In the first couple of chapters of Amos, we see a number of proclamations from God that all begin with (all ESV)

"For three transgressions of [region/group], and for four, I will not revoke the punishment".

In Proverbs 30 this pattern also occurs four times, such as in verse 15b

Three things are never satisfied; four never say, “Enough”:

This pattern is repeated in verses 18, 21, and 29. Though in verse 24 the pattern is not followed, and we simply read

Four things on earth are small, but they are exceedingly wise:

Also, we see the pattern in Job 5:19:

He will deliver you from six troubles; in seven no evil shall touch you.

and in Proverbs 6:16:

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him:

Also, Psalm 62:11:

Once God has spoken; twice have I heard this:

What is the purpose of this N .. N+1 construct? Why is it used some places and not others?

  • 1
    +1 for a great question, but this is a possible duplicate? Mar 2, 2013 at 19:54
  • I was wondering if a similar question had been asked before, but SE didn't suggest that question as I was entering this one. I think the questions are sufficiently different, but I will defer to more experienced BH members...
    – cdjc
    Mar 2, 2013 at 20:04
  • How are the questions different? I mean, the way they are phrased is certainly different, but I think the concept they refer to is the same. (There's no shame in closing as a duplicate. I bet more people would have asked the way you did then the way I did, so this question will probably bring in more traffic than mine in the long run.) Mar 4, 2013 at 22:12
  • I'm responding out of experience not out of scholastics, so I'm entering it as a comment. I always just experienced this as an increasing intensity to add emphasis. Six things God hates . . . no seven! He'll deliver from six . . . no wait! . . .he'll even go the extra mile and deliver you from seven! It's like upping the ante. By starting out with something smaller and adding to it, it highlights it, magnifies it and catches your attention. That's just the way these always felt to me when I read them.
    – user2027
    Mar 8, 2013 at 9:32
  • I see there perhaps some non-overlapping aspects of these two questions, but most of it seems to be along the same lines. If you would like to see answers address the different aspects of this question, please edit it to be focused on just the non-duplicate parts, then we can reopen and not have people plagued with doubt on where to put their answer. Until this clearly takes a different directly, I'm letting it stand as a marker to the other other questions. We can re-open it as independent after an edit. Thanks for understanding.
    – Caleb
    Mar 20, 2013 at 12:10


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