Article of the Month

July, 2015




It is sometimes a puzzlement to those not used to topical Bible study how Bible students arrive so confidently at the symbolic meanings of certain Bible terms.

This is an important consideration.  It is one thing simply to accept someone’s interpreting of Bible symbolisms, and quite another thing to establish those interpretations by Biblical authority.


Exhaustive Topical Study


Since the late Nineteenth Century, it has been possible to examine all scriptures relative to a certain word usage.  We call this “Topical Bible Study.”  It involves searching the WHOLE BIBLE for everything it says on one specific subject or word.  It is the only approach which keeps us from imposing our own personal ideas as to what any teaching really is.

This kind of study has been made possible by the publication of such works as Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible.  This great book, and a number of others like it, lists ALL of the words in the Bible, where they are located, and the particular Hebrew or Greek words from which our English translations are derived.  It is thus possible to have a 100% survey of how the Bible uses every word.


Jesus, himself, established the concept of exhaustive topical study.  When, after his resurrection, he was trying to comfort and inform his disciples about all that recent events truly meant, he quoted to them ALL of the Scriptures relative to his final days.  We find this account in Luke 24:17-32.  The key verse (24:27) says:


“And beginning with Moses and will all

                             the prophets, he explained to them the

                             things concerning himself in all the



This sets the standard for us.  Jesus, by example, showed us that this was the way to comprehend the consistency and the secrets of the Bible.  It is not always a rapid or easy method of study.  But it is conclusive.  It will often destroy our previously-held concepts; but that is something we want, if we are sincere.  It is incumbent upon all who are sincere disciples of Jesus to adopt this approach to the best of their abilities.



An Example



This month’s article’s purpose is to give one small (and perhaps insignificant) example of how this kind of topical study reveals the meaning of one Biblical symbol.


We will not trouble the reader with the tedium of examining all the applicable texts.  We simply will show the process a small group of students recently used in order to discern and establish the accurate interpretation of the Biblical symbol of BOWS AND ARROWS.


Step number one was to consult a concordance (and its online equivalent) to determine every place “bow,”  “bows,”  “arrow,” and “arrows” appear in Scripture  It immediately was clear that sometimes “bow” was not related to archery, but to rainbows!  So, those texts immediately were set aside.  It finally was decided only to consider texts with “arrows” included.  After all, an “arrow” is the prime factor in the duo of “bows and arrows.”  The bow is merely the device which launches the arrows.  The arrows, themselves, become the primary symbolism.


There are about 59 texts containing “arrow” or “arrows.”  They are all in the Old Testament.  A few of them use different Hebrew words — a factor which all good studies will take into consideration.  The students concluded, however, that they were studying the primary word for genuine arrows.


We immediately eliminated the texts which were clearly literal — where an “arrow” simply referred to an offensive weapon being used by a man or an army.  We were trying to determine SYMBOLIC USAGE, not just ordinary uses of the word.


As the study progressed from that point, we could quickly have become discouraged since no verse seemed definitive.  But we went on.  Then suddenly, there it was!  We found the texts which ACTUALLY DEFINE the symbol.  Psalm 64:3 says, “They aimed BITTER SPEECH as their arrow to shoot from concealment at the blameless.”  We had our symbol clarified for us!  Arrows represent WORDS as offensive weapons.  Proverbs 25:18 strengthens this conclusion with the words:  “Like a club and a sword and a sharp arrow is a man who bears false witness against his neighbor.”  When this symbolic meaning was then applied to more obscure prophecies which contained “arrows,” those passages became considerably clearer.


The childhood chant, “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me,” came to mind.  Apparently the Scriptures do not concur with this platitude!  Words can and do harm us or change us.


The study also revealed that there seem to be two sources for arrows.  The wicked use them (Psalm 11:2); but God also uses them — not as evil, but as sharp messages of truths which are designed to weaken an enemy.  (Lamentations 3:12)


This little study yielded many more subtle as well as major clarifications regarding various prophetic contexts in which the word “arrow” appears.


The conclusion is this:  We can search the Scriptures carefully and completely, and we will find the meanings which God, Himself, attaches to symbols, doctrines, prophecies, etc.  And we will feel confident because our examination and our conclusions will rely on Him — not on our own fallible reasonings.  The great majority of Biblical “mysteries” are able to be solved by this topical-study approach which Jesus, himself, instituted on the road to Emmaus.





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