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Crow: Figurative language in the Bible

Crow: Figurative language in the Bible

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You may be still working on those Thanksgiving leftovers but did you know the festival of lights is upon us? Buzz60’s Mercer Morrison has the story.

Sending greetings and blessings to Jewish people who started their celebration of Hanukkah on Nov. 28. The celebration called the Festival of Lights will end on Dec. 6. The Hebrew meaning of the word Hanukkah is dedication. This celebration involves the reflection about their history and guidance from the wisdom of their faith. They share the joy of rituals and traditions with their family and friends. “The proper response, as Hanukkah teaches, is not to curse the darkness but to light a candle.” (Irving Greenberg, Rabbi, scholar, and writer). We are called to unity and to remember that all people who honor one God are brothers and sisters of faith.

Advent Season for Christians began Nov. 28 and will end on Christmas Eve. The word advent means coming. At the Council of Saragossa (c.360AD) the church leaders talked about advent for the first time. Last Sunday, the first week of Advent, the service included the lighting of the first candle in the wreath. The symbolic meaning of the wreath is eternal life and the candles symbolize hope, faith, joy and peace. The lighting of the candles symbolizes the light of the savior. Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)

Usage of figurative language (symbolism, metaphors, similes) is a part our daily lives. A red light means stop; and green light means go. A red heart is a symbol of love; a green tree a symbol of life. The usage of an image enhances the meaning of a concept. The topic for this column is a review of the usage of figurative language in the Bible.

Reviewing figurative language about God and his son is a good starting point. A promise of God is found in Genesis 9:13, “I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth.” Thunder is used to describe the powerful voice of God in Psalm 68:32-33, “Sing to God who rides across the heavens who thunders with mighty voice.” The following verses add depth to our understanding of God. Psalm 38:2 reveals God’s judgment, “For your arrows pierce me deeply, And your hand presses me down.” Ephesians 6:17 presents protection in two metaphors, “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.” God’s love is revealed figuratively in Matthew 6:26, “Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap, and yet your heavenly father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” God is viewed as a shepherd in Psalm 23:1-3, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul.”

In the last book in the Bible, Jesus’ power, as related to God’s wrath, is a different view of Jesus found in John’s vision in Revelation 19:15.

“Coming out of his mouth is a sharp sword to strike down nations. He will rule with an iron scepter. He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty.” The description of Jesus as a lamb provides assurance in 1 Peter 1:18-19, “For you know that it was not with silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”

A dove brings a message to Jesus in Luke 3:22, “The Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; and I am well pleased.’” The image of a dove brings the thoughts of purity, calmness and peace which also relates to Jesus when he is called the Prince of Peace. Jesus describes himself in John 10:14-15, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me just as the father knows me and I know the father and I lay down my life for the sheep.”

Pray and stand up for the safety of our children. “The Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as an episode in which four or more people are injured or killed, not including the perpetrator, counted 611 shootings in 2020, compared with 417 the year before. The group’s tally for 2021 is already over 650, with a month left to go in the year.” (

Earl Crow’s column is published Saturdays in the Winston-Salem Journal.


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