The Sea Was No More

When we read the Bible, we must approach it within the context of which it was written. That means, if we attempt to understand it devoid of the setting in view, the culture, the audience, the circumstances, the framework, the timeline period, the geography, the style of writing, etc., we will almost assuredly then misunderstand it to some degree. As a result, we will then also possibly run the risk of further compounding our misunderstanding when we go to other parts of the Bible, because our wrongly shaped minds will then impact or influence everything else that we read.


Poetic Metaphor


The Biblical writers used all kinds of literary styles in order to express what God had inspired them to put into these ancient scrolls. Throughout both the Old and New Testaments we find all sorts of genres and techniques to help the reader to better grasp the significance of what God wants us to know. One example is “poetic metaphor.”


Poetic metaphor uses one thing to describe something else (that is not at all related), and in doing so it helps the reader to then capture and experience the something else that is in view. Take these similar themed references:


Psalms 69:1-4a (ESV)Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God. More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies.


Psalms 89:9-10 (ESV)You [God] rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them. You crushed Rahab like a carcass; you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm.


Isaiah 17:12-13 (ESV)Ah, the thunder of many peoples; they thunder like the thundering of the sea! Ah, the roar of nations; they roar like the roaring of mighty waters! The nations roar like the roaring of many waters, but he will rebuke them, and they will flee far away, chased like chaff on the mountains before the wind and whirling dust before the storm.


What is common in these three scenes is that those who hate David, Rahab (also known as Egypt), and the nations in general are all poetically likened to deep flooding waters, raging seas, thundering seas, and roaring mighty waters. Such comparisons are meant to give the reader a more significant appreciation for what a chaotic humanity is like, and that it is only God who has the power to “save” us from the rising “deep waters” that come up to our necks. It is only God who is able to successfully “rule” and “still” the “raging of the sea.” It is only God who can “rebuke” the “mighty waters,” causing them to “flee far away, chased like chaff on the mountains before the wind and whirling dust before the storm.”


Revelation 21:1


Understanding this common, poetic metaphor in the Bible regarding the sea can help us to better perceive what will be fully accomplished by God in the age to come as well. Verses such as this one at the end of the Bible (when read in context) suddenly opens up in a way that it most likely would not have if it was just read in isolation:


Revelation 21:1 (ESV)Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more.


May we (believers) fully appreciate what God will fully make “no more” in the age to come.


Godspeed, to the brethren!


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