Rabbit Trail#18 – Watery Writings

Graph showing all the water references in the bible (N=694)

As part of the processing of my float through the bible I have been ruminating on why some books of the bible have more water imagery. So I decided to write this Rabbit Trail about it. By my reckoning the top 5 books of the bible, based on the number of water references, are:

Top 5 Books of the Bible based on Water References

What do these watery writings have in common? Similarly why do 11 Books of the bible have no water references at all (mainly Paul’s letters)? Is there a deeper meaning to these patterns? This is a bit like trying to understand the form and flow of a river. What makes rapids in certain areas and quiet water in others? Let see where this Rabbit Trail, and God, leads.

The most obvious common thread among these books is that all of them are in the old testament. When I started my float I would have said that the new testament would have used more figurative water images, but the old testament has 544 to the new testament’s 150. If I were to have chosen the top 10 more of the new testaments books would have shown up. For example, Revelation just missed the top 5 with 26 water references.

What else do these five books have in common? There was certainly a physicality to the relationship between God and His people in the old testament that lends itself to figurative water language. They were constantly looking for a tangible form of God and water was often the metaphor used. For example, for much of the old testament God appears in the form of a cloud. A cloud in the temple, clouds high above, and clouds speaking to the people.

This familiar form of water was both tangible and ephemeral at the same time. God appeared in many forms, just like water. Perhaps God chose this so that the people could relate to Him better. I do not know. Clouds occupy the realm between the earth and space – the atmosphere. God also dwells in a place in between the spiritual and secular realms. He once limited Himself and became a window between these two worlds when He came as Jesus.

I also think there was also a dependence on water for the desert people of the old testament in the dry environment where they lived. This made them value and seek after water in a way that those who have water in abundance might not – making it a good analogue for the dependence and seeking that God wants from us. He wants to pant for Him like water, but at the same time He offers to at no cost to ourselves except commitment and faith.