Arrows – definition

Arrows definition
Correctly understanding these terms leads to a better
understanding of the character of God and the Gospel.

Are arrows only shot by bows or is there a figurative sense in which someone can be pierced by an arrow? This page also looks at the word “lightning” which is used in a similar sense to arrows.

Traditional Legal Model: The arrows of God are understood by some as only weapons to hurt and kill. There are others who recognize figurative uses within the traditional model.

Biblical Healing Model: They can be literal weapons yes, but also are used figuratively as convictions of conscience – piercing the heart with a consciousness of guilt as is used of the term “hornets.”

While most recognize that there are both figurative and literal uses, the definition is included to make the figurative uses clear and to show the connection to the convictions of the conscience in support of the definition for discomfited.

Webster’s 1828 Dictionary

  1. In scripture, the arrows of God are the apprehensions of his wrath, which pierce and pain the conscience. Job 6:4. Psalms 38:2. In a like figurative manner, arrows represent the judgments of God, as thunder, lightning, tempests and famine. 2 Samuel 22:15. (

That definition connects God’s arrows with “apprehensions of his wrath” – anticipating or expecting punishment from God. However, the Bible seems to use arrows figuratively in various ways including in reference to bringing awareness of a sinful condition and of particular sins that should prompt a person to seek forgiveness.

King David Experienced Arrows

David certainly suffered under the pangs of a guilty conscience:

“O LORD, rebuke me not in thy wrath: neither chasten me in thy hot displeasure.  For thine arrows stick fast in me, and thy hand presseth me sore. There is no soundness in my flesh because of thine anger; neither is there any rest in my bones because of my sin. For mine iniquities are gone over mine head: as an heavy burden they are too heavy for me. My wounds stink and are corrupt because of my foolishness. I am troubled; I am bowed down greatly; I go mourning all the day long.” (Psa 38:1-6)

Compare “thy hand presseth me sore” in verse 2 above with David’s similar statement here:

“For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me: my moisture is turned into the drought of summer. Selah.” (Psa 32:4)

 The context of Psalm 32 makes it obvious that David’s conscience was being smitten. It is clear that in both Psalms 32 and 38 David was mourning over his sins; feeling “arrows” of conviction.

Here is Psalm 39:1-4 from another version:

“O Lord, don’t be angry when you discipline me, don’t be upset when you correct me. Your arrows of truth have pierced deep into my heart, and your healing hand rests upon me. Because you let me have my way, I am really sick; my body is weak and unhealthy because of my sin. I am drowning in guilt — the weight of it is more than I can bear.” (Psa 38:1-4, The Remedy)

Fortunately, David responded positively to the calls to his conscience.

Job and Arrows

Job expressed a similar feeling helping us to understand what God’s arrows are:

“For the arrows of the Almighty are within me, the poison whereof drinketh up my spirit: the terrors of God do set themselves in array against me.” (Job 6:4)

Commentaries mentioning this verse show the different interpretations of the “arrows.”

“God’s ‘arrows’ are His judgements in general (Psalm 7:12  Deuteronomy 32:23); here in particular pain and sickness (Job 6:4; Job 16:12-13; Lamentations 3:12-13). Blow after blow from God’s ‘hand’ (Psalm 32:4; Psalm 39:10) has lighted upon him.” (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges comment on Psalm 38:2)

“The ‘arrows’ of God are the plagues, diseases and pains with which He assails men, ch. Job 16:12 (Cambridge Bible for Schools and Colleges comment on Job 6:4)”

That commentary is misleading because, just like Job, they are thinking that it was God sending the afflictions. In fact, a major point of the book of Job is that God is not responsible for troubles. A careful reading of the first two chapters reveals that Satan was behind Job’s afflictions. Here is another comment that also blames God in error:

“And he calls them arrows of the Almighty, not only, generally speaking, because all afflictions come from him, but particularly, because God’s hand was in a singular manner visible and eminent in his sufferings, and especially because they were immediately shot by God into his spirit, so that they were within him,” (Benson Commentary on Job 6:4)

Here is one that comes closer to rightly understanding the arrows:

“Which declares that he was not only afflicted in body, but wounded in conscience, which is the greatest battle that the faithful can have.” (Geneva Study Bible comment on Job 6:4)

Arrows and Lightning

It seems that “arrows” (coming from God) refer to something like the pangs of conviction of a guilty conscience. Here is an interesting pairing of verses:

“And he sent out arrows (H2671), and scattered (H6327) them; lightning, (H1300) and discomfited (H2000) them.” (2 Sam 22:15)

“Cast forth lightning, (H1300) and scatter (H6327) them: shoot out thine arrows, (H2671) and destroy (H2000) them.” (Psa 144:6)

2 Samuel 22:15 arrows scattered lightning discomfited
Psalm 144:6 lightning scatter arrows destroy

It is obvious from the above that “arrows” and “lightning” are used interchangeably – they both cause scattering. “Destroy” in Psalm 144:6 is from the original Hebrew word normally translated as “discomfited” which never has the meaning of to destroy. Both arrows and lightning result in discomfiture. It seems that discomfiture is the effect mentally, and scattering (disorder, fleeing) is the physical result.

Arrows and lightning are used together in other verses:

“The sun and moon stood still in their habitation: at the light of thine arrows (H2671) they went, and at the shining of thy glittering (original is “lightning” H1300) spear.” (Hab 3:11)

That verse connects with the miraculous event of the sun and moon standing still (Joshua 10:12) in Joshua’s battle with the five kings of the Amorites:

“And the LORD discomfited (hamam, H2000) them before Israel, and slew them with a great slaughter at Gibeon, and chased them along the way that goeth up to Bethhoron, and smote them to Azekah, and unto Makkedah.” (Josh 10:10)

It seems that there were arrows of conviction involved; a call to the consciences of those Amorites. It suggests that conviction of conscience was part of what disrupted the battle plans of Israel’s enemies. (The “great slaughter” and hailstones that followed (verse 11) will be the subject of another study.)

Another example:

“And the LORD shall be seen over them, and his arrow (H2671) shall go forth as the lightning (H1300): and the Lord GOD shall blow the trumpet, and shall go with whirlwinds of the south.” (Zech 9:14)

Arrows and Calls to Service

Arrows to the conscience can not only be to warn of wrong but to call to do right, in line with this verse:

“Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” (James 4:17)

Look at this verse (God speaking to Job):

“Canst thou send lightnings, that they may go, and say unto thee, Here we are?” (Job 38:35)

Lightnings are sent forth in order that they may say “here we are.” That sounds like a call from God to service as happened with Isaiah:

“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me.” (Isa 6:8)

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