Many, but not all, of the deities worshiped in the mysteries were originally associated with fertility. As such, their associated myths often referred to the natural cycle as it waxes and wanes (for instance, Demeter) or to the dying and rising of a god (Attis, Adonis, Osirs). Some scholars thing that the mysteries used this feature of the myth to give symbolic expression of rising to immorality with the deity. However, not all scholars agree; some deities venerated in mystery religions did not die or rise; moreover, the exact use of the myth in the mysteries is often unclear, though some concept of immorality seems to be implied.
Once a year, on the Day of Atonement, the high priest of Israel made atonement for the sins of the entire nation. This ceremony included the offering of two goats as sacrifices to atone for the Israelites’ sins.
The Bible is a historical book as well as a spiritual one. As such, it contains many important historical leaders and describes their impact on the nation of Israel. These people are not often used as symbols in the Bibles, but their influence on the history of God’s people carries symbolic importance because of the particular interactions they had. The Jews look back on these leaders as people who operated under the sovereign will of God either to help them as an instrument of mercy or to test and punish them as an executor of his just wrath.
Gold has always been prized for its rarity and permanence. It is useful in its pure state even before it is refined, and it never tarnishes like other metals do. God’s value and beauty caused it to become associated with wealth and royalty (Gen 13:2; 41:42). The accoutrements of royalty were made of gold, including scepters and crowns (2 Sam 12:30; Esther 4:11; 8:15). Thus the wise men’s gift of gold to Jesus was a symbolic act-he was being declared to be a king (Matt 2:11). Continue reading SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE BIBLE (GOLD)→
The physical act of circumcision was a sign of the covenant between of God and Israel in which he had chosen them and promised to be their God for all generations (Gen 17:10-11; Acts 7:8). In this act, the foreskin of a male child’s penis was removed (Lev 12:3). More rarely, circumcision was performed on adults. When God made his covenant promises to Abraham, he insisted that they be sealed with the physical reminder that the Israelites were a people set apart. Those who failed to comply with this condition were excluded from covenant community (Gen 17:14; Exod 12:48). Continue reading SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE BIBLE (CIRCUMSCISION)→
We sometimes think of the Old Testament as a book in which God makes repeated appearances of many kinds. But when we put a time line next to the account, we quickly realize that God’s manifest presence was far more rare and purposeful than we realized. The last time God made a direct appearance in Genesis he visited Jacob in a dream (46:1-7) and assured him his family would become “a great nation” while in Egypt (v. 3). Over four hundred years would pass before God would make another recorded appearance. Continue reading SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE BIBLE (MOUNT SINAI)→
The beauty of flowers and the way they bloom and flourish makes them a good image for many spiritual themes, including love, transience, and the glory of God. Two Hebrew words are translated as “flower:” perach means to break forth, bud, sprout, or burst; tsuwts evokes images of shining, sparkling, or gleaming. The first connotes spontaneous growth, while the second focuses on beauty. Continue reading SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE BIBLE (FLOWERS)→
Gazing into someone’s eyes can make us feel as though we are seeing into the person’s soul. In the Bible, as in life, we find many types of eyes, including, beautiful eyes (Gen 29:17; Song of Sol 1:15; 4:1); prideful, arrogant eyes (Pro 6:17); lustful eyes (2 Pet 2:14); sad eyes (Ps 6:6); and desiring eyes (Zech 2:8). People who are seeking revenge take “an eye for an eye” (Exod 21:23-25; Lev 24:20; Deut 19:21). How a person judges morality is described as “doing right in [one’s] own eyes” (Judg 17:6; 21:25; 2 Kings 10:5, all ESV). This contrast with doing “what was right in the eyes of the LORD” (1 Kings 15:5, 11; 2 Kings 14:3, all ESV). The use of eyesight as an image is varied and far-reaching, but two main uses emerge in Scripture. Continue reading SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE BIBLE (EYE)→
Marriage and the related symbols of bride and bridegroom play as large a role in Scripture as they did in real life in the ancient world. whether we consider the Old Testament picture of Israel as the bride and God as her bridegroom (Isa 62:4-5; Jer 2:2) or the New Testament picture of the church as the bride and Jesus as the bridegroom (2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:21-32; Rev 21:2, 9), the message points to a special relationship God longs to have with his people. (See also BRIDE, BRIDEGROOM.) Continue reading SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE BIBLE (MARRIAGE)→