The Word's Christian Fellowship, Inc.

#90 Picture This!                                                                                         July 3, 2011

Acts 9:1 contains a phrase that really grabs the attention of the reader.
And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, [emphasis added].

Doesn’t the phrase, “breathing out threatenings and slaughter”, forcefully communicate the intensity of what Saul was doing at this time when he was persecuting the church?  The figure of speech used here whereby the word breathing is used instead of speaking leaves no doubt in the reader’s mind of just how committed Saul was to the actions he was taking against those who were called the disciples of the Lord.  Instead of saying, “speaking out threatenings and slaughter”, which would have been literal, by a figure of speech God used the word breathing which is associated with speaking thereby adding the emphasis He wanted.  In this case He wants us to understand just how vehement Saul was in his rage against the disciples of the Lord so a figure of speech is used to bring it to our attention.  You can almost picture it, can’t you?

 

In Acts 9:1 the act of breathing is put for that which it is associated with, the act of speaking.  In other places in God’s Word, the word breath is used to refer to words, His Words.
Psalms 33:6
By the word of the LORD were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth [emphasis added].

 In Psalm 33:6, God’s Word says the same thing twice.  The first part of the verse is literal as we know from the record in Genesis chapter one.  In the second part of the verse, God says the same thing again but does so utilizing figures of speech to really emphasize His greatness, His majesty, His praiseworthiness.  In the phrase, “by the breath of his mouth”, the word breath is used instead of word because breath is associated with words.  But God goes even further by attributing to Himself the human characteristic of having a mouth.  God is Spirit.  He doesn’t literally have eyes, ears, a nose or a mouth, or any other human characteristics or qualities. 
John 4:24
God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth.

Figures of speech aren’t used haphazardly in God’s written Word, as is obvious from Psalm 33:6.  God’s Word uses them with great precision and accuracy so that we as the reader can take note of what He wants emphasized in His written Word.  We at times speak the same way God speaks in Psalm 33:6.  You might say to someone, “I’ve told you the truth”.  That would be a literal statement.  But then you might go even further and say, “and you can bank on what I’ve said”.  You’ve said the same thing twice; once literally and then to emphasize what you’ve said even further, you say it figuratively.

 

In Genesis 2:7 there is a very wonderful usage of breathed where it is put for speaking.

Genesis 2:7
And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul [emphasis added].

Isn’t that beautiful?  God doesn’t breathe. God could have had His man Moses write, “And God said, and man became a living soul”, and that would have been the literal truth regarding what happened at this time.  That’s how He describes much  of what He did in Genesis chapter one, beginning in verse three: “And God said…”. 

 

But here, in regard to man, He wants us to glimpse the unfathomable love, the care, the concern He has, so by a figure of speech He portrays what occurred in a most intimate and tender way: that of personally breathing into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life. That’s wonderful, isn’t it?  You can almost picture that, can’t you? 

 

© Stephen A. Harrison  The Word’s Christian Fellowship, Inc.  4415 Yank Road  Wilson, NC 27893