A figure of speech that highlights a similarity between two different things by stating that one thing is another.
A metaphor, like other word pictures, can be understood by identifying three elements: the topic that is being discussed, the image or concept that the topic is compared with, and the specific point of similarity between the two things being compared.
The Bible uses many metaphors. For example, Jesus used a metaphor when he said to his followers: “You are the salt of the earth.” (Mt 5:13) In this word picture, the topic is “you,” that is, Jesus’ followers. The image is “salt.” The point of similarity in this context is the preservative quality of salt. The lesson? Just as salt could preserve food by preventing decay, the disciples could preserve the moral purity of people by teaching them the things Jesus commanded. (See study note on Mt 5:13.) Some other metaphors used in the Bible can be found at Ps 18:2; 84:11; 121:5; Joh 10:7; 15:1.
A related figure of speech is a simile. Similes are less forceful than metaphors. They state that one thing is like another. Examples of similes can be found at Ge 22:17; Ps. 1:3; 10:9.