In "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," what are some examples of hyperbole?

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lusie0520 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There are many examples of hyperbole in “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God.”  Hyperbole is a figure of speech which uses an obvious exaggeration to make a point.  A really good example is:

“…wrath of God would rush forth with inconceivable fury, and would come upon you with omnipotent power; and if your strength were ten thousand times greater than it is, yea, ten thousand times greater than the strength of the stoutest, sturdiest devil in hell, it would be nothing to withstand or endure it.”

In this example, Edwards uses hyperbole to suggest to his listeners that if God released his anger, they would not have enough strength to stand against it.  Even if his listeners had the strength of the strongest devil in hell, they would not be able to stand against it.

Another example of hyperbole is when Edwards says:

“Were It not for the sovereign pleasure of God, the earth would not bear you one moment….The world would spew you out, were it not for the sovereign hand of Him who have subjected it in hope.”

In this example, Edwards uses hyperbole to suggest to his listeners that if God chose to open his hand and let the sinner fall, the world would be so disgusted by their sins that it would spit them out.  Their sins, in other words, would make them so heavy the world could not bear their weight.  Edwards uses these images, which are obvious exaggerations, to show listeners that their sins were incurring the wrath of God, a God who is so enraged over their sinful behavior that he will not hesitate to destroy them.

favoritethings eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Another example of hyperbole (or exaggeration in the service of truth) is as follows: "What are we, that we should think to stand before him, at whose rebuke the earth trembles, and before whom the rocks are thrown down?"  The earth does not actually tremble, as though it were a living thing, but Edwards uses hyperbole to express God's terrible and great power over all creation, not the least of which is us.

When Edwards describes those who do not believe, he says that they are, essentially, already condemned to Hell: 

The devils watch them; they are ever by them at their right hand; they stand waiting for them, like greedy hungry lions that see their prey, and expect to have it, but are for the present kept back. If God should withdraw his hand, by which they are restrained, they would in one moment fly upon their poor souls. The old serpent is gaping for them; hell opens its mouth wide to receive them; and if God should permit it, they would be hastily swallowed up and lost.
The hyperbole here is in the image of hungry devils following nonbelievers around, simply waiting for the word from God that these nonbelievers are fair game.  He compares them to lions stalking their prey.  In the moment that God lifts his protection from these individuals, the devils will pounce, dragging them into the open mouth of hell in an instant.  This hyperbole draws attention to the swiftness with which these individuals would be damned and how quickly and surely they will be conveyed to Hell whenever God permits it.
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Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God

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