Tag Archives: Symbols

SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE BIBLE (XERXES THE GREAT “and Other Significant Rulers”)

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.

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SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE BIBLE (GOLD)

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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)

SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE BIBLE (LION)

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During Bible times, the Holy Land was still occupied by lions. These majestic animals, then as now, do not typically prey on humans, though older or disabled lions sometimes see people as easy food to capture. Observable lion behavior lies behind the comparisons that we find in the Scriptures. Their roaring tends to provoke fear (Amos 3:8), so Peter can write, “Keep your mind clear, and be alert. Your opponent the devil is prowling

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SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE BIBLE (CLOTHING)

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Garments are used as biblical symbols in almost as many ways as there are styles of clothing. Clothes are used as expression of socioeconomics status, spiritual well-being, and emotional state. They can protect, conceal, or display an inner reality of the wearer. They can last for a long time or wear out quickly (Neh 9:21; Matt 6:19). They can consist of leaves (Gen 3:7), animal skin (Gen 3:21; Matt 3:4), rags (Isa 64:6), pure white linen (Dan 7:9; Rev 19:14), or anything in between. They can be literal or figurative. Yet despite al this variety, the use of clothing as a symbol falls into a few set patterns that yield a wealth of insight. Continue reading SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE BIBLE (CLOTHING)

SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE BIBLE (CIRCUMSCISION)

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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)

SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE BIBLE (BULL/CALF)

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Cattle were primarily a measure or symbol of wealth in biblical times. They were both familiar and significant, good characteristics for symbolic use. Among his livestock, the wealthy Job had a thousand oxen (Job 1:3). Cattle not only provided meat, milk, leather, and other by-products, they were the main animal workforce in ancient agricultural societies. Oxen (castrated bulls) pulled plows as well as wagons. Continue reading SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE BIBLE (BULL/CALF)

SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE BIBLE (FEAST/BANQUET)

The word feast comes from the same Latin word that gives us festival. Today we think of a feast as primarily a very special meal. In the Bible feasts were more like festivals, and they commemorated great acts of God. Many of these festivals included a feast or banquet as a central part of the celebration. For a long time we have stopped using the term festival or Continue reading SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE BIBLE (FEAST/BANQUET)

SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE BIBLE (MOUNT SINAI)

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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)

SIGNGS AND SYMBOLS OF THE BIBLE (DARKNESS)

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As a physical feature, darkness is nothing in and of itself. Darkness is instead defined as the absence of light. Synonymous with emptiness, darkness is used to describe the earth at the very beginning of creation when “darkness covered the deep water” (Gen 1:2). Out of this absence, the first thing God created was light. In the beginning, Scripture pictures light and darkness as balanced parts of a single day and night: “So God separated the light from the darkness. God named the light day, and the darkness he named night” Gen 1:4-5). Continue reading SIGNGS AND SYMBOLS OF THE BIBLE (DARKNESS)

SIGNS AND SYMBOLS OF THE BIBLE (FLOWERS)

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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)