On a number of occasions we find a threefold repetitive statement in the Scriptures.
Isa.6:3. And one [of the Seraphim] cried unto another, and said, Holy, Holy, Holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.
Jer.7:4. Trust ye not in lying words, saying, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, The temple of the LORD, are these.
Jer.22:29. O earth, earth, earth, hear the word of the LORD.
Ezek.21:27. I will overturn, overturn, overturn it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him.
Rev.4:8. The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within. And they do not rest day or night, saying: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, Who was and is and is to come!”
How amazing that these five references should be wrapped within the Seraphic/Cherubic cry of Holy, Holy, Holy, referred to by expositors as the Trisagion. Isaiah received his vision some 600 years BC, and John received his vision sometime before AD70. (This latter date is frequently contested by scholars, who insist that John was on Patmos near the end of the first century. But together with some other expositors, I have good reasons for believing that John’s Gospel and the Revelation were both written before the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70.)
So why the threefold repetition? The first and last references are frequently attributed to the Three Persons of the Godhead. But at the same time there may have additionally been the use of a common figure of speech found in the Old Testament, known as Epizeuxis, the repetition of a word or statement to give it greater emphasis. There seems to be some logic in this, but the more frequent Biblical use of Epizeuxis is a twofold expression of emphasis.
We find, for example, “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.” Isaiah 40.1, and many others.
Even today, in the English language, we find ourselves using this ancient figure of speech. We say, “He lives in a big, big house,” or “It is their never, never land”, “We stay up very, very late,” and “Alone, alone, all, all alone, alone on a wide, wide sea,” (Samuel Coleridge), and “Hark, hark! the lark at heaven’s gate sings.” (Shakespeare)
“The major function of epizeuxis is to create an appeal for the emotions of the readers—to hit them with a bang. It is employed to inspire, encourage and motivate the audience. . . Also, it helps in drawing the focus to a particular thought, idea and emotion through repetition.” (Quote from “Literary devices”)
However, in this present series I would like to take each of the five threefold examples quoted above, and examine them in more depth. I believe there is some essential teaching to be found.