Identifying the use and influence of allegorical and metaphorical representations

Identifying the use and influence of allegorical and metaphorical representations

Understanding the Role of Allegory and Metaphor

  • Allegory and metaphor play a significant role in the Psalms. The psalmist often utilises these tools to convey complex feelings and experiences, or to ascribe attributes and actions to God in comprehensible ways.
  • For example, in Psalm 8:1, the mention of the “stars and moon” might symbolise God’s creation, his majesty, and his transcendence—the stars, being numerous and far beyond reach, could represent the infinite qualities of God.
  • Psalm 9:9 refers to the Lord as a “refuge for the oppressed”. This allegorical reference to God as a ‘refuge’ suggests the idea of God as a safe shelter, one that affords protection and relief from danger or distress.

Interpreting Allegories and Metaphors

  • A key skill for interpreting these figures of speech is to identify what the psalmist may be trying to evoke indirectly. Always consider how the allegory or metaphor aligns with the emotional tone and overall message of the psalm.
  • Take note of the ways in which God and other figures are characterised using these literary devices. Such portrayals can tell us a lot about the psalmist’s faith and his perception of the divine.
  • For instance, in Psalm 7:12, God is said to be a “righteous judge”, and has “sharpened his sword” against the wicked. This could be viewed as a metaphorical representation of God’s justice and his wrath against sin.

Unpacking the Context of Allegories and Metaphors

  • Remember that these figures of speech are deeply rooted in the cultural, religious, and social contexts of the psalmist. Their full meaning might only be grasped by considering these contexts.
  • For example, understanding the allegory of God being a “refuge” (Psalm 9:9) might require an appreciation of the experiences of the Israelites, such as their history of foreign oppressions and exiles.
  • Similarly, metaphors like God sharpening his sword (Psalm 7:12) could draw on the prevalence of warfare in ancient societies and the belief in divine support for righteous battles.

Exploring the Impact of Allegorical and Metaphorical Language

  • Finally, consider the emotional, spiritual, or psychological affects that these figures of speech might have been intended to create. They are not just illustrative tools, they are meant to convey the psalmist’s feelings, provoke empathy, or inspire faith.
  • For example, the depiction of God as a ‘refuge’ (Psalm 9:9) could offer comfort and hope to those in distress, affirming the belief in God’s protective nature.
  • The image of God sharpening his sword (Psalm 7:12) might stir feelings of vindication or relief, reinforcing the belief in God’s role as a divine avenger.