How to Read the Bible: Metaphor in Biblical Poetry


We are learning how to read biblical poetry, which makes up over 30% of the Bible. Yeah! Poetry is a way of writing that doesn’t just communicate information. It invites us to experience ideas with our imaginations using creative imagery, or what we would call “metaphorical language”. Alright, let’s talk about imagery and metaphor in biblical poetry. So, somethings in life are easy to understand because they are tangible, physical experiences, like being cold. Yeah, being cold is no fun! But, other experiences aren’t as concrete. Like when somebody doesn’t like you. That is no fun, either. So two very different things. Notice how your mind has linked them together without you knowing it . So when we say things like, “She gave me the cold shoulder!” or “Don’t be so cold!” You could also flip it around and think of affection as warmth. “It took him a while to warm up to me,”
or, “She is a warm person.” Exactly. So, we take basic concept like warmth and then we map it onto an abstract concept like affection. It gives us a more imaginative way to talk about our experiences. We are thinking in metaphors. Yeah, they provide the framework for how our minds make sense of the world. Metaphors govern all of our thinking and language. Like right there: “Metaphors govern.” That is a metaphor in and of itself,
saying that ideas are rulers. Or, think about a connected metaphor, that “competing ideas are at war”. Yeah. In a debate, I have to “defend” my position and provide “backup” so I could win the argument. So, you can see metaphors aren’t just a fancy way of writing. They are everywhere in our language. And, the metaphors we use shape our imaginations and our behavior. So, it is no surprise the biblical poets constantly use metaphorical imagery. Some metaphors in the Bible are easy to understand. Like, “light is good” and “darkness is bad”. But, remember, the biblical poets lived in an ancient culture, which means that some of their metaphors might seem kind of strange to us. Like what? So, picture chaotic water, like a deep stormy ocean. Got it! Now, think about a time you were in danger. Then map those two on to each other and . . . Danger is like chaotic waters. Right. Then the biblical authors take it further. They also talk about dangerous people as stormy waters. Like in Psalm 69, “Save me, O God, for the waters are up to my throat.” “I’ve entered the deep waters.” “My enemies outnumber the hairs of my head.” Oh, the enemies are dangerous waves. Yes, and so are enemy nations. Like in Isaiah 17: “Woe to the nations that rage like the raging, roaring seas.” Or in Psalm 89, “Oh, Lord. You rule the swelling seas.” “You scatter enemies with your mighty arm.” So, this is a basic metaphor for danger and chaos in our world. But God has the power over chaotic waters. Right, and this foundational image is so important, it is introduced on page 1 of the Bible. Oh, right! The un-created world in Genesis 1 is a dark chaotic ocean that God brings order to. Exactly! The image begins there and then develops throughout the rest of the Bible. And so does its opposite. If chaotic water is a fundamental image of danger, think about what dry land would represent. Dry land would be safety, security, stability. Exactly! Some of the most basic human desires. That is what God is providing when the dry land appears in the opening pages of Genesis. This is also where God plants the Garden of Eden. It is no average garden. It is described with imagery of an ancient temple, high above those dangerous waters. Then, from this garden temple flows a river that waters everything. So, the human ideal is to be with God in a mountain garden temple. Yes. This image permeates biblical poetry. Like when David celebrates God’s presence in the temple in Psalm 65. “How blessed is the one who is satisfied with goodness in your temple, a stream of God waters the land.” “You still the roaring of the waves and the turmoil of the nations.” Now, watch. Because the temple was associated with being close to God’s presence, this high rock could become a metaphor for God Himself. Like in Psalm 18: “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer.” That is the image Jesus is drawing on when He says that listening to Him is like building your house on the rock. Exactly. So notice how these rich metaphors in biblical poetry are rooted in images from earlier biblical narratives. That is how metaphors work in the Bible. You need the narratives to understand the poetic images and the images reveal deeper meaning in those narratives. Cool! Now, the largest collection of poetry in the Bible is the Book of Psalms. Learning how to read the Book of Psalms is what we will talk about next.

100 thoughts on “How to Read the Bible: Metaphor in Biblical Poetry

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  2. Could you explain why in John 8:44 Jesus calls the Jews the sons of the Devil. Is that a metaphor for evil or just hate speech?

  3. Could please do bibliography of the books that you are using for your videos or just give the titles ? I'm guessing that you are using things like kline, goldsworthy, dumbrell, td alexander…

  4. True love of God is typically illustrated in your videos. Thanks brothers for sharing this metaphor. We love you ๐Ÿ’

  5. God: Now I want you guys to live in my mountain garden temple with me

    Me: I'm cool with that

  6. A great metaphor in the entire Bible is that the life of the Old testament people had lived the Words of Jesus. Connecting them together in perfect dual edged sword..

  7. As a writer I appreciate this as it opened up my understanding to new things. Thanks ๐Ÿ˜€

  8. Whoever animated the part starting at 3:25 , you did an incredible job! I cant imagine how long that took

  9. The Bible has nothing good to say about our imagination, we can see where you're going with the metaphor / imagination correlation though. In the New Testament when Jesus did this he spoke in similitudes by comparing the supernatural spiritual side especially of Heaven (the things we can't see) to the things we can see to help our Simple Minds understand the Kingdom of Heaven and the kingdom of God. Perhaps a better topic idea in a future video could be one on similitudes. Just a thought, great video guys keep it up! ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ˜

  10. a metaphor is not all that their is to descriptive language, many of our breathren misuse the term metaphor and apply it to where it does not belong. The reason I say this is you used gen 1, that is not a metaphor, that is literal language.
    please look up the meaning of metaphor it only applies to two objects that have nothing to do with one another like The Lord is a strong tower or Jesus is the lion of Judah. Jesus is not an actual lion we use that terminology to get the message across that Jesus protects Judah. Many times I have got into needlless arguments with pastors and teachers over this, one even said a single word can be metaphorical, which is impossible. Metaphors are found by reading the text around the target word for instance I have butterflies in my stomach. I don't actually have it's a metaphor but if I just said butterflies what would you think i'm talking about?
    Do you get what I mean. A metaphor is a single tool in a writers chest that help in manufacturing great stories.

  11. This is great, thank God for what he does trough you. I am using this videos in my literature class.

  12. Hi! I just got baptised so Iโ€™m a new disciple and have much to learn, you just canโ€™t imagine how much your videos have helped me! Thank youโค๏ธ

  13. Always love your stuff, great art direction, fantastic learning resource and points to Christ, without fail.
    As I go through your literary tools videos, metaphor, character, etc. Iโ€™m struck with the question: if the Bible is constructed with such literary means, how can we take it as historical instruction, fact or truth on anything more than a book on some fanatical made up religion any more than … say the Book of Mormon?

  14. Another common metaphor is that light is related to knowledge and darkness related to ignorance, not necessarily just good and evil.

  15. This is very good work. Much appreciated. Can you also expand the use of metaphors into the prophesies in another video. The metaphors were not just used in poetry, and a video explaining this may help with all those wanting to make the prophesies into absolute literal events.

    Post at my site ShreddingTheVeil (.) org – "Frequent Mistakes- Part V: Roses are Red, Violets Are Blue…" explains much about the metaphors defined in God's couplet verses.

  16. Love it, so good! As a motion graphics designer, would love to see more 'making ofs' as well.

  17. IDN: BAGI YANG MAU translatean Bahasa Indonesia reply comment ini yaa, nanti gw masukin!!

    ENG: who wants Bahasa Indonesia translation for this video please reply, i will put them up soon!!

  18. Hey this part> (0:35–1:09)and the highlighting of that depiction in the credits made me uncomfortable. its visually not accurate and it looks more like you all watched "The Help" and inserted its problematic elements into this video. what makes it worse is the portion of your dialog that by itself makes since but with the images and the end title sequences trivializes historical truth with "when someone doesn't like you" as to say that's what the diynamic of the time was: just white people not liking this kind minority. Then in the end they become friends or "warm to each other" as if they could have a genuine godly relationship at that time, they just needed to warm up to each other…in the same victorian time period nonetheless? itโ€™s too nuanced to visual represent without deeper context. so its not thoughtful and truly hard to see past. It's jarring every time I come back to this or show it to someone else. Even though the lesson is clear these elements in the beginning make my spirit really sink. It doesn't sit right with me, making it harder for me to concentrate further on the lesson. I know you can't change this now ( even though I wish you could), but next time truly be aware how this might look to other people who are descendants of slaves. Where the relationship between a white woman and my foremothers ( a black woman) in the victorian era was defined by a master and slave (systemic) relationship . And to clarify / be more blunt, I'm saying with period being depicted and the subjects being a black woman and a white woman it looks more like propaganda of history and not relative accuracy. trivalizing racial relasionships at the time just being people "not liking each other" instead of a system of set relationships . as a christian who is an african american who appreciates your representation this is the most tone death depiction i've seen in your work . also as a fellow illustrator all you had to do was change the time period to modern day and be conscious to what you are making even if it might be fun to draw. and this is a long comment. i just didnโ€™t want to drop a quick comment with no context or fullness making it seem like i'm making an unnecessary jab. i think its necessary for you guys to be more conscious of what you are projecting in the future. regards<3

  19. Love this good job ๐Ÿ‘ keep up the good work ๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿคฉ๐Ÿคช๐Ÿ˜œ๐Ÿ˜‡๐Ÿ™‚

  20. this is interesting. thank you for uploading! so does that mean the days of creation were also a metaphor?

  21. This reeks of Jordan Peterson ๐Ÿ˜‚

    Which is fine because I like Jordan Peterson despite disagreeing with him on some things

  22. Literally clapping my hands right now. Awesome awesome awesome. I'm currently reading the Psalms and if there's any takeaway, I need to slow down and savour. Thank you TBP.

  23. This is a amazing video and thank you for your hard work to explain the mysteries of the Bible.

  24. Pleaseeeeeeeeeeeeees and english subtitles….We need it…All your videos are superb….๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿ‘Œ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐ŸŽบ๐ŸŽบ๐ŸŽบbut๐Ÿ’we need english subtitles…. Pleaseeeee

  25. Curious why you had an image of the garden of Eden at the end of the video as if you were implying it was a metaphor without actually saying anything about it.

  26. Outstanding. May I suggest that to each of these videos, you add a bibliography for further reading, not in the video itself, but beneath it in the description. For instance, many viewers would probably like to read more about the Garden of Eden as a primordial temple. As a licensed tour guide in Israel and holder of a Masters degree from Hebrew University in religious studies, I will have come across such literature, but I guarantee that it is hard to come by by most American lay Christians. Therefore, a brief bibliography would be very helpful!

  27. This is so important as people have such a problem understanding that some things in the Bible arenโ€™t literal

  28. Lovely video โค๏ธ, absorbed by the narration synchronized visuals.. ๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘๐Ÿ‘…..

  29. How come I just knew this channel. But glad that I found it this year! Iโ€™m planning to like all videos that Iโ€™ve watched. But seriously, you guys are awesome. This is the best cartoon animation everrr, canโ€™t get bored of this!!

  30. I love your Channel. Please Never stop making Videos. Viel Liebe fรผr Euch Jungs from Germany

  31. So this could mean that the story of Jesus walking on the water with Peter was not only a literal story but has a metaphorical sense to it as well. Soli Deo Gloria

  32. I found Jesus through these videos, just imagine all the souls you are bringing home.
    Surely Jesus is very proud over you and watches over you.

    Be wise like Jobe, God bless.

  33. Forget the catholic church its a lie, forget islam, forget Hinduism, forget mormonsim, forget Christianity aka the Christian church , forget all these religions, all we need is the bible and bible project

  34. you guys should have an animated series about the bible…should be awesome!

  35. Ur the best guys let God be with u the ways for ya life and. Beautiful work I love it ๐Ÿฅฐ u guys do an awesome ๐Ÿ‘ job make more vids guys

  36. The Bible part of your heart ๐Ÿ’œ makes you ๐Ÿ˜ข and happy ๐Ÿ˜ƒ and. Dad is mad ๐Ÿ‘ฟ Brittney you the good people you ever god you never ever god is god
    ๐Ÿคข๐Ÿคฎ๐Ÿคฎ๐Ÿคฎ๐Ÿคฎ๐Ÿคฎ what does all that for a treat his number give me a live ๐Ÿคข๐Ÿคฎ๐Ÿ’ฉ๐Ÿ’ฉ๐Ÿ’ฉ๐Ÿ’ฉ๐Ÿ˜ป๐Ÿ’ฉ๐Ÿ’ฉ๐Ÿ’ฉ๐Ÿ’ฉ

  37. not a good boyfriend to video and has been since Iโ€™ve had a Guinness ๐Ÿ˜€and ๐Ÿ˜ก. Come by me. Mr. Allien Morety
    Iโ€™m driving I just filled up water more like fell down with orange juice ๐Ÿค“๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜๐Ÿ˜Ž blah blah blah blah blah there by projects blah blah blah blah blah Do you sans of cartoons in the mind of a
    Do you sans of cartoons in the mind of a percents Bttttttttttttttttttttttttttt. Bbbb is the bbbbbbbbbbbbbbb
    Where is Blair ๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคช๐Ÿคฉ๐Ÿ˜•๐Ÿฅณ๐Ÿ˜ฃ๐Ÿคฏ๐Ÿ˜ข๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ฉ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ซ๐Ÿ˜ฉ๐Ÿ˜ฃโ˜น๏ธ๐Ÿ˜ข๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿ˜ญ๐Ÿค—

  38. God really speaks to You guys. A lot. He's revealed so much to you…

  39. Well done … Please continue your Picture and True Storie Telling. ( Boys and Girls of the Head )

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