What does a knife symbolize in the Bible? (Symbolism and meaning)

While teaching an Old Testament Studies class last Friday, I discussed with my students the symbolism and meaning of different objects in the Bible. The Bible suggests that God conveyed hidden messages through creatures and objects as basic as knives, and some of these messages still apply to the lives of Christians today. In our Bible class, we were intrigued by the deep meaning and symbolism of a knife. The question that stood out was, “What does a knife symbolize in the Bible?”

We can perceive different symbols for a knife in the Bible. Isaiah 18:5 and John 15:1–2 suggest that a knife symbolizes God’s judgment against the wicked. On the other hand, Proverbs 30:14 uses knives to symbolize the destructive nature of leaders who take advantage of the poor. Also, Judges 3:21 depicts a knife as a symbol of liberation, while Genesis 22:6–10 depicts it as a sacrificial weapon.

In this article, I have outlined the Bible verses that mention knives and explained their symbolic meanings. I have also provided you with a biblical interpretation of different dreams about knives and their symbolic meanings in different cultures. Read on to learn more about the symbolism and meaning of knives.

Does the Bible mention knives?

Yes, the Bible mentions knives in different passages in the Old Testament. For example, in Genesis 22:6–10, Abraham wanted to use a knife when sacrificing his son Isaac to the Lord. Exodus 4:25 and Joshua 5:2–3 suggest that the Israelites used knives during circumcision. The Bible also mentions knives figuratively in Proverbs 30:14, when King Solomon describes the wicked who prey upon the poor as having jaws that are set with knives.

How were knives used in the Bible?

Knives were used to carry out different purposes in the Bible;

To make sacrifices

In Genesis 22:6–10, Abraham carried with him a knife that he planned to use when sacrificing his son to the Lord. Knives were also used to slaughter the animals that were offered as sacrifices to God (Leviticus 8:15–19). The King James Version Bible suggests that the prophets of Baal cut themselves with knives and lancets as they called on their god to answer them with fire (1 Kings 18:28)

To circumcise the Israelites

In Exodus 4:25, Zipporah used a flint knife to circumcise her son, and in Joshua 5:2–3, the Lord instructed Joshua to circumcise the Israelites using flint knives.

To warn against vices

In Proverbs 30:14 and Proverbs 23:1–3, King Solomon metaphorically uses knives to warn against preying upon the poor and greed, respectively.

To enact God’s punishment against the wicked

Ehud, whom the Lord had chosen to deliver the Israelites from the rule of the Moabites, used a dagger to kill Eglon, the king of Moab (Judges 3:21).

Bible verses about Knives

These are some of the Bible verses about knives:

  • Genesis 22:10 – Abraham was about to slay his son using a knife to sacrifice him as a burnt offering to the Lord.
  • Exodus 4:25 – the Bible suggests that God was about to kill Moses for failing to circumcise his son. Zipporah, Moses’ wife, used a flint knife to circumcise their son, and she touched Moses’ feet with the foreskin. The Lord then spared Moses’ life.
  • Joshua 5:2–3 – the Lord instructed Joshua to make flint knives and circumcise the Israelites again, and he obeyed.
  • Judges 19:29 – Judges 19 relates the story of a Levite and his concubine and the heinous crime that the wicked men of Gibeah committed against the concubine. Since there was no king or great council from whom the Levites could demand justice, he decided to appeal to the twelve tribes of Israel. In verse 29, he cut up his concubine into twelve parts using a knife, and he sent each part to the twelve tribes of Israel. Those who saw this were angered by the atrocity, and the Israelites came together to go up against the Benjamites to punish them for their villany (Judges 20:8–11).
  • Proverbs 23:1–3 – In one of his sayings, King Solomon advises that one should rather put a knife to his throat than succumb to gluttony when a ruler offers him goods and delicacies.
  • Isaiah 18:5 – the prophet Isaiah warned the people of Cush that the Lord would cut down their harvest with pruning knives and leave it to ¹be eaten by wild animals and birds of prey.
  • Jeremiah 36:23 – King Jehoiakim used a scribe’s knife to cut off columns of Jeremiah’s scroll, which he then threw into the fire. The scroll contained a prophecy of God’s punishment against the nations of Israel, which King Jehoiakim blatantly disregarded.

4 symbolic meanings of knives in the Bible

What does a knife symbolize in the Bible?
Symbolic meanings of knives in the Bible. Image source: Pixabay

Christians can perceive the following symbolic meanings of knives in the Bible;

First, the Bible suggests that knives symbolize God’s judgment against the wicked. This symbolism is drawn from Isaiah 18:5, where the prophet Isaiah warned that the Lord would destroy the harvest of the Cushites using pruning knives. He prophesied that just as the people of Cush would be about to reap their harvest, the Lord would cut it down with pruning knives, and it would be eaten by wild birds and animals. The same message is conveyed in John 15:1–2, where our Lord Jesus proclaims that he is the true vine and his father is the gardener, and that God will cut off all the branches that don’t bear fruit.

Second, the Bible depicts a knife as a sacrificial weapon, as it was used to slaughter an animal that was offered as a sacrifice to God. In Genesis 22:6–10, Abraham was planning to slay his son with a knife to sacrifice him as a burnt offering to God until God provided him with a ram instead. In Leviticus 1:5–6, one of God’s instructions about burnt offerings was that the Israelites had to slaughter the young bull before God, then skin it and cut it into pieces. The Israelites carried out these activities using knives.

Third, the Bible uses knives to symbolize the destructive nature of those who prey upon the poor and needy (Proverbs 30:14). In this verse, Agur, son of Jakeh, warned that there are people who have teeth like swords and jaws that are set with knives. They devour the poor from the earth and the needy from among mankind. Theologians suggest that Agur likened those who take advantage of the poor to wild, vicious predators who have no care for their prey. They are tyrannical leaders who are intent on causing destruction and loss of life, just like knives.

Fourth, a knife is a symbol of liberation in the Bible. In Judges 3:21, Ehud liberated the Israelites from the rule of the Moabites by killing the king Eglon with a dagger. The Israelites had done evil in the eyes of the Lord, and as punishment, God gave Eglon, the king of Moab, power over them for eighteen years (Judges 3:12–14). When the Israelites asked for God’s help, he chose Ehud to deliver them. While alone with the king, Ehud told him he had a message for him from God, then stabbed him with the dagger, which he’d hidden beneath his clothes. With no leadership, Ehud urged the Israelites to go against the Moabites, for the Lord had given them power over their enemies (Judges 3:28–30).

What is the biblical meaning of dreaming about knives?

What a knife symbolize in the Bible
Biblical meaning of dreaming about knives. Image source: Pixabay

Dreaming about murdering someone with a knife

A dream about murdering someone with a knife can communicate a desire for you to alienate yourself from a person who impacts your life negatively. In John 15:1–2, Jesus Christ warns that the branches that don’t bear any fruit in him will be cut off by his father. Here, the branches that don’t bear any fruit refer to the wicked, who don’t add any value to his ministry. In Judges 3:21, Ehod killed the king of Moab with a dagger to deliver the Israelites from their forced servitude to the Moabites. Drawing from these verses, we can perceive the biblical meaning of dreaming about murdering someone with a knife as a desire to get rid of someone who has a negative influence on your life. It could be a friend who wants to lead you to sin, an employer who treats you unfairly, or an overly jealous relative. This dream can also reflect the aggressive, violent, or resentful feelings you might be holding against such a person.

Dreaming about blood on the knife

In the book of Leviticus, blood and knives are associated with sacrifices that the Israelites offered to God. While dictating the rules about burnt offerings, God instructed the Israelites to slaughter the sacrificial bull before him, and then Aaron’s sons would splash the blood against the sides of the altar at the entrance to the tent meetings (Leviticus 1:5). In Leviticus 8:15, Moses carried out the Lord’s commands by slaughtering a bull before God and consecrating the altar with its blood. From these verses, we glean that a knife was used to shed blood during a sacrificial offering. Therefore, dreaming about blood on a knife can be a spiritual invitation for you to offer a sacrifice to God to receive atonement, cleansing, or blessings from him.

Dreaming about getting stabbed by a knife

We are all familiar with the phrase “stabbed in the back,” which means to be deceived or betrayed by someone close to you. We can apply this meaning when interpreting the biblical meaning of dreaming about getting stabbed by a knife, which can be a warning about betrayal or deception from someone close to you. The Bible has several cases of betrayal. For example, Judas Iscariot betrayed Jesus (Matthew 26:47–49), Jacob betrayed his brother Esau (Genesis 27:14–29), Absalom betrayed his father David (2 Samuel 15), and Joseph’s brothers betrayed him (Genesis 37:12–36). These biblical characters were figuratively stabbed with a knife in their backs by those they thought cared about them. Therefore, dreaming about getting stabbed with a knife can be a warning that you may be betrayed by someone close to you.

Dreaming about getting slashed with a knife

Since a knife is a symbol of God’s punishment against the wicked, dreaming about getting slashed with a knife can be a call for you to turn away from sin and seek righteousness. We can perceive this meaning from John 15:1–2, which suggests that God will cut off the branches that don’t bear fruit. To avoid missing out on the kingdom of heaven, Jesus Christ urges Christians to remain steadfast and loyal to him, the true vine, so that God can prune us and we can bear more fruit. Isaiah conveys a similar message to the people of Cush when he warns them that God will cut down their harvest with pruning knives if they don’t turn away from sin (Isaiah 18:5). Therefore, if you dream about getting slashed with a knife, it could be a warning for you to repent of your sins and seek refuge in the Lord.

Dreaming about getting chased with a knife

A dream about getting chased with a knife can allude to underlying feelings of insecurity, fear, and powerlessness that you need to deal with head-on. In the Bible, a knife gives power and protection to the one wielding it; hence, in this dream, you are the defenseless victim. This dream can be an encouragement for you to confront your fears and take back the power that belongs to you.

Dreaming about a knife fight

Dreaming about a knife fight can literally signify conflict, either within yourself or with those around you. In the Bible, knives, which are sometimes interchanged with daggers or swords in different Bible versions, were used as weapons during wars and battles in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 48:10). Therefore, a dream about a knife fight can be a direct manifestation of the conflict you are facing in your life. You could be having conflict within yourself about the right thing to do concerning a particular situation, or you could be at odds with someone over a significant issue.

Dreaming about being attacked using a knife

The Bible uses knives to signify death and destruction (Judges 3:21; Proverbs 30:14). Therefore, dreaming about being attacked with a knife can be a warning of impending tragedy. This tragedy can be caused by someone seeking retaliation for an injustice you committed or looking to take advantage of an already worse situation. The biblical interpretation of this dream depends on your personal experiences and who you perceive to pose danger in your life. Nevertheless, you should maintain good relations with those around you and watch out for people intent on bringing you harm so as to prevent the realization of such a dream.

Spiritual meanings of knives in a dream

The spiritual meanings of knives in a dream varies depending on one’s personal experiences and beliefs.

  • A knife is a tool that is usually used to cut off unwanted pieces and give objects new shapes. Therefore, seeing a knife in a dream can convey a need for spiritual change or transformation. It can be a call for you to cut off old aspects of your life and embrace the new ones.
  • A knife is also a weapon that was used in battle by the Native Americans, Vikings, and African warriors. Therefore, seeing one in a dream can be a message of spiritual strength, power, and protection.
  • Seeing a knife in a dream can be a warning about impending conflict or danger. This is because knives are generally associated with battles and destruction, and dreaming about one can signify the same.
  • Since knives are also associated with violence and aggression, seeing a knife in a dream can reflect the violent and aggressive tendencies or feelings you are suppressing in your waking life. You should consider seeking professional help to explore and resolve these feelings so that they don’t fester and cause unwanted harm.

Reasons why you keep dreaming about knives

If you keep dreaming about knives, it could be an indication that the dream is trying to convey a message to you, but you have not yet perceived it. It could be a call for you to rethink your ways, a warning about impending danger, or a comforting message of spiritual strength during challenging times. Until you perceive the message and apply it to your waking life, you may continue to have recurring dreams about knives.

You can resolve this by reflecting on your personal experiences and beliefs to obtain a deeper understanding of the dream. The spiritual meanings of dreams about knives vary from person to person, depending on the context of the dreams and personal beliefs.

Symbolic meaning of knives in literature and other cultures

Symbolism and meaning of knife
Symbolic meaning of knives in literature. Image source: Pixabay


There are various works of literature that ascribe different symbolic meanings to knives. For example, in the first scene of the second act of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, the dagger that Macbeth uses to kill King Duncan symbolizes his greed, his loss of morality, and the violent path on which he has embarked.

In The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, the knife is depicted as a symbol of survival since the protagonist needs to use it to defend and protect herself in the face of unpredictable danger.

Native American Symbolism

The Native Americans used knives made of sharpened stone, copper, iron, and steel. When used in combat, the knives symbolized power, strength, and protection. Skillful wielding of knives afforded one some degree of survival in an otherwise harsh and unpredictable environment. The Native Americans also used knives to make crafts, which in this context, symbolized creativity and transformation.

Norse Symbolism

The symbolic meaning of knives in Norse culture also depends on how the Vikings used them. For example, archaeological findings show that the Vikings buried their fallen soldiers with their earthly weapons, including knives. In such cases, the knives symbolized earthly social status, military prowess, and belief in the afterlife. The Vikings also used bigger, machete-like knives called seaxes, which symbolized the Vikings’ power and ruthlessness in battle.

Eastern Symbolism

The Tibetans use a small knife called a kartika during the Vajrayana Buddhist ceremonies. This knife symbolically severs their ties with worldly obstacles like pride, boredom, and lack of belief, giving them clarity of mind that facilitates enlightenment. It is also used as a ceremonial weapon during the practice of Chöd, that is, “cutting through demons.” This is because it is associated with the god Yamantaka, who is the conqueror of death.

The Philippines use knives in martial arts, and the mastery of the skills equips one with intelligence, awareness, cunning, and military prowess. The Japanese have a long tradition of crafting knives, which are symbols of their history, heritage, and creativity.

African Symbolism

African cultures used knives for political and cultural purposes. When used in battle, the knives symbolized heroism, power, and bravery. The Ekonda blacksmiths of the Democratic Republic of the Congo crafted ornamental knives, which were worn by prominent women during ceremonies that celebrated the birth of the firstborn child. Here, the knives symbolized new beginnings and social stature. The people of the Kuba Kingdom of Central Africa also had special knives that were worn by men as insignia. These knives symbolized the unique craftsmanship of their blacksmiths and the elite status of those who wore them.

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