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Literal and Figurative Meaning for Biblical Hebrew Words. Figurative reflects the spiritual, much more important.

Key 4. Literal and Figurative meanings for Biblical Hebrew words. Figurative reflects the spiritual, much more important.

Key 4 to master Biblical Hebrew and unlock Bible meaning is literal and figurative meaning for Biblical Hebrew words. Figurative reflects the spiritual, much more important.

Literal and its counterpart, figurative meaning, is probably the most under-used key of Biblical Hebrew to deeper comprehension of the Bible.

Literal and figurative vocabulary meanings are not unique to Hebrew; we find it in English and other languages too. For example, night literally is the twelve-hour period of darkness, but figuratively we use it in expressions like a long night for the survivors. This can be figurative, referring to darkevil, and confusion.

Translations only render one of those meanings, generally the most obvious, the literal meaning. Whereas the figurative or spiritual event is the MOST important. We must learn that literal and figurative go hand-in-hand. I’d even say, when we see something literally strange, we should search out the deeper literal and figurative meaning. Here’s a video about literal and figurative in English.

The deeper meaning of the figurative

Some take the author of Genesis 1 for a nutcase. Why? Because they don’t think the author was intelligent enough to know that you cannot have light without the sun. They think this dumb author simply wrote an error that has survived 3500 so we can see the worthlessness of this narrative and book. Of course, I’m talking tongue in cheek (there’s a statement with figurative meaning). Practically no one even asks the question. Is there a figurative meaning to this seeming inversion of the facts?

Indeed, there is a figurative meaning. It is too lengthy to explain fully now, but this is the gist. I already explained the light was the first element of Creation because its figurative meaning is God entering the world scene. When we bring God into any picture, the Light pierces the darkness.

The events of the fourth day of creation are momentous. God made (in Biblical Hebrew, not created) the sun and moon “for signs, seasons, days and year,” (Genesis 1:14). This refers to the literal establishment of the calendar. We know and take the monthly, seasonal, and yearly cycles for granted. Maybe a little less so now, with the climate upsets. But to us on a day-to-day basis, this literal calendar is no big deal. We celebrate birthdays, anniversaries, school, and ritual holidays and wait for the summer beach or winter skiing at fixed times every year. And that’s the extent of the literal calendar.

The figurative meaning of the calendar God established is far more important and meaningful. Space lacks going into details. Let me whet your appetite for upcoming more detailed information. Leviticus 23 refers to this fourth-day creation established calendar. It gives a list of ceremonies that take place on specific days throughout the year. This is a literal description. For instance, in verse 6 we hear about the feast of unleavened bread, that tasteless unchewable galette. Many read the literal with disdain. Completely overlooking the eventuality, there’s a figurative counterpart meaning to this.

I could iterate other literal references to the wave sheaf, lambs without blemish (are you thinking barbarous? That’s literal thinking), wave loaves, fine flour, rams, and bullocks. There are excellent reasons for these feasts (verse 37) but you’ve got to understand the figurative, and thus, the spiritual meaning of these calendar days. This specific explanation is forthcoming.

But you can immediately see the need for Key 4 to master Biblical Hebrew to unlock the Bible meaning of the feasts and many other literal enigmas.

Figurative meaning in Genesis 1

With the help of our Bible study tools at, let’s quickly find numerous examples of words with literal-figurative meaning. Words we read over in English not realizing the importance of this fourth key to master Biblical Hebrew and Unlock Bible Meaning.

We’re only going to peruse Genesis 1 quickly. Switch to Strong’s Concordance view. You can do the study to ingrain this rule in your mind.

Genesis 1:2 form (click on H8414) > confusion, vanity.

  • Strong’s annotation: figurative
  • KJV: vain, vanity

Click on Hebrew Concordance for H8414. Find, vain, vanity, and confirm the figurative meaning.

  • Vain: 1 Samuel 12:21 And turn you not aside: for then should you go after vain H8414 things, which cannot profit nor deliver; for they are vain H8414
  • Isaiah 45:18 For thus says the LORD that created the heavens; God himself that formed the earth and made it; he has established it, he created not in vain, H8414 he formed it to be inhabited: I am the LORD; and there is none else.
  • In Gen. 1:2 the earth is WITHOUT form. In Isa., God says He creates Earth WITH form, (not in vain). Remember what God creates, in the beginning, is excellent (Rosh = excellent (Key 3)). I hope you know what transformed God’s excellent creation into chaos and why.
  • Vanity: Isa. 40:17  All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity. H8414
  • Isa. 40:20, That bring the princes to nothing; he makes the judges of the earth as vanity. H8414
  • Isa. 41:29, Behold, they are all vanity; H205 their works are nothing: their molten images are wind and confusion. H8414
  • Isa. 44:9, They that make a graven image are all of them vanity; H8414

Other words Strong’s annotations point out as figurative. It’s up to you to study them:

  • Gen. 1:4 divided > distinguish, make difference
  • 1:5 night > adversity
  • 1:6 water > urine, semen
  • 1:11 seed > fruit, posterity
  • 1:14 sign > miracle. 16 stars > prince, 27 image > illusion, idol, vain show

Words Strong does NOT point out with figurative meaning but are:

  • 1:2 void. 1:3 light. 1:3 let there be
  • I leave you to study these.

The whole of Genesis 1 is full of figurative meanings, same with the following chapters. And most readers overlook Key 4 and miss plenty of Bible meaning. Figurative meanings are more present than you realize. And their meanings are vital for deeper biblical understanding.


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