Unveiling the Meaning of Broken Cisterns in the Bible
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Unveiling the Meaning of Broken Cisterns in the Bible

The Bible is full of metaphorical language that can be difficult to understand without proper context. One such metaphor is that of broken cisterns. This phrase is used throughout the Bible to convey a deeper symbolic meaning, but what exactly does it mean?

Broken cisterns can be interpreted in various ways depending on the context in which it is used. One of the most common interpretations is that it symbolizes human attempts to find fulfillment outside of God, which ultimately leads to disappointment and dissatisfaction.

To fully understand the meaning of broken cisterns in the Bible, it is necessary to examine the historical and cultural context surrounding cisterns. In biblical times, cisterns were used to collect and store water, which was vital to survival in arid climates. If a cistern became broken or cracked, it could no longer hold water, rendering it useless.

When this concept is applied metaphorically, broken cisterns represent human attempts to find satisfaction and fulfillment outside of God. Just as a cracked cistern cannot hold water, our attempts to fill our lives with worldly pleasures and material possessions will ultimately leave us feeling empty and unfulfilled.

Key Takeaways:

  • Broken cisterns in the Bible symbolize human attempts to find fulfillment outside of God.
  • Cisterns were used to collect and store water in biblical times.
  • A broken cistern cannot hold water, rendering it useless.
  • Finding satisfaction in worldly pleasures and material possessions will ultimately leave us feeling empty and unfulfilled.
  • Therefore, it is important to build and maintain strong cisterns that can hold the living water of God’s love and grace.
what does broken cisterns mean in the bible

Broken Cisterns in Scripture

Broken cisterns are mentioned several times in the Bible as a metaphor for spiritual emptiness and futility. In the book of Jeremiah, God describes the Israelites’ unfaithfulness as a broken cistern that cannot hold water (Jeremiah 2:13). This reference emphasizes the futility of trying to find fulfillment outside of a relationship with God.

In the book of Zechariah, broken cisterns serve as an illustration of false worship. The prophet contrasts the idols and false prophets worshipped by the Israelites to broken cisterns that cannot provide true refreshment (Zechariah 10:2-3).

Broken cisterns also feature in the New Testament, where Paul writes to the Galatians about their abandonment of the gospel of Christ and turning to a different gospel. He compares this to broken cisterns that can hold no water (Galatians 1:6-7).

These references to broken cisterns in scripture underscore the danger of seeking satisfaction in anything other than God. They teach us that spiritual vitality and fulfillment can only be found in a relationship with Him.

Understanding Broken Cisterns in Biblical Context

If you want to truly grasp the meaning of broken cisterns in the Bible, you need to understand the historical and cultural context surrounding this metaphor. Cisterns were essential water storage containers in biblical times, especially in areas where water was scarce. They were usually constructed by hewing out a deep hole in the ground and lining it with plaster to prevent leaks.

Of course, cisterns were useless if they were broken, cracked or damaged in any way. This is where the metaphor of broken cisterns comes in. In the Bible, the term broken cisterns is often used to illustrate the spiritual condition of God’s people when they turned away from Him and relied on their own strength and resources.

Jeremiah 2:13 says, “My people have committed two sins: They have forsaken me, the spring of living water, and have dug their own cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water.” Here, broken cisterns symbolize the futility and emptiness of seeking satisfaction and fulfillment outside of God’s grace and provision.

To truly understand the biblical interpretation of broken cisterns, you need to examine the spiritual themes and messages surrounding this metaphor. Broken cisterns represent human efforts that are ultimately futile and unable to sustain us. They remind us that only God can satisfy our deepest longings and provide us with living water that quenches our spiritual thirst.

Interpreting the Symbolism of Broken Cisterns

The concept of broken cisterns is a powerful metaphor in the Bible that is often used to convey spiritual teachings. By examining the biblical references to broken cisterns, we can gain a deeper understanding of its significance and implications.

In Jeremiah 2:13, broken cisterns are mentioned as a symbol of spiritual adultery. The verse reads, “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” This passage implies that broken cisterns represent a vain pursuit of worldly pleasures that ultimately lead to spiritual emptiness.

Another interpretation of broken cisterns can be found in Ecclesiastes 12:6-7, which describes the fragility and impermanence of human life. The passage states, “Remember him – before the silver cord is severed, and the golden bowl is broken; before the pitcher is shattered at the spring, and the wheel broken at the well, and the dust returns to the ground it came from, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.” In this context, broken cisterns can be seen as a symbol of the fleeting nature of human existence.

Overall, the teachings behind broken cisterns in the Bible are intended to guide us towards pursuing a deeper and more meaningful relationship with God. By relying on Him to nourish our spiritual thirst, we can avoid the pitfalls of worldly pursuits that lead to emptiness and brokenness.

Unearthing Spiritual Nuances of Broken Cisterns

Now that we have explored the biblical references, contexts, and interpretations of broken cisterns, let us delve deeper into the spiritual implications of this metaphor.

At its core, broken cisterns symbolize the emptiness and futility of relying on worldly things rather than on God. Just as a broken cistern cannot hold water, so too the things of this world cannot satisfy our deepest longings for meaning, purpose, and fulfillment.

Biblical symbolism of broken cisterns reminds us of our need to turn to God, who alone can satisfy our spiritual thirst. To build strong cisterns that can hold the living water of God’s love and grace, we must cultivate a deep and abiding relationship with Him.

Furthermore, broken cisterns also represent the consequences of sin and disobedience. When we stray from God’s path and seek fulfillment in the things of this world, we inevitably find ourselves disappointed, disillusioned, and broken. Our broken cisterns serve as a reminder of the need for repentance and the necessity of turning back to God.

In essence, broken cisterns are an invitation to embrace the abundant life that God offers us. By placing our trust in Him and following His ways, we can build strong cisterns that can hold the living water of His love and grace. May we heed the lessons of broken cisterns and find our ultimate satisfaction in Him.


Broken cisterns in the Bible hold deep teachings and spiritual guidance for our lives. As we explored in this article, broken cisterns carry symbolic meanings and reflect the importance of building and maintaining strong spiritual foundations.

By understanding the biblical context, interpretations, and symbolism of broken cisterns, we can gain valuable insights into our own lives and spiritual journeys. Just as a broken cistern can no longer hold water, we must ensure that we do not let sin and negativity damage our spiritual cisterns.

Building Strong Cisterns

Building strong cisterns requires love, faith, and perseverance. We must continuously strengthen our relationship with God through prayer and by following His word. We must also surround ourselves with positive influences and strive to deepen our understanding of His teachings.

By doing so, we can build cisterns that can hold the living water of God’s love and grace. These strong cisterns will nourish us and sustain us, even in times of hardship and trial.

So, may we strive to build and maintain strong cisterns, and may God guide us on our spiritual journey.


What does the term “broken cisterns” mean in the Bible?

The term “broken cisterns” is a metaphor used in the Bible to represent things that are not able to provide satisfaction or fulfillment. It refers to relying on things or people that ultimately fail to satisfy our spiritual needs.

Where are broken cisterns mentioned in scripture?

Broken cisterns are mentioned in several passages throughout the Bible, including Jeremiah 2:13 and Jeremiah 18:14. These passages emphasize the consequences of relying on broken cisterns rather than God’s living water.

What is the significance of broken cisterns in the biblical context?

Cisterns were important in biblical times as a means of collecting and storing water. Symbolically, broken cisterns represent human efforts or worldly pursuits that fail to satisfy our spiritual thirst. They highlight the importance of relying on God’s provision rather than our own limited resources.

How can we interpret the symbolism of broken cisterns in the Bible?

The symbolism of broken cisterns encourages us to reflect on the things we rely on for fulfillment. It challenges us to examine whether we are placing our trust in temporary or imperfect sources rather than fully relying on God. It calls us to seek and find satisfaction in a relationship with Him.

What spiritual lessons can we learn from broken cisterns in the Bible?

Broken cisterns teach us that our efforts or worldly pursuits will ultimately fail to quench our spiritual thirst. They remind us of the need to seek and rely on God for true fulfillment. By recognizing the limitations of human resources and turning to God, we can experience His abundant love and grace.

Pastor Duke Taber
Pastor Duke Taber

Pastor Duke Taber

All articles have been written or reviewed by Pastor Duke Taber.
Pastor Duke Taber is an alumnus of Life Pacific University and Multnomah Biblical Seminary.
He has been in pastoral ministry since 1988.
Today he is the owner and managing editor of 3 successful Christian websites that support missionaries around the world.
He is currently starting a brand new church in Mesquite NV called Mesquite Worship Center, a Non-Denominational Spirit Filled Christian church in Mesquite Nevada.