Lightning in the Bible!

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What does lightning symbolize in the Bible? How did God use it to prepare the Israelites to receive the Ten Commandments? What does lightning reveal about Satan the devil's fall and Jesus' true identity?


The English word "lightning" or its plural appears 27 times in 27 King James Bible verses. In the Old Testament the word is usually derived from baraq (Strong's Concordance #H1300) which means a bright flashing sword. It can also come from chaziyz (#H2385) or bazaq (#H965) which is used to refer to a flash of lightning or a thunderbolt.

The eight occurrences of "lightning" or its plural, in the New Testament, come from the Greek astrape (Strong's #G796). Astrape means the same as the English word.

Lightning's First Appearance

The Israelites, after being miraculously freed from Egyptian bondage, are led by Moses to the wilderness of Sinai. After arriving in the wilderness on Sivan 7 (Thursday, June 2 in 1445 B.C.) they set up camp near the foot of Mount Sinai (Exodus 19:1 - 2). They then, per God's command, prepare themselves to receive the Ten Commandments three days later (verses 10 - 11).


On Sivan 10 (Sunday, June 5), which is the Day of Pentecost, the children of Israel are led out of their camp to the base of Sinai. They then experience the power and majesty of God symbolized through a display of flashing lightning, constant thunder and a dense cloud of smoke!

And it came to pass on the third day in the morning that there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mountain. And the sound of the trumpet was exceedingly loud so that all the people in the camp trembled (Exodus 19:16, Holy Bible, a Faithful Version throughout).

God made his presence known in a spectacular fashion so that the Israelites would learn to revere their Creator and take his words seriously (Exodus 20:20). After experiencing the sight and sound of lightning and smoke the people received the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20).

Tool for Humility

The book of Job uses lightning to reinforce the power and greatness of God.

Listen carefully to the thunder of His voice, and the rumbling that comes out of His mouth. He sends it out under the whole heaven, and His lightning to the ends of the earth (Job 37:3, see also 28:26).

God, in his effort to humble Job, challenges him to send down lightning bolts like he can.

Can you send lightnings, that they may go, and say to you, 'Here we are?' (Job 38:35, see also verse 25).

Master of the World

The writer of Psalm 97 was inspired to bear record of God's mastery over the forces of nature.

The Lord reigns; let the earth rejoice; let the multitude of islands be glad. Clouds and darkness are all around Him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of His throne.

A fire goes before Him and burns up His enemies round about. His lightnings light up the world . . . (Psalm 97:1 - 4, see also 135:7, Jeremiah 10:13).

Ezekiel's Living Creatures

Ezekiel's surreal "wheel within a wheel" vision introduces us to four spiritual creatures who each have four faces and four wings (Ezekiel 1:5 - 6). These beings not only have lightning emanating from their bodies they also move with the speed of a thunderbolt!

And the likeness of the living creatures was this: they looked like burning coals of fire; like the appearance of torches. It was continually circling among the living creatures. And the fire was bright, and out of the fire went forth lightning.

And the living creatures kept running back and forth, like the appearance of a flash of lightning (Ezekiel 1:13 - 14).

Swift Punishment

Lightning, in the Bible, can symbolize God's swift judgment against sinners and those who oppose his people.

And the Lord shall be seen over them, and His arrow shall go forth like the lightning; and the Lord God shall blow the ram's horn, and shall go out with the whirlwinds from the south (Zechariah 9:14).

Witness to Satan's Rebuke

Seventy disciples, after concluding a training mission, glory over the fact that they exercised authority over demons in Jesus' name (Luke 10:17). The Lord's unexpected response, however, is both revealing and instructive.

And He (Jesus) said to them (seventy disciples), "I was watching when Satan fell from heaven like lightning . . ." (Luke 10:18).

Jesus' statement reveals that he, as a member of the Godhead, witnessed the Father's lightning response to Satan's foolish attempt to be worshipped as deity. It also subtlety highlights that the authority they received was made possible only by the Godhead's perfect power over all life they created. The Lord then sought to refocus the attention of his trainees on what was truly important.

Yet do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven (Luke 10:20).

Radiant Righteousness

The appearance of the angel who rolled away the stone blocking Jesus' tomb, and who greeted two women who came to check on his body, was said to resemble lightning.

And in the morning suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled away the stone from the door, and sat upon it. Now his appearance was as lightning, and his raiment white as snow (Matthew 28:2 - 3).

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