metonymy

(Greek) "change name": metonymy uses a word but intends the meaning of some related word. Metonymy is frequent in the Bible.

The cause is often put where the effect is meant eg. "sword" for "slaughter" or more generally for "war" (Am 7:17).

In the Bible ancestors' names frequently stand for the people descended from them: Am 7:9 where the high-places are Israel's not particularly Isaac's.

Actions are put for the social expression intended: Am 8:10 where being clothed in sacking means to mourn.

Sometimes this transposition leads to strange grammar, Am 8:3 literally reads "the temple songs will wail" and 8:5 "that we may open wheat" (= open granaries to offer wheat?). Metonymy can occur with phrases in place of single words eg. clean teeth means famine (Am 4:6).


This page is part of the Hypertext Bible Commentary - Amos,

© Tim Bulkeley, 1996-2005, Tim Bulkeley. All rights reserved.