METAPHORS USED IN THE BIBLE
This page of explanations of Metaphors is part of Web site biblesecrets.org which is a site devoted to the new view of Jesus Christ's second coming. It is based on the interpretation of The Book of Job which is an allegory for Jesus while he was on the cross trying to figure out why God had forsaken him..Copyright © 2000 DSOTO--
METAPHORS in the Bible A BRIEF REVIEW By Keith H Hepworth
Many of the deeper meanings of the Old Testament are missed because metaphors are used so extensively. Examples of this are "eating" and "drinking," which refer to learning spiritual truths or the Word; and vines, trees, briers and thorns, cattle, and even fish when they refer to people. Jesus used these metaphors many times in the New Testament, even referring to himself as the "bread and water" from heaven. We should easily recognize the metaphor of eating because it's so common in our speech. Surely, you have heard such expressions: "I swallowed his story, hook, line and sinker;" or, "I swallowed my pride;" or, "I really liked his ideas; I ate them up." If you watch for them, metaphors are more common in our speech than we might first think. A line from a recent song comes to mind is a prime example, "You are the wind beneath my wings."
The metaphors in the Old Testament are a little harder to see sometimes, especially when they are only alluded to. They can be used so subtly that it is easy to miss the real message. A good example of this is found in Isaiah 28:8. He says: " For all the tables(1)), are full with vomit and filthiness, so there is no place clean." This verse is referring to the same metaphor of eating that Jesus uses so many times. It means that all the tables, which are places for eating, contains fouled food, not wholesome "bread," which means, "the word, or truth". It means, there is no knowledge on the table that is clean to "feast upon," that all of "the bread" of God that should be there has been fouled by men. God's truths have been turned into what the philosophies of men turn "bread" into--vomit and excrement,(2) metaphorically of course. (Cf. Isaiah 21:5).
"WATER" the most frequently used metaphor
"Water," representing truth and knowledge, is probably the most frequently used metaphor in the Old Testament but still is very often missed. It shouldn't be, though, when we remember that a vine, metaphorically, meaning the Lord's people, needs spiritual watering and nurturing. Not only is Israel, collectively, considered as the Lords vine, but so is each of his children, individually. It is used hundreds of times in these ways (See Isa. 5:2-7; Psa. 80:8 for examples.). It is a small step to extend this metaphor to include light, recognizing that "vines" need both "water" and "light" to do well. Even so, it is amazing how often we fail to recognize this use of "water" in the Old Testament, especially when Jesus used it so plainly in the New Testament. Jesus said, "Whosoever drinketh of this water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life" (John 4:14). That water, of course, is his Gospel, which is the knowledge of how to "grow" into "everlasting life." He went on to tell us that he even personifies that water by saying "If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink, (John 7:37)." In other words he is saying, If any man thirsts for spiritual knowledge, "I am that water," which means he is the way, the only way to salvation, and is, therefore, the Messiah. (Cf. Rev. 7:15-17--"the Lamb. . .shall lead them unto living fountains of waters.)
Recently the importance of this metaphor was brought back to my attention. After I had studied and written about the meanings of "water" in the scriptures for many years, one day in a Sunday school class the teacher dropped a bomb on me, so to speak. She casually gave the class the definition of the Hebrew word for "prophet" from Smith's Bible Dictionary. What a great thing to learn; and it is unlikely I would have ever made this connection myself because it is doubtful I would have ever looked this up. This simple definition fit in with everything I had learned about this important metaphor. It also gave my testimony of the gospel another big boost. Incidentally, Smith's Bible Dictionary is on the internet.
The ordinary Hebrew word for prophet is nabi , derived from a verb signifying "to bubble forth" like a fountain; hence the word means one who announces or pours forth the declarations of God. The English word comes from the Greek prophetes (profetes ), which signifies in classical Greek one who speaks for another , especially one who speaks for a god , and so interprets his will to man; hence its essential meaning is "an interpreter." The use of the word in its modern sense as "one who predicts" is post-classical. The larger sense of interpretation has not, however, been lost. In fact the English word ways been used in a closer sense. (Underlining added)
A quick connection is easy to see when the above words of Jesus are considered, but it has a much greater significance. Because it is so well known you would think we would never miss this metaphor of "water" representing the truth or gospel, but it's easy to do in the Old Testament. Isaiah, alone, speaks of water this way a minimum of thirty-three times. In addition, he refers back to this metaphor using words such as thirst, dry, and drought. When he speaks of the wilderness, meaning a spiritual wilderness, he is still referring to this metaphor because the wilderness (where people live without the Gospel) is a wilderness because of the lack of "water" (spiritual truth). This is made more than clear when he talks about the wilderness becoming flooded with springs and streams and pools of water (Isa. 35:6-7). He is talking about floods of spiritual knowledge coming to them, not just rain. Look for this metaphor constantly; it's everywhere in the Old Testament, even taking on other forms such as ice and snow. In the early chapters of Isaiah (of curses) he takes away their water, making spiritual Israel a desert (3:1,5:13, 19:5-6), and in later chapters (of blessing), their "water" is restored in abundance (35:6-7, 41:18). The following verse, in a synonymous parallelism, teaches clearly that water is knowledge of God.
my people are gone into captivity, because they have no
The "honorable men are famished" (hungry and thirsty), meaning they have neither bread nor water--the bread and water represents knowledge of God. They are "gone into captivity" in two ways: by Assyria, and by Satan, and for the same reason--because of their ignorance of God. Consider these lines from the same chapter: (Isa. 5:6-7)
I will lay
it waste, that vineyard.[Israel]
It means that the Lord will withdraw his help or guidance, which is represented by "pruning," "digging," and "watering." And when he does withdraw, the men of Judah become "briers and thorns" instead of his "pleasant plant" (righteous ones). The following verses also use plants (which need water) to represent people. He uses "trees" for the righteous, "thorns and briers" for the wicked: (Isaiah 53:13)
shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace;
It means Israel "shall go out" of the wicked world with "joy" and "peace," which is salvation. The "mountains and hills" is the Lord's mountain, where all those live who have lifted themselves up and out of the realm of Satan (the deep) by keeping the commandments of God. It is Zion, the pure in heart. They "sing" out of happiness for your salvation. "All the trees" (which are righteous people) "of the field" are also joyous for you. Instead of "thorns and briers," there will be "trees" (the righteous) in Israel.
Because "water" and its other forms are used so frequently, learning to recognize just this metaphor is crucial to understanding the Old Testament. The Book of Job uses water, and the other forms of water, such as rain, hail, snow, and frost, metaphorically many times. Most of the time they are used in synonymous parallelisms so the meaning is more clear. Surely, we know that "meat," as well as "bread" is used often in the scriptures to represent truth, and when paralleled with water, snow, or hail, as in these next verses (Job 36:27-31), we know what is meant.
(God) maketh small the drops of water:
It means God will judge the people by the "rain" which he has poured down. Rain or water can only represent knowledge in these verses. And, it makes sense that a righteous God could only judge his children by the knowledge he has given them. If water or rain isn't God's word, then what will he judge his people by? The metaphor of water is explained further by the better known metaphor of meat, which is spiritual food. Now Job 28:20-25):
Whence then cometh wisdom? Is rain wisdom, literally? Clearly, again, water represents knowledge from God, it is only distributed like rain. Wisdom is weighed out by God and distributed like rain. A verse from Isaiah 40:11 and 12, should help with this explanation.
feed his flock like a shepherd:
Here Isaiah has described a peaceful scene with God protecting, gathering and nurturing his disciples or followers. The "shepherd" will "feed" his flock with the water (his word) that he has measured in the cup of his hand. This suggests Isaiah's concept, "line upon line, precept upon precept" (28:10). God gives men knowledge as they grow and can accept it, just as one would water a plant. Listen to Deut. 32:2: "My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distill as the dew as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass." Perhaps it is this idea that caused God to direct Isaiah to exclaim, "All flesh is grass (40:6)." Not only do we live and then pass on quickly like grass, we also need frequent "watering." Job 38:33-36, suggests how we can increase these "waters" for ourselves.
thou the ordinances of heaven?
Again, waters and wisdom are used together as if they are synonymous, and they are when you know what is meant. No wonder many people find the Old Testament difficult to read.
Isaiah 25:10,11 uses these symbols in a simile: "For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth the bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: so shall my word be that goeth forth from my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it."
Isaiah 3:1 is another verse that uses bread and water to represent spiritual knowledge of God:
behold, the Lord, the Lord of Hosts, doth take away from Jerusalem
and from Judah,
This verse does not mean there will be a famine and drought. It means that God is going to "turn away his face" so Israel will not know him or his ways. The verse that follows (3:2) is a synonymous parallelism with this verse, and explains what taking away their water and bread means--how all wisdom and leadership will fail in Israel: [The Lord of Hosts will take away] "The mighty man, and the man of war, the judge, and the prophet, and the prudent, and the ancient, The captain of fifty, and the honorable man, and the counselor, and the cunning artificer, and the eloquent orator." This means they will loose all of their spiritual leadership. Isaiah 1:2 explained why, "I (God) have nourished and brought up children, and they have rebelled against me." It should be pointed out that this means the Jews had nothing left of the true knowledge of God, even by the time of the exile. They are still in a "drought." (Cf. Amos 8:11,12.)
You might think that far too much time has been spent on this metaphor already, that you understand it; however, this next series of Exodus stories should convince you differently. If we combine what we have learned about "water" to what we have learned about types and similitudes, Israel's exodus forecasts a complete picture of what Israel (the Jews) can look for in their future. A careful review of these "types" in Exodus reveals the signposts that all candidates for "Israel," Jew and Gentile, should look for in their quest of the truth, in these last days.
When the Israelites fled Egypt they passed through the waters of the Red Sea, which was in similitude of a physical, watery birth. But they were also in the process of a spiritual rebirth, being led and taught by Moses, so their passing through the waters also foreshadowed the ordinance of baptism. Although the Old Testament has been stripped of references to baptism, many other ancient writings refer to it(5). Even Jewish traditions (Legends 3:88) teach that Moses baptized the people as part of the cleansing process at Mount Sinai. Modern revelation confirms that in Moses time they did perform baptisms, washing and anointings.(6) In the New Testament, the apostle Paul, in an off-handed way (showing that baptisms were quite ordinary), said that they were doing vicarious baptisms for the dead (1 Cor. 15: 25). Today's Jews, and everyone else, should look to pass through the waters of baptism in their "escape" from Egypt--the wicked world. Pay particular attention to the lines about "water" in this story from Exodus 15:22-25, when the Israelites escaped from Egypt.
brought Israel from the Red sea,
The bitter waters of Marah represented what had happened to the truths about God, which were known by Abraham, Isaac and Jacob long before. Israel's long stay in a heathenistic Egypt had polluted their knowledge of God until all the "truths" were made bitter. Most of the truths that Abraham knew were lost over the years, even until what remained was useless (bitter) to the Israelites. Heathen ideas had crept into their lives and lead them away from God, even to the point of worshiping a golden calf in wicked fertility rites. This loss of the truth, then, was a type for what has happened again, and continues even today, during their exile (Diaspora). They need to look for "sweet water" again.
The tree represented God (and Moses, His prophet), who would make the necessary corrections to bring their erroneous ways back to the truth. The tree also represents Jesus Christ, who was hanged "on the tree" (1 Peter 2:24), not to mention that he was the greatest of all "trees." Therefore, it was and is through a "tree," that the truth, and consequently, eternal life is made available to us. Today, the Jewish religion is "bitter" for the same reasons as then. That is, they have been without a source of water (a prophet) for over two thousand years. Because of that, they make no claim to any Priesthood as the Levites did, nor do they make any effort to build a temple and restore the ordinances associated with it. They have neither the "bread" nor the "clothes" to do it.
Following Marah, they stopped at Elim, with its twelve wells (of water). Exodus 15:27:
came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water,
These twelve wells of water (sources of truth) foreshadow the "twelve" Princes of Israel, or the leadership of the Twelve Tribes (Num. 2:44). Later, in the time of Jesus, these important priesthood leaders were called the Twelve Apostles. They were sustained by the Church as prophets, seers, and revelators (twelve sources of water). The seventy palms foreshadow the "seventy," who were chosen later to accompany Moses up Mount Sinai into the presence of God. These seventy "palms" have the "truth" because they are "watered" by the "twelve wells." The "seventy" were soon to become part of Israel's leadership. They are, metaphorically, referred to as palm trees because, as we have seen before, a tall stately tree is used metaphorically for the faithful people of the Lord. They are not the kinds of trees\men that need to be hewn down, "because it brings not forth good fruit (Matt. 3:10)." Today, these leaders are called the Quorum of the Seventy.
After the children of Israel left Elim in the wilderness of Sin, the LORD fed them on quail and manna. Any student of the scriptures knows how bread and meat (meal) also represents knowledge from God. Many books have already been written about these obvious types. Jesus acknowledged this type when he said, "Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, . . . I am the living bread which came down from heaven": (John 6:49-51).
The next incident involving water was at Rephidim. (Exod.17:3-6).
people thirsted there for water;
Jehovah, the God of Moses, is metaphorically called the "Rock" over twenty times in the Old Testament. In just one chapter (Deut. 32), "rock" is used this way six times, leaving us with no doubt. Verse 4 says it plainly, and in a synonymous parallelism (the second line repeats the first perfectly):
the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment:
So, Israel was given a metaphorical picture of truth and knowledge flowing from God--not once, but twice. This was understood by the apostle Paul. In his letter to the Corinthians (1 Cor.10:1-4) he said,
brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant,
Notice that Paul knew spiritual meat and drink were knowledge, or in other words, "the Word of God," and the Rock that they drank from "was Christ." Since Jesus is also the "Word," this miracle foreshadowed not only Jesus Christ (the Rock), springing up living water into everlasting life, but also Jesus Christ, the water. Notice that the "rock" had to be "struck" before it brought the "saving" water.
This use of "water," "trees," and "Rock" hardly ends what we should look for in a quest of the truth. Next came their preparation to see God on Mount Sinai. Mount Sinai foreshadowed the later temples of Israel. First, there were enclosures of skins, which contained the Ark of the Covenant. These enclosures of skins were replaced by Solomon's Temple. Both of these "temples" had outer courts (lower elevations on the mountain), inner courts (higher up where Joshua waited), and the Most Holy place where Moses walked and talked with God face-to-face. Moses was told by God to prepare the people to come up the mountain into his presence by sanctifying them for three days, through baptisms, washings, and anointings. The Book of Exodus says that they washed their clothes, but Ezekiel knew better and explains that God spiritually cleansed them, making them spiritually beautiful (Ezek.16:8-10), to enter His presence.
Now when I
passed by thee, and looked upon thee,
It should be easy to see that he is talking about a spiritual beauty that comes from being washed clean from one's sins. This we know comes from being baptized, washed, and anointed. These ordinances were, and are, necessary before one enters the temple of God, or in this early time for the Israelites, before they could go up mount Sinai with Moses. It is also worthy to note, from verse eight, that our "nakedness" (sinfulness) is covered up when we make covenants with the Lord and become numbered among His sheep; when we fall under the cleansing Atonement of Jesus. Jehovah requires us to make covenants with Him. If you have not made covenants with the Lord, then you should search for a church that teaches this necessary ordinance.
Moses, then, set the pattern for the church while they were in the wilderness. This pattern was followed by Israel for the next several hundred years. Then, when Jesus was on the earth, he reinstated the very same organizations, with a prophet (Peter), twelve apostles (wells), seventies (three score and ten trees), priests, teachers, and deacons. It seems to me that anyone searching for the truth should look for all of these things today. It should be a church that builds temples, and performs baptisms, washings, and anointings. It should be a church where the members make covenants with God, just as the children of Israel were required to do at Sinai, and again later in Christ's day when the New and Everlasting Covenant replaced the first and broken one. The Bible is clear in showing that "God's people" have always made covenants with Him, to keep His commandments.
Another interesting use of this
metaphor is when the first miracle was performed by Jesus. For many years I have
wondered why in the world Jesus would use his powers to change water to wine. I
could not see any reason for such an act, not before learning about this
metaphor. The changing of water to wine is what the Lord's mission was all
about. They had the truth (Gospel) given to them by Moses and even later
prophets, but it didn't stay pure over those many years. It would be accurate to
say that their wine had changed to water since the time of Moses. Jesus tried
and tried to get the Jews to listen to the truth but very few would listen. He
had the power to change their water back to wine, and demonstrated it at the
wedding feast. If they had been truly knowledgeable about the Old Testament they
would have recognized this important symbolic act. In light of this, consider
the words said at the wedding party, "And saith unto him, Every man at the
beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that
which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now [last]" (John 2:10).
Is this a prophecy of what we can expect in these latter-days--even the very
Isaiah 4:1 uses three metaphors that are easily missed.
And in that
day seven women shall take hold of one man, saying,
The first is the seven women. These seven women are metaphorically the same as the "woman" that the Lord (who is the Bridegroom(3)) has taken (and for the moment, forsaken) for His bride; and, in fact, this is simply an extension of that metaphor. It means His Church, or His children (See Isa.50:1: 54:4-7; 57:7-9.).
The number seven in Jewish symbolism means completeness or fullness, so this would mean many brides, or in other words, many churches.(4)
The second metaphor is the "bread," which they reject, preferring to eat their own. This is the same metaphor Jesus used when he said, "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35,41,48,51,58). It represents the truth of the Gospel that leads to salvation. This line means, then, that they reject the truth (bread) that he brings, preferring to rely on their own knowledge, false as it might be.
The third metaphor is their own "apparel," which, like their "bread," they prefer theirs to his. His apparel represents his authority. This metaphor most likely has grown out of the authority vested in the robes the priests wore when officiating in the temple (Ephod and a robe, Ex. 28:4-43). This metaphor is made clear by reading Isaiah 3:6,7. There, a brother of the house of Israel says that he will not be their ruler/healer because he does not have the bread or the clothing, which means he does not have the knowledge or the authority to be a priest. To wear their own apparel means, then, that they reject His authority, preferring their own, which is of men.
It means they reject the whole truth of "Him" that they know is the "One," but they still want to be called by "His Name," "to take away our reproach." This tells us that in our day there will be many churches that will call themselves Christians, but they will deny a great deal of the truths about Christ. In other words, they reject most of the truth, accepting only the parts they find convenient. Some will still cling to their false traditions, even when they are shown the full "light."
The King James translators really did quite well as we shall see. In the line "I will not be an healer, for in my house is neither bread nor clothing" (Isaiah 3:7), the word "healer," comes from a Hebrew word meaning "a binder up," or one who binds wounds. But what possible sense could this make if a doctor were to say, I will not be a doctor, for I have neither the bread nor the clothes? That is how some translators read it. The Jewish version translates it, "I will not be a dresser of wounds"; Keil and Delitzsch reads, "I do not want to be a surgeon"; and even further from the mark is The New International Version. It reads, "I have no remedy." The Living Bible is the worst. It leaves this line out completely, losing everything. It is quite plain to see these translators failed to understand the message. When one recognizes the metaphors of "bread" and "clothes," that they mean knowledge and authority, it is easy to see that it should be translated as "healer," meaning a spiritual physician-the same kind of physician Jesus alluded to when he said: "They that are whole need not a physician; but they that are sick" (Luke 5:31). When you know what the line means, it's obvious that if we don't use the KJV we will lose the meaning.
Another interesting metaphor is the term "house," as it is used in this same line. Without going into it deeply, it does not mean his home. It is used in the same sense as "house" is used in the scripture that talks about building your house on the rock, or on the sands, and the winds came, etc.. It means his place in a spiritual kingdom, his life, or himself, personally. Cf. 2 Cor. 5:1-8, where it means the resurrected body. In summery then, Isaiah 3: 7 interpreted means, I will not be a priest; in my person I have neither the knowledge or authority. Because verse 6 uses the term "house" like it is used in "House of Israel," this line could also be referring to how all of Israel has lost their Priesthood.
NOTE: An interesting metaphor is where highway, or high way, is used to represent the temple of the Lord. Click the link to go there.
Here are some additional scriptures using "water" to consider.
"With joy shall ye draw
water out of the wells of salvation." (Isa 12:3.)
Speaking of false teachers: "These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest: to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever (2 Peter 2:17).
"And He said unto me, It is done. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely (Rev. 21:6)
"And he shewed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb (Rev. 22:1): "And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely (Rev. 22:17).
"He leadeth me beside the still waters" (Psalms 23:2). This is in contrast to the raging waters of Satan, which are represented by the stormy sea--the home of the dragon. Still waters are like the "the waters of Shiloah that flow softly (Isa. 8:6). They are waters that bring the Lord's peace.
"Ho, every one that
thirsteth, come ye to the waters, . . . (Isa. 55:1).
2. (The KJV reads, "vomit and filminess," but the Hebrew word that filminess is translated from means "excrement,"--Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible--pg. 98 of the Hebrew dictionary --#6675.) GO BACK
3. Thy Maker is thine husband; the Lord of hosts is his name; and thy Redeemer the Holy one of Israel; The God of the whole earth shall he be called. For the Lord hath called thee as woman forsaken and grieved in spirit, and a wife of youth." (Isa. 54:5-6). "And as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee." (Isa. 62:5). So spake the Eternal One to his chosen Israel. Speaking of his Second Coming, this same Jesus called himself the Bridegroom (Matt. 25:1-13). The same symbolism is used in latter-day revelation. See D&C 133:10 & 19. Also Bruce R. McConkie, The Promised Messiah, P. 183. GO BACK
6. "Therefore, he took Moses out of their midst, and the Holy Priesthood also; and the lesser priesthood continued, which priesthood holdeth the key to the ministering of angels and the preparatory gospel; Which gospel is the gospel of repentance and of baptism, and the remission of sins, and the law of carnal commandments, which the Lord in his wrath cased to continue with the house of Aaron among the children of Israel until John, whom God raised up, being filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother's womb (D&C 84:25-27). GO BACK
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