Jehovah is the Source of this liquid (Rev. 14:7), so essential to the life of man, animals and vegetation on earth. (Ex. 17:2, 3; Job 8:11; 14:7-9; Ps. 105:29; Isa. 1:30) He provides it and can control it. (Ex. 14:21-29; Job 5:10; 26:8; 28:25; 37:10; Ps. 107:35) God furnished the Israelites with water, miraculously when necessary (Ex. 17:1-7; Neh. 9:15, 20; Ps. 78:16, 20; Isa. 35:6, 7; 43:20; 48:21), gave them a land having plenty of water (Deut. 8:7) and promised to bless their water supply as long as they obeyed him.—Ex. 23:25.
Jehovah was responsible for the original watering of the ground by means of a mist arising from the earth, and he established the laws governing evaporation of water and its precipitation as rain. (Gen. 2:5, 6; Job 36:27; Amos 5:8) On the second creative day, God produced an expanse by having some water remain on earth while raising a great quantity high above the globe, such canopy undoubtedly supplying the water whereby the wicked were later destroyed in the flood of Noah’s day.—Gen. 1:6-8; 7:11, 17-24; Isa. 54:9.
The Law given at Mount Sinai prohibited making images of things “in the waters under the earth,” apparently meaning aquatic creatures in earth’s waters, which are below the level of the land. This would include rivers, lakes, seas and subterranean waters.—Ex. 20:4; Deut. 4:15-18; 5:8.
ILLUSTRATIVE AND FIGURATIVE USES
There are numerous illustrative and figurative references to water in the Scriptures. People, especially the restless masses alienated from God, are symbolized by waters. Babylon the Great, in her earth-wide domination, is said to sit “on many waters.” These waters are explained in John’s vision of the great harlot to “mean peoples and crowds and nations and tongues.”—Rev. 17:1, 15; compare Isaiah 57:20.
Because of the power of water as a destructive agent (causing drowning, washing away or similar effect), it is often employed as a symbol of some destructive force. (Ps. 69:1, 2, 14, 15; Ps. 144:7, 8) It is used of a military force at Jeremiah 47:2.
Water was used at the tabernacle both for physical cleanness and in a symbolic way. At the installation of the priesthood the priests were washed with water, and, symbolically, “sin-cleansing water” was spattered on the Levites. (Ex. 29:4; Num. 8:6, 7) Priests washed before ministering at Jehovah’s sanctuary and before approaching the altar of burnt offering, (Ex. 40:30-32) Water was employed to wash sacrifices (Lev. 1:9) and in ceremonial purifications. (Lev. 14:5-9, 50-52; 15:4-27; 17:15; Num. 19:1-22; see CLEAN, CLEANNESS.) The “holy water” used in the case of jealousy, where a wife was suspected of adultery, evidently was pure, fresh water, into which dust from the tabernacle was put before she drank it.—Num. 5:17-24.
Jehovah is the “source of living water.” Only from him and through his Son, Jesus Christ, the Chief Agent of life, can men receive everlasting life. (Jer. 2:13; John 17:1, 3) Jesus told a Samaritan woman at a well near Sychar that the water he would give would become in its receiver “a fountain of water bubbling up to impart everlasting life.”—John 4:7-15.
The apostle John records his vision of “a new heaven and a new earth” in which he saw flowing out from the throne of God a “river of water of life.” On each side of this river there were trees producing fruit, the leaves of the trees being used for the curing of the nations. (Rev. 21:1; 22:1, 2) After this feature of the vision was completed, Jesus spoke to John about his purpose in sending his angel with the vision. Then John heard the proclamation: “And the spirit and the bride keep on saying: ‘Come!’ And let anyone hearing say: ‘Come!’ And let anyone thirsting come; let anyone that wishes take life’s water free.” Evidently this invitation would be extended by God’s servants for thirsty ones to begin drinking of God’s provisions for gaining eternal life through the Lamb of God. (John 1:29) They could get what is now available of this water of life. The invitation is to be extended to everyone who can be reached, not for the purpose of commercial gain by selling the water, but free to all desiring it.—Rev. 22:17.
Before Jesus’ death and resurrection he spoke of his followers who would receive holy spirit, beginning at Pentecost, 33 C.E., saying that out from their inmost parts “streams of living water will flow.” (John 7:37-39) The record in the Christian Greek Scriptures provides abundant evidence that, impelled by the activating force of God’s spirit, the apostles and disciples accomplished marvels in bringing life-giving waters to other people, starting from Jerusalem and expanding throughout the then known world.
Nourishing the implanted word
Using a different figure in writing to the congregation at Corinth, the apostle Paul likened the work of the Christian minister to that of a farmer, who first plants the seed, waters and cultivates it, then waits for God to make the plant grow to maturity. Paul brought the good news of the kingdom to the Corinthians, planting seed in the Corinthian “field.” Apollos came afterward, nourishing and cultivating the seed sown by his further teaching, but God, by his spirit, brought growth. Paul used this illustration to emphasize the fact that no individual human is important in himself, but all are ministers, working together as God’s workmen. God is the important One, and he blesses such unselfish, unified work.—1 Cor. 3:5-9.
God’s word of truth
God’s word of truth is likened to water that cleanses. The Christian congregation is clean in the sight of God, as a chaste bride for Christ, he having cleansed it “with the bath of water by means of the word.” (Eph. 5:25-27) In a similar usage, Paul speaks to his fellow Christians who have the hope of being underpriests of Christ in the heavens. Referring back to the tabernacle, in which the priests were required to wash in water before entering the sanctuary to serve, he says: “Since we have a great priest [Jesus Christ] over the house of God, let us approach with true hearts in the full assurance of faith, having had . . . our bodies bathed with clean water.” (Heb. 10:21, 22) This cleansing involves not only the knowledge of God’s word but also its application in their daily lives.
The water of baptism
Jesus explained to Nicodemus: “Unless anyone is born from water and spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5) Jesus was apparently speaking of the water of baptism, when one repents of his sins and turns away from his former course of life, presenting himself to God in baptism in the name of Jesus Christ. (Compare Ephesians 4:4, 5, which speaks of the “one baptism.”) The apostle John later wrote: “This is he that came by means of water and blood, Jesus Christ . . . For there are three witness bearers, the spirit and the water and the blood, and the three are in agreement.” (1 John 5:5-8) When Jesus came “into the world,” that is, when he began his ministerial and sacrificial course as God’s Messiah, he came to John the Baptist to be immersed in water (not in repentance for sins, but in presentation of himself to God, to carry out God’s will for him). (Heb. 10:5-7) After this, God’s spirit came down upon him, a testimony that he was God’s Son and the Messiah. (Luke 3:21, 22) It is the water of his baptism that is in harmony with the blood of his sacrifice and with God’s spirit in unanimously testifying to this great Messianic truth.
Other figurative uses
David said concerning the wicked: “May they dissolve as into waters that go their way.” (Ps. 58:7) David may have had in mind the torrent valleys common in Palestine, many of which are filled with a swelling, threatening torrent during a flash flood. But the water quickly runs off and disappears, leaving the valley dry.
When repulsed during the assault on the city of Ai, the hearts of the people of Israel “began to melt and became as water,” meaning that, sensing they had somehow incurred Jehovah’s displeasure and were without his help, they lost all their courage and could not make a firm stand before the enemy. Joshua was very upset, evidently not so much because of the thirty-six men that were killed, but, rather, because their hearts turned to water and they fled in fear before their enemies, for this defeat was a reproach to Jehovah’s name.—Josh. 7:5-9; see CLOUD; RAIN.