How does the Bible use symbolism?
Metaphor and symbolism were powerful word tools in the Jewish culture. They gave deeper, concrete meaning to abstract concepts. Most of the symbols used in the Bible are easily recognizable to modern English readers, but a few have cultural references that are a little more difficult to translate.
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Walk with God:To walk with God means to go the same direction He is going in His company. It is lifelong obedience to and communion with Him.
Genesis 5:22; 6:9; Deuteronomy 10:12; Joshua 22:5; 1 Kings 8:23; Micah 6:8
God "remembers" people: God cannot forget. For Him to "remember" is for Him to determine a person or situation requires His immediate attention.
Genesis 8:1; 19:29; 30:22; Exodus 2:24; Leviticus 26:45; Numbers 10:9; Judges 16:28; 2 Chronicles 6:42; Nehemiah 5:19; 13:29; Psalm 98:3; Jeremiah 15:15; Acts 10:31; Revelation 16:19; 18:5
Olive leaf/branch: When Noah let the dove fly from the ark, she returned with an olive branch. It has since come to represent peace.
Genesis 8:11; Nehemiah 8:15
Abraham's descendents will be like dust, stars, or sand: God promised Abraham that he would father many nations. Dust, stars, and sand were used as word-pictures to represent how many people that would include.
Genesis 13:16; 15:5; 26:4; 28:14; 32:12; Exodus 32:13; Isaiah 48:19; Jeremiah 33:22; Hebrews 11:12
Gathered to your people: "Gathered to your people" is a symbolic way of saying death. It very clearly expresses that there is life after death, and we will spend that life with people with whom we are most affiliated.
Genesis 25:8, 17; 35:29; 49:29, 33; Numbers 20:24, 26; 27:13; 31:2; 32:50
A nation and a company (NASB, KJV) or community (NIV) of nations: God promised Jacob he would be a father to a nation and a community of nations. The singular nation is Israel. The community of nations may refer to Christians from many different countries, joined by their relationship with Jesus.
Lift up your head: To lift up someone's head to is restore them to honor.
Genesis 40:13, 19, 20; Job 10:15, 16; Psalm 3:3; 27:6; 110:7; Zechariah 1:21
East wind (sirocco): "Sirocco" is the Italian name for a violent wind that sweeps heat and dust from the Sahara over the Mediterranean and Southern Europe. It is derived from the Arabic "shark" or east.
Genesis 41:6, 23, 27; Exodus 10:13; 14:21; Job 15:2; 27:21; 38:24; Psalm 48:7; 78:26; Isaiah 27:8; Jeremiah 18:17; Ezekiel 17:10; Hosea 12:1; Jonah 4:8
Flowing with milk and honey: A land flowing with milk and honey would be a fertile land with grass for dairy animals and flowering plants for bees. It describes the Promised Land where the Israelites were to live.
Exodus 3:8, 17; 13:5; 33:3; Leviticus 20:24; Numbers 13:27; 14:8; 16:13, 14; Deut 6:3; 11:9; 26:9, 15; 27:3; 31:20; Joshua 5:6; Song of Solomon 4:11; 5:1; Isaiah 7:22; Jeremiah 11:5; 32:22; Ezekiel 20:6, 15
Outstretched arm: An outstretched arm is a symbol of power and might.
Exodus 6:6; Deuteronomy 4:34; 5:15; 7:19; 9:29; 11:2; 26:8; 1 Kings 8:42; 2 Kings 17:36; 2 Chronicles 6:32; Psalm 136:12; Jeremiah 27:5; 32:17, 21; Ezekiel 20:33, 34
Kingdom of priests: God promised Israel it would be a kingdom of priests. That means that they as a nation would be a liaison between the world and God.
Bloodguilt: Bloodguilt is either guilt for a murder or guilt for a crime that is punishable by the death penalty.
Exodus 22:2; Leviticus 17:4; 20:9; Deuteronomy 19:10; Psalm 51:14; Hosea 12:14
Stiff-necked: To be stiff-necked is simply to be stubborn—to refuse to turn from the chosen path or consider alternatives.
Exodus 32:9; 33:3, 5; 34:9; Deuteronomy 9:6, 13; 10:16; 31:27; 2 Kings 17:14; 2 Chronicles 30:8; 36:13; Nehemiah 9:16, 17, 29; Psalm 75:5; Proverbs 29:1; Jeremiah 7:26; 17:23; 19:15; Acts 7:51
God set His face against [someone]: To face someone is to pay attention to him. To set one's face against someone is to determine to pay negative attention to him.
Leviticus 17:10; 20:3, 5, 6; 26:17; Jeremiah 21:10; 44:11; Ezekiel 13:17; 14:8; 15:7; 29:2; 35:2
To uncover a man's nakedness: This is a very hard saying that is used in different ways. Basically, to uncover someone's nakedness is to take disrespectful liberties with body parts that were honored with limited access. Disrespectful liberties could mean anything from exposure to viewing to actual sexual activity. Body parts with limited access included both one's own sexual organs and those of one's wife.
Leviticus 18:6-19; 20:19
Iron sky & bronze ground/bronze heaven & iron earth: A sky of metal will not rain; ground of metal will be too hard to grow crops. If the Israelites hardened their hearts toward God, God promised to harden their sky and ground.
Leviticus 26:19; Deuteronomy 28:23
Words on heart: The heart is the primary source of personal motivation. A heart covered with God's Word will be directed by God's will.
Deuteronomy 6:6; 11:18; 30:14; Job 22:22; Psalm 119:11; Proverbs 4:4; Ezekiel 3:10; Luke 8:12; Romans 10:8
Put God to the test: To put God to the test is to mistrust His provision and motives. It is to place a challenge before Him, half-expecting He will not come through.
Deuteronomy 6:16; Psalm 78:18; Matthew 4:7; Luke 4:12; Acts 15:10
Circumcised hearts: Circumcision was the outward sign God used to make His people identifiable, but an outward sign does not mean the person follows God in his heart. A circumcised heart follows God faithfully and willingly.
Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4; 2:28-29
Iron yoke: While Jesus' yoke is easy (Matthew 11:30), at times God may use an iron yoke to punish and correct. A nation placed under an iron yoke would be unable to escape—enslaved until the yoke was removed.
Deuteronomy 28:48; Jeremiah 28:14
God hide His face [from someone]: If to face someone is to pay attention to him, to hide one's face is to ignore him or to refuse to work in his favor.
Deuteronomy 31:17, 18; 32:20; Job 13:24; Psalm 13:1; 27:9; 44:24; 51:9; 69:17; 88:14; 102:2; 104:29; 143:7; Ezekiel 39:29; Micah 3:4
God is a rock: A rock is a strong, stable foundation on which great empires can be built. God is the immoveable force that anchors us.
Deuteronomy 32:4; 1 Samuel 2:2; 2 Samuel 22:3, 32; Psalm 18:2, 31; 62:7; Isaiah 44:8; etc.
Up-lifted hand: A lifted hand often accompanied an oath or a blessing. It could also be used in supplication.
Deuteronomy 32:40; 2 Samuel 20:21; Job 31:21; Psalm 10:12; 28:2; 63:4; 119:48; Lamentations 2:19; 3:41; Isaiah 26:11; 49:22; Micah 5:9; Zechariah 14:13; Revelation 10:5
Cedars of Lebanon: Trees in the arid Middle East are often small and scraggly. The cedar trees of Lebanon, however, can reach 130 feet high and 8 feet in diameter. The Bible uses their image to symbolize strength or pride.
Judges 9:15; 1 Kings 5:6; 2 Kings 19:23; Psalm 29:5; 72:16; 104:16; Song of Solomon 5:15; Isaiah 2:13; 14:8; 37:24; Hosea 14:5-6; Zechariah 11:1
"He let none of his words fall to the ground": God blessed Samuel with relevance. His words were heard and heeded. They did not "fall to the ground," but always reached his intended audience.
1 Sam 3:19
Cover one's head (to show grief): In Bible times, an uncovered head represented honor and freedom. When mourning, men covered their heads to show grief and shame.
2 Samuel 15:30; Esther 6:12; Jeremiah 14:3, 4
Honey and curds: Honey and curds is similar to milk and honey. There was no refrigeration in Bible times. Milk curdled quickly.
2 Samuel 17:29; Job 20:17; Isaiah 7:15, 22
Cords of the grave/cords of death: In three of the four occurrences, "cords of the grave" is partnered with "snares of death." It infers being trapped or caught by death with no hope of escape.
2 Samuel 22:6; Psalm 18:4, 5; 116:3
Lamp as guidance or wisdom: A lamp illuminates the safest and best way to go, just as wisdom does.
2 Samuel 22:29; Job 29:3; Psalm 119:105; Proverbs 6:23; 21:4; Zephaniah 1:12; 2 Peter 1:19
Lamp as legacy: The Bible compares a lamp to the line of David. No matter what evil his descendents did, God honored His promise to David by ensuring his line never died out.
1 Kings 11:36; 15:4; 2 Kings 8:19; 2 Chronicles 21:7; Psalm 132:17
Hook in a nose and bit in the mouth: Three of the passages use these word pictures as metaphors to mean God treating someone as bull (hook) or a horse (bit) and controlling them. 2 Chronicles 33:11 illustrates that people captured as slaves by an army often were led away by a hook in their nose.
2 Kings 19:28; 2 Chronicles 33:11; Job 41:2; Isaiah 37:29
Undivided heart/united heart/one heart: In a group of people, a unified heart means they all have the same motivation and goals. In an individual, it means to be concentrated on one thing (such as God) and not tempted by distraction or doubt.
1 Chronicles 12:33; Psalm 86:11; Ezekiel 11:19
Footstool: A footstool refers more to the position than the actual stool. It means to be at God's feet in an attitude of humility.
1 Chronicles 28:2; 2 Chronicles 9:18; Psalm 99:5; Isaiah 66:1; Lamentations 2:1; Matthew 5:35; Luke 20:43; Acts 2:35; Hebrews 10:13; James 2:3; etc.
Promise half one's kingdom: Ancient kings and rulers often used this expression. It was not meant literally, but meant the king was predisposed to be generous.
Esther 5:3, 6; 7:2; Mark 6:23
Blameless/upright/righteous: Although full righteousness is impossible without God, occasionally the Bible speaks of people (such as Job, Elizabeth, and Zechariah) who followed the standards they were given faithfully. Their behavior was righteous, although their condition was still reliant on Christ's sacrifice.
Job 1:1, 8; 2:3; Psalm 37:37; Proverbs 2:21; 28:10; 29:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:10
Potsherd: In Job 2, Job uses a broken piece of clay pot to scrape his diseased skin. In Job 41, God compares the devastation an evil empire causes to gouges torn from the ground by pot shards. In Psalm 22, David laments that his strength is as dried up as a piece of pot that can no longer hold water or oil.
Job 2:8; 41:30; Psalm 22:15
Needy have a sword in their mouth: This is a descriptive way of describing hunger. Someone who is hungry wants food, but feels only the sharp pain of starvation.
Gnash teeth: In Bible times, to gnash or grind one's teeth at someone was to show anger or envy.
Job 16:9; Psalm 35:16; 112:10; Lamentations 2:16; Matthew 8:12; 13:42; 25:30; Luke 13:28; Acts 7:54; etc.
Lamp as life: A lamp is often used as a metaphor for life. To have one's lamp snuffed out is to die.
Job 18:6; 21:17; Proverbs 13:9; 20:20; 24:20
Death's firstborn: This descriptive metaphor compares a wasting disease to death's most horrid child.
Light of life: Literally, the light of life is the sun, which does not shine in tombs. In John, Jesus speaks of walking in the light of Himself, who is life and brings life to the world.
Job 33:30; John 8:12
Gates of death: Legend in the ancient Middle East speaks of seven gates the dead must pass through. God uses this metaphor to challenge whether Job has any knowledge of the mechanics of death.
Abode of light [and]…darkness: God uses the symbolism of dwelling places to represent the physical sources of light and darkness.
Apple of His eye: This is actually an Old English translation. The original Hebrew phrase refers to the reflection of a "tiny man" in the pupil of God's eye. It means someone to whom God pays attention because He is delighted in him.
Psalm 17:8; Proverbs 7:2; Zechariah 2:8
Shadow of God's wing: A chick hidden beneath its mother's wing is invisible from predators. Similarly, God may "hide us in the shadow of His wing" to conceal and protect us from enemies.
Psalm 17:8; 36:7; 57:1; 63:7
Pure heart: The heart is the core of our motivation. Our heart determines how we act. To have a pure heart is to be motivated by good and right things.
Psalm 24:4; 1 Timothy 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:22
Wait on the Lord (KJV): To wait on the Lord is to patiently rely on His timing and wisdom.
Psalm 27:14; 37:34; Proverbs 20:22
God's face shine on [someone]: For God to turn His face toward people is to act on their behalf. For Him to shine His face on people is for Him to bless them with great favor.
Psalm 31:16; 67:1; 80:3, 7, 19; 110:135; Daniel 9:17
Hope in the Lord: To hope in the Lord is to rely on Him for success and provision.
Psalm 31:24; 39:7; 130:7; 146:5; Jeremiah 17:13; Lamentations 3:24; Philippians 2:19; 1 Thessalonians 1:3
Lift one's heel: To lift your heel against someone is to prepare to crush him.
Psalm 41:9; John 13:18
Deep calls to deep: The exact meaning of this phrase is unknown. Although it has grown to refer to God's deep calling on our souls, the original context is that of being swept away by water. It possibly means that God's deep plan serves His deep purpose, and we are often swept away in it.
Blot out transgressions: It is a common metaphor that our sins are written in a great book. In Old Testament times, the ink used would have been water mixed with soot or charcoal—easily wiped or blotted away.
Psalm 51:1, 9
Beast among the reeds: It is possible that the beast in the reeds is a hippopotamus or a crocodile that represents Egypt. But it is also possible that the beast is the mokele-mbembe, a mythological beast that may have been a stray sauropoda.
Tents of Ham: A reference to Egypt.
Establish the work of our hands: Only God can establish the work of our hands—make our efforts significant and long-lasting.
Eat ashes: Wearing ashes was a sign of deep mourning. To eat ashes meant that even the act of eating was characterized by sorrow.
Wineskin in the smoke: A wineskin hung from the rafters would get dried and cracked by the smoke from the hearth. The phrase means to be old and useless.
Double-minded: A double-minded person is plagued by indecision and afraid to commit to a choice.
Psalm 119:113; James 1:8; 4:8
Weaned child: A "weaned child" refers to either a baby who has been fed sufficiently or a baby who is weaned and no longer depends on mother's milk. Either way, it is a child who can rest peacefully in his mother's arms.
Lean on God: We are called to lean on God, that is, to depend on Him for support and direction.
Proverbs 3:5; Isaiah 48:2; Micah 3:11
Lamp as glory or character: A lamp can also refer to the glory or good character of a person or nation.
Proverbs 20:27; Matthew 5:15; 6:22; Mark 4:21; Luke 8:16; 11:33; 11:36; John 5:35; Revelation 18:23; 21:23
Apples of gold in settings of silver: Although the exact item to which this proverb refers is unknown, our speech should be just as pleasing as gold and silver artwork.
Cast your bread upon the waters: This is a piece of practical business advice. Literally, it means to sell wheat to many different customers. But the larger message is to diversify investments and savings.
Outstretched neck (NIV): An outstretched neck is an expression of pride and arrogance.
Unclean lips: The mouth is the first part of the body to manifest the character of the heart. Unclean lips reflect a sinful heart.
Cut off head and tail: To excommunicate both the leaders and the common people.
Root (NASB) or stump (NIV) of Jesse: God promised David (Jesse's son) that his line would have an everlasting king. When Israel was taken into Babylon and David's descendents were no longer on the throne, his royal family tree was cut down to a stump. That stump sprouted again and forever with the birth of Jesus.
Isaiah 11:1, 10; Romans 15:12
Land of whirring wings: This metaphor is unclear. It may refer to insect wings, like locusts, or the flapping of ship sails.
Swallow death: To swallow death is to completely consume and destroy it—as Jesus did on the cross.
Isaiah 25:8; 1 Corinthians 15:54
Covenant with death: Covenant with death may mean to engage in worship that refers to death or to agree to a course of action that has no chance of success.
Short bed, narrow blanket: This is an old proverb simply meaning a situation will not bring rest or comfort.
Ariel: "Ariel" is apparently a play on words as it sounds similar to both "altar hearth" and "lion of God" in Hebrew. Either way, it refers to Jerusalem.
Consuming fire: Please see GotQuestions.org's article on God as a consuming fire.
Write God's name on their hands: In Bible times, a slave owner sometimes branded his name on his slaves' hands. To write God's name on one's hand is to mark oneself as belonging to God.
Enlarge the place of your tent: Nomadic families who were particularly blessed with children and goods enlarged their tents to hold all their wealth.
Milk of nations: In the millennial kingdom, God promises Israel the "milk of nations"—generous support and provision willingly offered by other countries.
Cages of birds full of deceit: In Bible times, a hunter often used tame birds in a trap to lure wild birds to join them. Similarly, the rich use and ensnare the poor, gaining more wealth for themselves.
Dying in fortified cities: A fortified city refers to a Levitical city, set apart for those who had accidentally killed someone. But no city is safe from God's judgment.
Pull up your skirts over your face: Prostitutes and adulteresses were sometimes punished by being stripped or having their clothing pulled over their heads in public. God threatens to similarly shame Israel for its unfaithfulness.
Ripening figs: In Israel, the climate is such that figs can be harvested twice a year. The first batch is sweetest. The ripened figs symbolize Israelites who submitted to Nebuchadnezzar and went to Babylon willingly. They were in better shape than those who stayed in Jerusalem against God's will.
"Ramah will mourn, the Fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children's teeth are set on edge": Although this was an ancient proverb, it was never God's point of view, and He wished to correct the Israelites' misrepresentation of His justice.
Jeremiah 31:29; Ezekiel 18:2
Four winds: Wind in the Bible often denotes judgment. The whole earth could be described in four directions. Four winds, then, is a comprehensive judgment over the entire world or judgment coming from every direction with no chance of escape.
Jeremiah 49:36; Ezekiel 37:9; Daniel 7:2; 8:8; Zechariah 2:6; Matthew 24:31; Mark 13:27; Revelation 7:1
Eat a scroll: To eat a scroll is to embody or fully accept its message.
Ezekiel 3:1; Revelation 10:9-10
Hearts of stone or flesh: A heart of stone cannot hear or respond to God because it is dead and lifeless. But God promises to replace our heart of stone with a heart of flesh that can listen, obey, and love.
Ezekiel 11:19; 36:26
Idols of the heart: There is often a disconnect between who or what we claim to worship and what our hearts actually long for. An "idol of the heart" is anything we truly value before God even if we don't literally bow down or sacrifice to it.
Ezekiel 14:3, 7
Woman's nakedness and covering of nakedness: The literal translation speaks of a woman who has slept with other men, showing her nakedness to the world. Her forgiving suitor covers her with his garment, both restoring her honor and showing his intention to marry her. The metaphor is of Israel, chasing after other gods, and God's willingness to forgive her and keep her as His chosen people.
Ezekiel 16:8, 37
Passing under the shepherd's rod: Shepherds counted and separated their sheep by passing them under their rod. God promised to use the Babylonian exile to count those who were faithful to Him and remove the rest.
Examine a liver: Examining an animal's liver was a standard divination practice for Babylonian rulers.
Stand in the gap: As Moses prayed (repeatedly) on behalf of the rebellious Israelites, so the later Israelites needed a liaison between themselves and God. None appeared, so God used the Babylonians to judge them.
Byword among women: To be a byword among women is to be the subject of idle, malicious gossip.
Cutting off another's nose: Cutting off an adulterous wife's nose was a common practice in ancient Mesopotamia—and is still practiced today in some parts of the Middle East.
Fish sticking to scales: Pharaoh boasted he had created the Nile River, but in reality he was no more powerful than a fish stuck to God's scales of justice.
A staff of reed: A reed looks similar to a wooden staff, but it is more likely to poke one's hand or slice one's skin than to support one's weight. Similarly, Egypt could not be counted on for protection.
Darkness: Darkness sometimes symbolizes evil, but here it represents God's all-consuming wrath and inescapable judgment.
Bowing to the starry hosts: The "starry hosts" refers to Milcom or Molech, a Canaanite god, also referred to as "Rompha" (detestable thing) in Acts 7:43. To bow to the starry host means to worship Molech.
Ramah will mourn, Rachel will weep: The Jeremiah passage refers to the mourning the Hebrews faced when Babylonian armies captured Judah. The quote in Matthew compares that event to Herod killing the babies in Bethlehem after Jesus' birth.
Jeremiah 31:15; Matthew 2:18
Baptized by Holy Spirit and fire: Please see GotQuestions.org's article on what this means.
Matthew 3:11; Luke 3:16-17
Winnowing fork, threshing floor: Farmers used a winnowing fork to toss grain into the air. The valuable grain would fall back onto the threshing floor, while the useless chaff would blow away. The symbol is of Jesus separating His true followers from the world.
Matthew 3:12; Luke 3:17
Shake dust off feet: Devout Jews in Jesus' time would shake the dust off their sandals when they left a Gentile town to show they would not take any pagan practices or beliefs with them. Jesus told His disciples to do the same when leaving a Jewish house that did not accept Him as Messiah.
Matthew 10:14; Mark 6:11; Luke 9:5
End of the age: The end of the age refers to the End Times in general, and the process of judgment in particular.
Matthew 13:39, 40, 49; 24:3; 28:20
Sons of hell: Sons of hell is a euphemism for someone who is evil.
Whitewashed tombs: A whitewashed tomb is clean on the outside but full of bones and decaying flesh. Similarly, someone can appear to be a good person, but be filled with death inside.
Matthew 23:27; Luke 11:44
Capstone: A capstone is one of the top stones on a wall. It is often flat and overhangs the wall to give some protection from the elements. Symbolically, it means the pinnacle of the structure.
Mark 12:10; 1 Peter 2:6-7
Kick against goads/pricks: Please see GotQuestions.org's article explaining this figurative language.
Slave/servant of Christ: Paul spoke strongly about how unbelievers are slaves to sin while believers are slaves to Christ; both naturally follow the will of their master. But he also referred to the practice of a slave who had worked off his debt and wanted to stay with his master (also called a bond servant). Like that slave, believers are to voluntarily obey Christ for life.
Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:10; Colossians 1:7; 1 Timothy 4:6; Titus 1:1; James 1:1; 2 Peter 1:1; Jude 1:1; Revelation 1:1
Heap burning coals on an enemy's head: Some commentators take this literally to mean being kind to an enemy will cause the enemy pain. Considering the surrounding text, however, it more likely refers to rekindling a hearth fire. When a family's fire went out, they would send a member to a neighbor with a pot on their head. The neighbor would put hot coals in the pot. God tells us to care for our enemies' needs.
Proverbs 25:22; Romans 12:20
Veil: When Moses met with God, God's glory caused his face to shine. But when he went back down to the Israelites, the glow would gradually fade. Distressed that God's glory was visibly leaving him, Moses hid under a veil. The unsaved have a veil over their hearts that also keep them from God's glory. They cannot understand the message of the Gospel.
2 Corinthians 3:13-18; 4:3
Living stone: Please read GotQuestions.org's article on this.
1 Peter 2:4-5
Serpent: Symbolically, the serpent was an animal that was crafty and dangerous. Several times it is identified with Satan. When referencing a sea serpent, it meant something powerful and mysterious.
Genesis 3:1, 14; 49:17; Numbers 21:6; Deuteronomy 32:33; Job 26:13; Psalm 58:4; 91:13; 140:3; Proverbs 23:32; 30:19; Isaiah 14:29; 65:25; Matthew 10:16; 23:33; Luke 10:19; Revelation 12:9, 14, 15; 20:2
Dove: Please see GotQuestions.org's article on the dove as a symbol for the Holy Spirit.
Genesis 8:8; Psalm 55:6; 68:13; Song of Solomon 2:14; 5:2; Isaiah 38:14; Jeremiah 48:28; Hosea 7:11; 11:11; Matthew 3:16; 10:16
Donkey: A wild donkey was stubborn, uncontrollable, and cared only for its own desires. A donkey with a pack, as in Genesis 49, represented submission. In a different way, a donkey was used to show humility. Jesus the King rode into Jerusalem on a donkey colt instead of a war horse because He is the Prince of Peace and a servant.
Genesis 16:12; 49:14; Jeremiah 2:24; Hosea 8:9; Zechariah 9:9; Matthew 21:5
Lion: God, Jesus, and Satan have all be compared to a lion. A lion represents strength and confidence. It is practically invincible unless God empowers His people to destroy it.
Genesis 49:9; Numbers 23:24; 24:9; Deuteronomy 33:20, 22; 1 Chronicles 12:8; Job 4:10, 11; 10:16; 28:8; 38:39; Psalm 10:9; 91:13; 104:21; Proverbs 19:12; Ecclesiastes 9:4; Isaiah 5:29; 11:6, 7; Jeremiah 2:15, 30; 4:7; 12:8; Ezekiel 1:10; 19:2, 3; 19:6; Daniel 7:4; Hosea 5:14; 2 Timothy 4:17; 1 Peter 5:8; Revelation 4:7; 5:5; 9:17; 10:3
Wolves: Wolves symbolized tenacious predators who destroy and consume.
Genesis 49:27; Isaiah 11:6; Jeremiah 5:6; Ezekiel 22:27; Habakkuk 1:8; Zephaniah 3:3; Matthew 10:16; Luke 10:3; John 10:12; Acts 20:29
Dog: A dog was a filthy, unclean, occasionally dangerous nuisance. It was also an unflattering epithet for Gentiles.
Exodus 11:7; Deuteronomy 23:18; 1 Samuel 17:43; 24:14; 2 Samuel 16:9; Job 30:1; Psalm 22:16, 20; 59:6; 68:23; Proverbs 26:11; 26:17; Ecclesiastes 9:4; Isaiah 56:11; Jeremiah 15:3; Matthew 7:6; 15:27; Philippians 3:2; Revelation 22:15
Eagle: An eagle was fast, powerful against its enemies, and protective of its young.
Exodus 19:4; Deuteronomy 28:49; 32:11; 2 Samuel 1:23; Job 9:26; Psalm 103:5; Proverbs 23:5; 30:19; Isaiah 40:31; Jeremiah 48:40; 49:22; Ezekiel 1:10; 17:3; Daniel 7:4; Hosea 8:1; Micah 1:16; Habakkuk 1:8; Revelation 4:7
Calf: The calf was the symbol of Molech, although when the Israelites pressured Aaron to make a statue, they were probably thinking of the Egyptian variation, Apis. Both symbolized fertility. To the Jews, a calf meant young strength. A skipping calf referred to an earthquake—a symbol for political upheaval. A calf grazing in a city indicates the city is abandoned, and no one is left to herd the cattle. Cutting a calf in half and walking through the pieces was part of an ancient oath ritual.
Exodus 32; 1 Kings 12:28; Psalm 29:6; 68:30; Isaiah 27:10; Jeremiah 31:18; 34:18; 46:21; Luke 15:23; Revelation 4:7
Ox: Like a bull, an ox symbolized strength and power. But a wild ox was uncontrollable and deadly.
Numbers 23:22; 24:8; Deuteronomy 33:17; Job 39:9, 10; Psalm 29:6; 92:10
Sheep: God often compares His followers to sheep. He is our shepherd, and we are lost and vulnerable without His loving care.
Numbers 27:17; 1 Kings 22:17; 2 Chronicles 18:16; Psalm 44:11, 22; 49:14; 74:1; 78:52; 95:7; 119:176; Isaiah 53:6, 7; Jeremiah 23:1; 50:6; Ezekiel 34:11, 12; 34:17; Matthew 9:36; 10:6; 26:31; John 10:11, 16, 26
Mule: In Old Testament times, mules were reserved for kings. When David placed Solomon on his mule, he was indicating Solomon was to be his successor.
1 Kings 1:33
Bull: Bulls are strong and powerful. They often symbolized mighty warriors.
Psalm 22:12; Jeremiah 50:27; Ezekiel 1:10
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