Identify Bible Symbols

Have you ever been reading the Bible and come across a verse or chapter that didn’t seem to make sense? Did you try to make sense out of it by supplying your own meaning to it? I have. Perhaps you have thought “Why is that in the Bible? It doesn’t make sense?” Many times those verses and chapters contain Symbolic words or Symbols. They are there to tell you that there is a deeper meaning to the text and, you need to study it deeper and find out the intended meaning.

Below is an example of such a verse. Let’s take the example of the verse in Ecclesiastes 11:1:

Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.

If you “cast” or throw your bread in the water what will probably happen is that it will soak up water (short of a miracle of God) and float for a while and then sink to the bottom. Then if you come back many days later it will either be gone or decayed.

If the Bible was written by God (through man with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit) to give knowledge and be understood then there must be some other meaning to this text, or it would not have been placed in the Bible? Remember, nothing is placed in the Bible arbitrarily or randomly or without meaning or instruction.

Symbols in the Bible:

How Do You Know When a Word is Used Symbolically?

If a word or phrase you are reading makes sense as it is, and does not contradict a simple understanding of the Word of God, then it can be understood literally, not, symbolically. But if the word or phrase doesn’t seem to make common sense, then you should look into the possibility that it is a Symbolic word. Also if it is a prophecy (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Daniel, Revelation, etc…) it can have a dual application, symbolic and literal.

Symbols Are:

  • Most often Nouns. (Names of Objects like Animals, Tools, Places, and other things or objects.)
  • but can also be Adjectives like a color.
  • Sometimes a Phrase.

The Golden Rule:  Let the Bible define itself.

Scripture must be its own expositor (translator, or definer) since it is the Standard of all doctrine, and it is how we discern all true doctrine.  If I depend on a teacher to explain the Bible to me, because we think he is wise, and he guesses at its meaning, or if he explains it so that it fits his own religious beliefs, then you have taken his guessing, desire, belief, or wisdom as your rule, and standard, not the Bible.

How Do You Know When a Word is Used Figuratively or Symbolically?

Rule: If a verse defies common sense in its literal meaning, then we must look for a figurative, or Symbolic, meaning.

As you become familiar with the Symbolic words, and the way and context in which the Bible uses Symbolic words you will start recognize more symbolic words in many Bible Passages that you have passed by when you read them previously.

Finish reading the next couple of pages, then look through the list of Symbolic words in the list I have on the “Symbolic List” page.

Next: Methods Used to Find Symbolic Definitions

Grapes/Clusters = God’s People


Grass = People, all flesh.


Garment, Robe, Apparel  = Character


Darkness = Wickedness, Lack of Understanding.