Whoever Digs a Pit or Rolls a Stone – Synonymous Parallelism

Today I read Proverbs 26 for my daily reading, and within the chapter is an old literary device common to Hebrew Poetry of the time called “Synonymous Parallelism.” So I thought why not share a quick blurb on the idea! The words sound somewhat fancy, but really just mean to say the same thing in two successive lines in a different way. For example the word Synonymous means ‘to have the same meaning,’ and Parallelism means ‘juxtaposed’ or side-by-side.

Here is an example from our reading:

Proverbs 26:27:

Whoever digs a pit will fall into it;

if someone rolls a stone, it will roll back on them.

These sayings may not mean much to us today, but were similes common to the time.

A simile is nothing more than a figure of speech where you compare one thing with another thing that is different in order to state your idea more clearly or with emphasis. Such as “Crazy like a Fox, or “Brave as a lion” – here [“Crazy” and “Fox”] or [“Brave” and “Lion”] have nothing to do with each other, but help express an idea more fully.. this is a simile.

It helps if we examine each line by itself, in the context of the author’s time.

  1. Why would someone “dig a pit?” Quite simply, to trap an animal, or person
  2. Why would someone “roll a stone?” Stones were rolled to great heights for primitive warfare, literally to drop on someone else.

So what Solomon is saying here, is that if a person works to do harm to another, or institute another form of mischief, the result will inevitably be punishment of themselves. Why? God is a God of justice, and he is always watching. At this time God already clearly decreed to love one another, and to not be foolish (ergo not heeding the His Word). Notice that much of Chapter 26 in proverbs discusses the idea of fools. Here is is simply expounding on the idea that if you are foolish, in trying or working to harm another, harm will inevitably befall you.

We could generally reword the ideas to something like this for ourselves:

Harm will only come to you, if you dig a pit to trap another.

Harm will only come to you if you roll a stone up a hill to drop it on someone else. (doesn’t make as much sense to us today, but you get the idea)

So if you plot or scheme to bring harm to someone else (this can take any form.. physical, mental, emotional, gossip etc..) since God sees everything, you will not escape his Judgment.

Some proverbs are more fun than others… but hopefully you found this tidbit interesting 🙂

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