Q. What is the symbolism of water in the bible relative to the other religions islam, buddahism?
In Greek philosophy water was believed to be the original substance that all things were made from. With this, the Bible seems to agree:
2 Peter 3:5-6
“For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by
water,through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.”
Genesis 1:2 –
“The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.”
The Koran states,
“From water we have made all things.” Water seems to play an elemental part in Islam. I should remind you that the Koran was written some 600 years after the writing of the Old and New Testaments, and is largely an answer to Christianity, therefore, we would expect to see a lot of similarity in the teaching of the Koran with regard to water.
Buddha thought water to be of little significance, as far as I have been able to learn.
Most of his teaching emphasized the “mental” aspect of world enlightenment. Physical things were not considered of great importance, and attachment to anything physical was considered “weakness.”
The Hindus believe that the Ganges River (in India) is sacred. Water is a sacred element in Hinduism, and in many other polytheistic religions.
Because of the scarcity of water in the Bible Lands it is especially appreciated by the people there. The main source of water in Palestine is rainfall. This moisture is carried up from the sea in clouds and falls on the hills as rain or snow. This supplies the
springs and streams. The rivers are mostly small and have little or no water in summer. For the most part springs supply the villages, but in case this is not sufficient, cisterns are used. Most of the rain falls on the western slopes of the mountains, and most of the springs are found there. The limestone in many places does not hold the water, so wells are not very common, though there are many references to them in the Bible. There is the pool of Bersheba (Gen. 21:19), Isaac’s well (Gen. 24:11), Jacob’s well (John 4:6), Pool of Siloam (John 9:7), the waters of Nephtoah (Joshua 15:9).
Washing with water was required under the Old Testament Law for the Levitical priests, in fact, it held a considerable place in the temple ceremony (see. Leviticus 11:32; 16:4; 17:15; 22:6; Numbers 19:7; Exodus 30:18; 40:7), and sacrifices were to be washed (Exodus 29:4; Leviticus 1:9; 6:28; 14:5).
In the New Testament water symbolizes a number of things. For example:
In John 3:5 –
“Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”
In this place Jesus is teaching the significance of baptism by immersion in water. By being baptized, we symbolically go through the death, burial, and resurrection through which we become a child of God (see Romans 6:1-4).
When we are baptized for the forgiveness of our sins (by immersion in water) our sins are washed away (Acts 22:16) and we receive the gift of the Spirit (Acts 2:38). This act unites us with Christ (Romans 6:1-4), and we are added to His Kingdom, which is His church. (Acts 2:47, Col. 1:16;
Gal. 3:26-27; Ephesians 1:21-22).
In another place Jesus taught:
“Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
11 She said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with and the well is deep; where then do You get that living water?
Jesus answered and said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will thirst again;
14 but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”
15 The woman *said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw.”
This water which symbolized eternal life was the Word of God which Jesus taught the woman at the well.
Ephesians 5:26 says of those in the church
” so that He might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word . . ”
The Word of God is the pure water for which our souls thirst.
The Hebrew writer says:
Heb 10:22 “let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
This is a reference to baptism.
In the book of Acts there are numerous references to water and baptism:
“As they went along the road they came to some water; and the eunuch said, “Look! Water! What prevents me from being baptized?”
Ac 8:38 -39
And he ordered the chariot to stop; and they both went down into the water, Philip as well as the eunuch, and he baptized him.
39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing.”
In this place we learn that when one is taught about Jesus (by God, through His Word) one is taught about the necessity of baptism, and it’s relationship to salvation.
With this, the Apostle Peter agrees when he says:
1Peter 3:20 – 21
“who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water. Corresponding to that, baptism now saves you–not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but an appeal to God for a good conscience–through the resurrection of Jesus Christ . . .”
God has chosen water as a symbol of salvation for the Christian. The Apostle John used water in the way in a number of passages:
“This is the One who came by water and blood, Jesus Christ; not with the water only, but with the water and with the blood. It is the Spirit who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.
the Spirit and the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.”
“for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.”
“The Spirit and the bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wishes take the water of life without cost.”
Water can symbolize may things for the Christian. God’s care and concern, God’s provision, God’s Word, God’s salvation. While there is no mystical or magical power in water, it stands as a symbol for these things. Remember also the rainbow (which is made up of water) which reminds us of God’s unfailing love.