What is a Simile?
The Bible is by far the most influential literary work in Western society. And, like every example of literature, it utilizes literary and rhetorical devices. Simile is one of the most common literary devices used in The Bible, and we’ve gathered a list of 10 visionary simile examples so that you can learn to identify this device, and see how it functions in The Bible. Often, similes compare something to another thing that is easy to visualize, or compares things in such a way that imparts a deeper level of meaning.
List of Simile Examples in the Bible
• Judges 6:5
“They came up with their livestock and their tents like swarms of locusts.”
Like other uses of simile, this example of functions to help readers visualize the situation.”
• 1 Thessalonians 5:2
“For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night.”
The day of the Lord, the day of reckoning, or judgement day, will come “like a thief in the night,” that is to say, unexpectedly, and at a time that no one is or can ever be aware of.
• Matthew 13:44
“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field.”
In this example, heaven is compared to a hidden treasure. This comparison carries with it a connotation that heaven is very valuable, but hard to find, just like buried treasure.
• Matthew 28:3
“His appearance was like lightning and his clothes were white as snow.”
Here is a very visual example that illustrates the ability for a simile to impart a vivid description. The author is describing a risen Christ. The author’s imagery is striking in the most literal sense.
• Matthew 23:27
“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean.”
In this example we have another visually stimulating comparison that delivers deep meaning as well. The Pharisees, a religious caste, are condemned as being hypocritical, and compared to a building that looks nice on the outside, but contains filth on the inside.
• Matthew 13:52
“Every teacher of the law who has become a disciple of the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house.”
In this example, “teachers of the law” (philosophers, religious, leaders, etc.) are compared to an owner of a house. Like the owner of a house, they have authority over the law they create.
• Proverbs 10:26
“Like vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes, so is the lazy one to those who send him.”
This example provides more than just a visual comparison, but a tangible comparison. We can feel these descriptions. Like the harsh taste of vinegar, or the sting of smoke in one’s eyes, we become aware of the author’s opinion of the lazy through these similes.
• Proverbs 25:11
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver.”
Here is a short proverb about the value of well-spoken words. They are compared to golden apples in containers made of silver.
• Matthew 10:16
“Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”
The writer speaks to his audience comparing them to sheep among wolves, conveying the danger they face, and compelling them to be both wise and peaceful, using two symbols of wisdom and peace, the snake and the dove.
• Revelations 1:14
“His head and hair were white like wool, as white a snow, and his eyes were like burning fire.”
In our last example, there was not only one simile, but three. Groups of three are common in The Bible, and the use of simile is often present in threes. In this example, we have a prophetic vision for the book of Revelations. The prophet here is relaying a vision of Christ in heaven.
• Song of Solomon 2:3
“As the apple tree among the trees of the wood, so is my beloved among the sons.”
• Psalms 102:6
“I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert.”
This verse is a prayer to God. In it, the speaker compares himself to lone, solitary creatures, emphasizing his loneliness before God.
• 1 Peter 1:2
“All flesh is as grass, and all the glory thereof as the flower of grass.”
In this simile, the flesh, – or our humanity – is compared to grass, and the glory of God is compared to a flower of the grass, in that God’s glory is more beautiful than that of man.
• Psalms 131:2
“Surely I have behaved and quieted myself, as a child that is weaned of his mother: my soul is even as a weaned child.”
Here is a very common comparison you will see in The Bible. Speakers often compare their nature to that of a child.
• Isaiah 1:9
“Except the Lord of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah.”
In this example, the speaker is suggesting that he and others should have been destroyed completely, like the cities Sodom and Gomorrah.
In each of these examples of simile from The Bible, the writers are able to impart vivid imagery and convey deeper meaning to the comparisons they make. By using simile, the authors add depth to their subject matter, and anchor abstract ideas with comparisons that provide a reference point for our senses. These examples should give you a good idea of how simile is used in any text, but more specifically, how simile is used in The Bible to enhance parables, descriptions, commands, and prophecy.