IN THE BIBLICAL NARRATIVE
Given the importance of water to all of life’s processes, it’s not surprising to discover how often water, water imagery, and water symbolism appear in the Bible. What surprises many, however, is the depth of understanding about the physical nature of water demonstrated by writers of the Scriptures over 2,000 years ago. It’s commonly believed that many of the processes, like the water cycle, were not understood until the dramatic increase in scientific knowledge beginning with the Renaissance. But some of the oldest books of the Bible indicate that knowledge about the lifesupporting attributes of water has been around since ancient times.
Here are some of those processes mentioned at least 1,000 years before the time of Christ:
Ecological Relationships. “Can the papyrus grow up without a marsh? Can the reeds flourish without water? While it is yet green and not cut down, it withers before any other plant” (Job 8:11-12).
Erosion And Dissolution. “As water wears away stones, and as torrents wash away the soil of the earth . . .” (Job 14:19).
Significance To Regeneration Of Plants. “For there is hope for a tree, if it is cut down, that it will sprout again, and that its tender shoots will not cease. Though its root may grow old in the earth, and its stump may die in the ground, yet at the scent of water it will bud and bring forth branches like a plant” (Job 14:7-9).
Clouds As Water Vapor. “He binds up the water in His thick clouds, yet the clouds are not broken under it” (Job 26:8). “With moisture He saturates the thick clouds; He scatters His bright clouds” (Job 37:11). “He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain; He brings the wind out of His treasuries” (Ps. 135:7).
Evaporation And Condensation. “He draws up drops of water, which distill as rain from the mist, which the clouds drop down and pour abundantly on man” (Job 36:27-28).
Water Cycle. “All the rivers run into the sea, yet the sea is not full; to the place from which the rivers come, there they return again” (Eccl. 1:7). Because so many of us today live and work in places insulated and isolated from the outdoors, we tend to ignore the waterrelated processes going on around us, unless we are caught off guard by a sudden storm, a flash flood, or a raging blizzard. The ancients, on the other hand, had an intimacy with the natural world that compelled them to have great respect for the power the Creator demonstrated by the dynamics of water. Consider this set of questions from the book of Job intended to emphasize God’s control over nature:
Who has divided a channel for the overflowing water, or a path for the thunderbolt, to cause it to rain on a land where there is no one, a wilderness in which there is no man; to satisfy the desolate waste, and cause to spring forth the growth of tender grass? Has the rain a father? Or who has begotten the drops of dew? From whose womb comes the ice? And the frost of heaven, who gives it birth? The waters harden like stone, and the surface of the deep is frozen (Job 38:25-30).