouldn’t die.

After the descendants of Israel moved to Egypt, they were “exceedingly fruitful”, they multiplied greatly, they increased in numbers, and they became so numerous that the land was filled with them.

God gave his people a list of “unclean” animals, and instructed them not to defile themselves by them, or to make themselves unclean by means of them, or to be made unclean by them.1 He said you shouldn’t have sex with your sister, which he clarified means any daughter of either your father or your mother. Then two verses later, he said you shouldn’t have sex with your father’s wife’s daughter, who is your father’s daughter, who is your sister. And he told the people not to lie, or to deceive one another, or to swear falsely.

God told his people to keep all his decrees, and all his laws, and also to follow them. He told them what would happen if they didn’t listen to him and carry out all those commands, or if they rejected his decrees and abhorred his laws, or if they failed to carry out all his commands and violated his covenant. And the Bible concludes that discussion of God’s rules by stating that those are the decrees, the laws, and the regulations that the Lord established.

When some people were trying to replace Moses as the leader of Israel, Moses had them stand outside their tents with their wives and children, and also with their little ones (so God could kill them all).2 Then when Joshua was about to actually replace Moses as the leader of Israel (with his approval this time), Moses told the people to be strong and courageous, and not to be afraid or terrified, because God would go with them, and wouldn’t leave them, and wouldn’t forsake them, either. Then he told Joshua to be strong and courageous, and not to be afraid or discouraged, because God would go before them, and be with them, and never leave them, and never forsake them.

The daughter that Jephthah promised God he would murder was an only child, and he had no son nor daughter except for her. A wise lying woman told David she was a widow, and that her husband was dead. After the king of Babylon captured Jehoiachin, he gave him a regular allowance as long as he lived, till the day of his death.

When Nebuchadnezzar’s wise men couldn’t answer his question, he decided to kill them all, because it made him so angry and furious. Then when Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to obey his order, he decided to kill them too, because he was so furious with rage.

Esther told her husband the king that Haman was plotting to destroy, kill, and annihilate her people. Jesus said much will be demanded from those who have been given much, and much will be asked of those who have been entrusted with much.

Paul said he ought to do something, and rightly so. It’s right for it to be right for him to do that! He said he was telling the truth, and that he wasn’t lying.

The epistle to the Hebrews says a will can’t be carried out unless you can prove its writer is dead, because a will is only in force when the person has died, and it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.


Job says since the poor lack clothes, they go naked, and they have nothing to cover themselves. (And then he repeats the first part of that a few verses later.) He says the deep says wisdom isn’t in it, and he says the sea says the same thing.

Several of the songs in the book of Psalms3 are introduced something like this: “A song. A psalm.” One psalm tells people to burst into song, with music. In another one, the psalmist tells God that he’s his God and he’ll praise him, and that he’s his God and he’ll exalt him.

There’s a psalm that states that whoever “dwells in the shelter of the Most High” will “rest in the shadow of the Almighty”, which sounds like pretty much the same thing. There’s one that says idols can’t speak, and they can’t utter a sound with their throats, either. And there’s one that says God struck down great kings and killed mighty kings.

When God saved David from Saul, David thought of a bunch of different ways to say that God was protecting him, that he had almost died, and that God had heard his call. Then he thought of a bunch of ways to say that he wasn’t a bad person, and that God imitates the character of the people he’s interacting with.

David has four different ways of claiming that God’s laws are good and are good for you. He said if God hadn’t been on his people’s side, a flood would have engulfed them, a torrent would have swept over them, and raging waters would have swept them away.

David said he would praise God among the nations and sing of him among the peoples, because God’s love reached to the heavens and his faithfulness reached to the skies. He wanted the righteous to be glad and happy and joyful, and to rejoice.

David takes up three out of seven verses of his last words to repeatedly paraphrase his claim that God is speaking through him.

Asaph asked God to pour out his wrath on the nations that didn’t acknowledge him, and on the kingdoms that didn’t call on his name. And Jeremiah asked God to pour out his wrath on the nations that didn’t acknowledge him, and on the peoples that didn’t call on his name.

The book of Proverbs has a bunch of similar statements that are mostly completely obvious tautologies that don’t need to be said, like “Honest people tell the truth”.


Isaiah predicts that everyone will be humbled, and that people will be brought low. He says God will wipe out Babylon’s offspring and descendants. Isaiah mentioned four things people would flee from, but they all just meant the people would flee from battle. He said God would come with thunder and a great noise, with a windstorm and a tempest, and with the flames of a fire. And he says after God reinvents the world, the former things won’t be remembered, or come to mind.

It will be as God has planned, and it will happen as God has purposed. God wants those who walk in the dark and have no light to trust in the name of the Lord and rely on their God. He will reward people who please him by giving them an everlasting name that will endure forever. Because his reward is with him, and his recompense accompanies him.

God told Jeremiah that all the towns would be deserted, and no one would live in them. But he would save his people from the hands of the wicked, and deliver them from the grasp of the cruel. God will make sure they’re no longer afraid, or terrified, either.

God said if the false prophets had actually consulted him, they would have turned his people from their evil ways, and from their evil deeds, too. When God let Babylon conquer Judah, he had Jeremiah tell the people that anyone who went with the Babylonians would escape with their lives, and they would live.

Jeremiah also talked about Moab’s pride, arrogance, conceit, and haughtiness. He warned the people of Hazor that Nebuchadnezzar had plotted against them, and devised a plan against them. As a result, their kingdom would be a desolate place where no one would live, and no people would dwell in it.

God gave Ezekiel a scroll full of words of lament and mourning and woe. He said the people of Jerusalem had brought their days to a close and the end of their years had come, and that they would be an object of scorn to the nations and a laughingstock to all the countries. Later, he started ranting against another country, which he said he would wipe out from among the nations and exterminate from the countries, and also that he would destroy them.

God told his people he would not look on them with pity or spare them, and that he would repay them for their conduct and for their practices. He told Ezekiel to wait and see how evil the conduct and actions of even the best of his people were. He said they had been prostitutes in Egypt, where their bosoms were caressed and their breasts were fondled.

Later, God was planning what he would start making his people do after he restored his nation. He said whoever entered by the north gate had to go out the south gate, and whoever entered by the south gate had to go out the north gate, and also that no one should return through the gate they had entered, but should go out the opposite gate.

Hosea said the people had broken God’s covenant and rebelled against his law. Zechariah decided to let the dying die, and let the perishing perish.

To be continued…

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