Water Symbol (Bible)

What Does Water Symbolize in the Bible?

The Baptism of Jesus

The Baptism of Jesus

Water the first symbol of the sacred that appeared in the Book of Genesis. The creation myth in the first chapter of Genesis, reads, “the earth was formless and void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.” Water was present before creation. Then God, created the seas and the land by gathering the water into one place.  The first creatures that were created in this narrative came from the water.

In the second creation myth found in the Book of Genesis, the water stated that there we no plants on the earth because God had not allowed the rain to fall on the earth. In verse 6 of this narrative a “stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground”, this stream was symbolic of the bodies of water on the earth.

Water again appeared as a symbol of the sacred in the narrative about the great flood. Unlike in the creation myths, water in this narrative was a destructive force, brought on by the anger of God. God warned Noah that the water that God was sending to the earth would destroy everything that God had created.  “The rain fell on the earth for forty days and forty nights.” The text goes on to tell the reader that the water lasted on the earth for 150 days.

Water again appeared as a symbol of the sacred in chapter 13 of the Book of Genesis.  Abram and Lot were traveling together and Abram told Lot that they should separate. Lot looked at the land around them and noticed that the area was “well watered like the garden of the Lord.” The creation myths were passed on through the oral tradition. Lot had probably heard the stories from Abram, who was his uncle and the head of their family. Lot stayed in the area that was “well watered.”

In chapter 24 of the Book of Genesis, water brought Isaac and Rebekah together. Abraham was dying and he did not want his son to marry a Canaanite woman. He sent one of his servants on a mission to find a wife for his son. The servant found Rebekah, “…coming out with her water jar on her shoulder.” The sign from God that the servant was waiting for was a girl who would offer water to the servant and  his camels; Isaac was to marry whichever girl did so for the servant.

In the Old Testament, water was a symbol of the sacred. In the first creation myth water was present before creation and in the second creation myth it kicked off the chain reaction that started creation. Water was both a destructive and cleansing force in the narrative of the great flood. Lot decided to stay in the area of Sodom and Gomorrah because of the water that was there. Water was a sign from God in the deciding which non-Canaanite woman Isaac was to marry. Water appeared as a symbol of the sacred in many of the ancient texts of the Middle East and it is still a symbol of the sacred in many faith traditions including Judaism and Christianity today. 

1 Genesis 1.2 (New Revised Standard Version)
2 1. 9-10 (NRSV)
3 1.20-23 (NRSV)- God also created birds in these verses. 
4 2.5 (NRSV)
5 2.6 (NRSV)
6 7.1-4 (NRSV)
7 7. 12 (NRSV)
8 7.24 , 8.3 (NRSV)
9 13.10 (NRSV)
10 Ibid. 
11 24.15 (NRSV)
12 14.12-14 (NRSV)