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Symbolic Words

Much of the meaning of the Bible’s words is hidden in a sort of poetic code. When a person first starts reading the Bible they just read the stories and see the surface meaning of things. For example: if a person reads the account of Moses leading the children of Israel through the Red Sea they can gain a certain level of understanding. I mean, the children of Israel were being held as slaves in the land of Egypt and God sent Moses to gather them up and take them to the land of Canaan. While this is true enough there is more to this story.

Where did the name Israel come from? What does it mean?

Genesis 32:27-28

The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with men and have overcome.” (NIV84)

The night before Jacob received this new name he wrestled with God all night. Now that is interesting. The name Israel means One Who Struggles with God. Very interesting. In order to struggle with God you must have a relationship with him. Interesting. In order to argue with your wife you must first be married to her. That makes the word Israel a code word. Whenever you see the name Israel in the Bible you should at least consider what the name means in the context of the usage.

Understanding the meaning of the name Israel in this context tells us that God saved those who had struggling relationships with him, which can mean more people than those that are the physical descendants of Jacob. I know that before I came to believe in the Bible and in Jesus, God was working in my life (made things a struggle) until he got my attention and I came to him to be saved.

But wait, there’s more! Water has a symbolic meaning in the Bible too.

Isaiah 17:12

Oh, the raging of many nations— they rage like the raging sea! Oh, the uproar of the peoples they roar like the roaring of great waters! (NIV84)

This passage illustrates a different way that the meaning of words can mean something more. What we see here is one word then another used to express something. We see nations then raging sea, then peoples and finally great waters! A body of water frequently represents nations of peoples. Not people as individuals, but a bunch of people, a nation, many nations even the whole population of the world. Now the sea of water can be calm, meaning things are peaceful , or it can be raging, meaning things are in turmoil.

Looking back at the Moses story we can see that God gathered up those with a struggling relationship with him and brought them through the peoples of the world toward the land of Canaan. That is a little more information.

But wait, there’s more!

1 Kings 8:53

For you singled them out from all the nations of the world to be your own inheritance, just as you declared through your servant Moses when you, O Sovereign Lord, brought our fathers out of Egypt. (NIV84)

If you read this passage carefully you can see that Egypt is symbolic for the world. That being so we can now understand the story of Moses as a story of how God sent his servant to gather up all those people who had a relationship with him and brought them though the raging sea of humanity toward the land of Canaan which is also symbolic for the ‘land of Milk and Honey’, that is, the land of promised prosperity. Which when looked at in this context is symbolic of Heaven—the Promised Land.

Exodus 2:10

When the child grew older, she took him to Pharaoh’s daughter and he became her son. She named him Moses, saying, “I drew him out of the water.” (NIV84)

This too becomes interesting. Moses (I drew him out of the water) tells us that he was selected from out of the sea of humanity, that is, Moses the Savior of Israel from Egypt, was a man, and not an angel. This name, along with its meaning, points to the final Savior, Jesus Christ who also was born of a woman, that is, from the symbolic waters of mankind.

When you read the Bible you should always look for the story behind the story, but you must be careful to let the Spirit reveal things to you. Not every story in the Bible has a spiritual story behind it. Some things are just what they seem to be. Whatever spiritual meaning that is there must agree with everything else in the Bible.

These symbolic usages of words are frequently found in the prophetic passages of the Bible. In fact the prophetic passages of the Bible usually only make sense when understood in this way. That is why so many people have trouble reading and understanding them.

Knowing this explains something else about the Bible. People are sometimes critical about the ‘crazy’ stories in the Bible. They wonder why everything is so strange. Well part of the reason is that God has people do things in strange ways because there is this hidden meaning in the things that are done. Another reason is that most of the real meaning is hidden inside the stories so that it is only possible to understand what is actually going on if God gives you the understanding. So in this way the truth is hidden from those that God wants to hide it from and yet visible to those that have faith to listen to God and look beyond the literal meaning.

 

This article can be found at SeekersTrove.com