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Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology

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WatchfulnessWave Offering
Additional Resources
• Nave's Topical Bible
Bitter water
• Treasury of Scripture Knowledge
Holy Place, entry to
Water: & Healing, Holy
• Torrey's Topical Textbook
• Easton's Bible Dictionary
Drawer of water
Water of jealousy
Water of purification
Water of separation
• Fausset's Bible Dictionary
Water of Jealousy
• Smith's Bible Dictionary
Water of jealousy
Water of separation
• International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
Bitter Water
Bitterness, Water of
Blood and Water
Drawer of Water
Jealousy, Water of
Water of Bitterness (or of Jealousy)
Water of Separation (or of Uncleanness)
Greek - without water, waterless
Greek - deep water
Greek - water
Greek - water, watering, watered, waters
Greek - drink water
Greek - water, waters
Hebrew - running water
Hebrew - draw water
Hebrew - places of drawing water, watering places
Hebrew - water, watercourse, waterflood, watering, waters, watersprings, Water, waterless
Hebrew - draw water, drew the water
Hebrew - water, watered, waters
Hebrew - water
Hebrew - water, water its abundantly, watering, waters
Hebrew - water jars
Hebrew - running waters, fresh water
Hebrew - water
Hebrew - waterspout, water tunnel, waterfalls
Hebrew - water
Hebrew - water
Water -

The word "water" is used in a variety of metaphorical ways in Scripture. It is used to symbolize the troublesome times in life that can and do come to human beings, especially God's children (Psalm 32:6; 69:1, 2, 14, 15; Isa 43:2; Lam 3:54). In some contexts water stands for enemies who can attack and need to be overcome (2 Sam 22:17-18; Psalm 18:16-17; 124:4-5; 144:7; Isa 8:7; Jer 47:2). In both the Old and New Testaments, the word "water" is used for salvation and eternal life, which God offers humankind through faith in his Son (Isa 12:3; 55:1; Rev 21:6; 22:1, 2, 17). In John 4:10-15, part of Jesus' discourse with the Samaritan woman at the well, he speaks metaphorically of his salvation as "living water" and as "a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

Following along this same theme, water sometimes symbolizes the spiritual cleansing that comes with the acceptance of God's offer of salvation (Ezek 36:25; Eph 5:26; Heb 10:22). In fact, in Ephesians 5:26, the "water" that does the cleansing of the bride, the church, is directly tied in with God's Word, of which it is a symbol.

In a very important passage, Jesus identifies the "streams of living water" that flow from within those who believe in him with the Holy Spirit (John 7:37-39). The reception of the Holy Spirit is clearly the special reception that was going to come after Jesus had been glorified at the Father's right hand and happened on the Day of Pentecost as described in Acts 2. Two times in Jeremiah Yahweh is metaphorically identified as "the spring of living water" (Jer 2:13; 17:13). In both instances Israel is rebuked for having forsaken the Lord for other cisterns that could in no way satisfy their "thirst."

In other passages of Scripture, the following are said metaphorically to be "water": God's help (Isa 8:6: "the gently flowing waters of Shiloah" ); God's judgment (Isa 28:17: "water will overflow your hiding place" ); man's words (Prov 18:4: "The words of man's mouth are deep waters" ); man's purposes (Prov 20:5: "The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters" ); an adulterous woman (Prov 9:17: "Stolen water is sweet" ); and a person's posterity (Isa 48:1: "Listen to this, O house of Jacob, who are called by the name of Israel and have come forth out of the line [waters] of Judah" ).

The reference to "water" in John 3:5 has been variously interpreted by scholars. Some have taken the phrase, "being born of water, " to mean being born again by means of water baptism. Others have taken the verse to involve a hendiadys and take "water" and "Spirit" together as one reference since water is a symbol of the Holy Spirit in other passages. Still others take the birth by water to be one's natural birth and the birth by the Spirit to be the supernatural birth of being "born again" or regenerated. This seems to be what Nicodemus, in the context, understood Jesus to be saying. In order to enter the kingdom of God one must have two births, each a different kind. After all, water, in its ordinary sense, has a great part to play in the natural birth of a baby. Furthermore, there are too many clear passages and single verses in the Bible that base salvation, entrance into the kingdom of God, and eternal life on faith alone.

Wesley L. Gerig


Copyright Statement
Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology. Edited by Walter A. Elwell Copyright 1996 by Walter A. Elwell. Published by Baker Books, a division of Baker Book House Company, PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49516-6287. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Bibliography Information
Elwell, Walter A. "Entry for 'Water'". "Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology".
<>. 1897.


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