Friday, October 29, 2010

Bible Culture and Customs Part 4

Referring to women. Amos gave a prophecy to the “cows of Bashan(Amos 4:1), referring to the ruling women of Israel, and Samson said the Philistines “plowed with my heifer(Judg. 14:18), referring to his young wife. Most cultures have idiomatic references to women, and one way women were referred to in the Bible was “cows,” with the young women being heifers. Biblically, this was not the insult that it seems to us today, because cows were valuable, closely watched over, and generally well cared for.

Foxes. The word “fox” is another word that does not translate well into English when used idiomatically. Jesus called Herod a “fox(Luke 13:32), meaning he was a pest. Biblically, the fox was not a dangerous animal like the lion or bear, but was more of a pest animal. In the English of the 20th century, someone who was a “fox” was considered a sly, sneaky person. Today, if you call a woman a “fox” it means she is sexy.

The last few postings have been tiny samplings about the details of scripture and the ways that their meanings are sometimes hidden from a casual reader. I hope some helpful tidbits were gleaned.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Bible Culture and Customs Part 3

Chaff. On the day of Judgment the wicked will disappear like the “chaff that the wind blows away(Ps. 1:4). The “chaff” is the broken up stalks of wheat that are left over after the wheat has been separated from the stalk. It is quite similar to the small grass clippings that are left on our lawns after we mow our grass.

Concubines. The Old Testament mentions men like Solomon who had both wives and “concubines.” A study of the culture reveals that a “concubine” was a wife, but one of lesser status, such as if a noble married a slave or someone of lesser social status, especially to solidify relationships between families.

Titles. We are quite familiar with the Roman “centurion(Acts 10:1), a commander over 100 men, but the Bible mentions many other Roman officials, such as “proconsul (Acts 18:12), “tetrarch(Luke 3:1), and if we know the differences, we will understand more about the influence they held.

Religious groups. The Bible mentions some of the religious sects that vied for power in Israel, including the Pharisee and Sadducees, and knowing what the different groups believed helps us understand the Bible. For example, the Sadducees did not believe in the Resurrection, so it makes sense that they were the ones who questioned Jesus about it (Matt. 22:23).

Athletics. 1 Corinthians 9:24-26 give us some insight into the athletic games that were so popular in the Greek and Roman culture, complete with running, boxing, and a crown made of leaves that will not last. Many other verses contain athletic allusions.

Girding the loins. 1 Peter 1:13 ( KJV) says to “gird the loins” of your mind. The long robes of the men would get in the way if they needed to run somewhere (women understand this very well), so they would pull their robe up and tie it (“gird it”) at the waist with their sash or belt. Thus to gird the loins of your mind is to remove any obstacle that gets in the way of acting quickly and aggressively.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Bible Culture and Customs Part 2

The biblical religions. Many gods of the nations are mentioned by name, such as Baal (Judg. 2:13), Molech (Lev. 18:21); Jupiter/ Zeus; (Acts 14:12), and Diana /Artemis; (Acts 19:24). It helps understand the Bible if we know the religious beliefs and practices of the people. For example, one of the reasons the Israelites turned so quickly to the Canaanite religion was that it often involved cultic prostitution, and the attraction of “heaven-approved sex” was difficult for the Israelite men to resist.

Lions. Samson and David both fought with lions, but lions do not exist in Israel today. They did in biblical times, but were captured to extinction by the Romans, who used them in the arenas in gladiator contests.

Directions. The Bible says that the city of Hobah is on the “left hand of Damascus” (Gen. 14:15 KJV). In the biblical culture, the direction for reference was east (on our modern maps it is always north). Thus, the “left hand” of Damascus is the direction from Damascus if you are looking east, so Hobah is north of Damascus. Most modern versions remove the “difficulty” of the custom, and just say “north.”

Black tents. Song of Solomon mentions that the tents of Kedar are “black” (Song of Sol. 1:5-KJV). Tents in the ancient near east were almost exclusively made of goat hair, because it swelled in the rain and became waterproof, but shrank in the sunlight and let the tent breathe, and the goats in that culture were black.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Bible Culture and Customs Part 1

The Bible is completely interwoven with the culture and the customs recorded in it. While the references were well known to those who lived back then, we must become familiar with their idioms, customs, and culture in order to arrive at the proper understanding of Scripture as it would have been understood in Bible times.

Customs changed over time, and from place to place. The Bible mentions many different countries, such as Israel, Egypt, Syria, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome, and each had some unique customs. The New Testament can be very interesting because there is often a mix of the Greco-Roman customs with the customs of Israel.

One clue that a verse or section may contain a custom is if the words in the verse are plain, but the meaning of the phrase is not. Learning biblical customs has many advantages.

1. It makes reading the Bible more enjoyable when we know about the people and how they lived.
2. It clarifies things in the Bible we would otherwise not readily know, or that would not seem to make sense.

The following list is a tiny sampling of how understanding the culture and customs of the Bible can help clarify its meaning.

Biblical countries and people. The Bible mentions the countries around it, with which the biblical characters would be familiar, such as Egypt, Aram (our Syria), Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, and Rome. It also mentions many of the leaders of those countries by name, expecting the people to be familiar with them as we are with George Washington. For example, Sennacherib of Assyria, Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar of Babylon, and Cyrus and Darius of Persia.

We can read the Bible without knowing anything about these countries or men just as we can learn a lot about the United States without knowing about George Washington, Mexico or Canada. But if we will take the time to learn a little about them, our enjoyment of the Bible will increase dramatically.

An example of how understanding a local custom can help us understand the Bible is that before Joseph would go to meet Pharaoh, he shaved his beard (Gen. 41:14). Israelites were very proud of full beards, but Egyptians did not like them, so Joseph, not wanting to offend Pharaoh, wisely shaved.


Monday, October 25, 2010

Small and Simple

Now ye may suppose that this is foolishness in me; but behold I say unto you, that by small and simple means are great things brought to pass; Alma 37:6

William Barclay shares an encouraging principle with us:

“There is an experiment which shows the effect of small forces on great masses. It can be performed in two ways, One is to suspend from the ceiling a block of iron weighing more than one hundred pounds; and to suspend beside it a cork which weighs less than an ounce. The cork is then swung against the iron in little blows. It seems impossible that the gentle taps of the cork will ever have any effect on the mass of iron and indeed at first nothing seems to happen. But after a while the iron begins to tremble; then to move; and finally it is swinging in a wide arc as a result of the continuous tapping of the cork.

Lord Kelvin performed the same experiment in an even more vivid way. He supplied himself with little pellets of paper about the size of a pea; and began to pelt the iron mass with the pellets of paper. At first nothing happened but after a time the iron began to vibrate; then to sway; until finally it was swinging freely.

We may think that anything we can do is so little as to be ineffective; but the cumulative effect of the small efforts of every man (and woman) can be used mightily by God in the bringing forth of his kingdom.”

Friday, October 22, 2010

Defrauding the Worker

Behold, the hire of the labourers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. James 5:4

Where money is scarce, commodities are used as a medium of exchange. Reapers and laborers are paid in wheat, butter and cheese. Wheat cutters are generally paid in wheat, and the wages of a shepherd are bargained in terms of butter, sheep or lambs. Laban paid Jacob with sheep and cattle (Gen. 30:28-43).

Wheat reapers are hired during the harvest only. Each reaper is paid according to his ability. Some are paid a bushel a day; others receive more. In some cases, the reapers cut the wheat by piecework. The owner of the field supplies them with food (two meals a day). The wages are paid in October when the wheat is threshed. The reapers and creditors meet the owner of the harvest at the threshing ground to be paid in wheat. The creditors must be paid first. The reapers’ wages depend entirely upon the honesty and integrity of the owner of the harvest.

If he does not want to pay, no one can force him to do so. Some of these men make excuses, such as the excuse that the harvest has fallen short or that they have had too many creditors to pay. In the East, there are no laws to compel employers to pay employees; the entire matter depends upon the oral agreement between employer and employee.

Powerful politicians, government officials and rich men generally refuse to pay their workers. They defer the payment from one month to another. Some of them draft laborers by force during the harvest season, and others promise to pay but fail to keep their promises. The families of the unpaid laborers suffer hunger and privations and become destitute in winter.

Religious men always act as intermediaries to secure payments in cases where injustice is done to laborers. James here bitterly condemns the rich of his day who defrauded wheat cutters, whose livelihood depended upon their work during the summer months.

(Lamsa, George. New Testament Commentary, A.J. Holman Co., 1945Philadelphia:, pgs 499-500)

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Garden and the Temple

The Jews often teach that the Temple was a place that modeled the Garden of Eden. There are significant parallels between Moses' description of the Garden of Eden in Gen. 2 and the Tabernacle built under his direction.

In both places, God met with man.

The gold and onyx (2:12) of Eden anticipate gold and onyx found in the Tabernacle furnishings and priestly garments (Ex.25:1-40; 28:9-20).

The Hebrew words translated "till" and "keep" (2:15) are used by Moses to refer to Tabernacle "service" (see Num. 3:10) and the "observing" of covenant stipulations (see Deut. 4:6).

Eventually the entrance to the Garden was guarded by cherubim (3:24), heavenly beings whose images also adorned the Ark of the Covenant (Ex. 25:19) and the curtains which formed the outside wall of the Tabernacle.

Moses described the Garden of Eden in a specific way to teach his contemporaries that tabernacle (and later temple) worship was their proper means of approaching God. For Israel, the tabernacle signaled the possibility of entering into an intimate relationship with Him.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fixing Broken Bones

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Galatians 6:1

The word “restore” in the verse above is from a Greek word that was used for fixing a broken bone. Even in ancient Greece and Italy doctors fixed broken bones. ''

Paul says that Christians need to fix the spiritual broken bone of Christians who have stumbled from the faith. We must carefully look at the fallen brother and see what needs to be fixed. Then we must carefully set the problem in order and put a splint or cast on it to help it heal.

This means we must be patient sometimes with the fallen brother. Some problems will take time to heal. And we must know what kind of cast to use to help it heal. We must be gentle but firm as we put the bones back in place. Sometimes the doctor must put very firm pressure on the bones to get them back in place. It hurts the patient a great deal. The doctor does his best to not make it hurt too much. But the doctor and patient both know that sometimes the hurt must happen for the bone to heal right. Sometimes spiritually broken bones will require the person to hurt a great deal. We must let the person know that the hurt is necessary for the proper healing to take place.

(Mark McWhorter, Copyright 1999, Published by The Old Paths Bible School,

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Cupbearer ( aka Butler)

Yet within three days shall Pharaoh lift up thine head, and restore thee unto thy place: and thou shalt deliver Pharaoh's cup into his hand, after the former manner when thou wast his butler. Genesis 40:13

The Book of Jasher, while not part of the Canon of Scripture, does supply some other interesting details regarding this story. It elaborates on the Biblical account by adding the explanation that "Pharaoh's ministers found many flies in the wine which the butler had brought, and stones of nitre were found in the baker's bread."

Here, we might suppose that Joseph would attempt to improve his own lot through whatever influence might yet remain to these two notable prisoners, and so, it seems, Joseph proceeded to do, as the opportunity eventually presented itself.

Regarding the titles "chief of the butlers" and "chief of the bakers", we find in the New Bible Commentary, Second Edition, the thought that these two were probably high-ranking officials of the Egyptian court. The New Bible Dictionary, under the item "Cupbearer", states:

"The 'butler' of Joseph's pharaoh...both in Hebrew and by function was the king's cupbearer." Further on, the same note states: "The Egyptian cupbearers...were often called 'pure of hands', and in the 13th century BC one such cupbearer is actually entitled...'cupbearer (or butler) who tastes the wine'... These officials (often foreigners) became in many cases confidants and favourites of the king and wielded political influence... ."

So we see that the positions were, indeed, ones of great trust, and of high personal responsibility for the Pharaoh's well-being.


Monday, October 18, 2010

Egyptian Baker

And it came to pass after these things, that the butler of the king of Egypt and his baker had offended their lord the king of Egypt. Genesis 40:1

Chief Baker – Egyptians were renowned gourmets and knew 57 varieties of bread and 38 different kinds of cake.

The Torah, A Modern Commentary, Edited by W. Gunther Plaut, 1981 by The Union of American Hebrew Congregations, NY, pg 258

Friday, October 15, 2010


And the curious girdle of the ephod, which is upon it, shall be of the same, according to the work thereof; even of gold, of blue, and purple, and scarlet, and fine twined linen. Exodus 28:8

Curious is used in its now obsolete sense of made with care and art. The "curious girdle of the ephod" (Exodus 28:8) was a "skillfully woven band to gird it on." The "curious works" which Bezalel devised were "artistic designs" (Exodus 35:32). [This is the sense of 1Nephi 16:10 regarding the liahona.]

The Bible Word-Book, 1884, quotes from an old concordance the following statement concerning the expression "curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth" (Psalms 139:15): "the word is the same which is usually translated 'embroidered'; the adjusting and formation of the different members of the human body being by a bold and beautiful metaphor compared to the arranging the threads and colours in a piece of tapestry."

In the New Testament "curious" appears once only, in an obsolete sense defined by OED as "recondite, occult." This is in the account of Paul's successful ministry at Ephesus, Acts 19:1-20. In verse 19, "them which used curious arts" means "those who practiced magic arts."

(The Bible Word Book, Bridges & Weigle, pg 92)

Thursday, October 14, 2010


So Ebedmelech took the men with him, and went into the house of the king under the treasury, and took thence old cast clouts and old rotten rags, and let them down by cords into the dungeon to Jeremiah. Jeremiah 38:11

In modern usage, to have "clout" means to have power and influence. But in the Bible, clout is an old word for a rag, a piece of cloth that has been torn off or is put to humble uses. In Jeremiah 38:11, not "under the treasury" but in "a wardrobe of the storehouses," Ebed-melech the Ethiopian found "old cast clouts and rotten rags" which he lowered to Jeremiah in the dungeon.

The revised versions of 1885-1901 call these "rags and worn-out garments"; RSV "old rags and worn-out clothes." In King John, III, 4, 58 Shakespeare has "a babe of clouts," which means a rag doll.

(The Bible Word Book, Bridges & Weigle, pg 70)

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A Seller of Purple

And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshipped God, heard [us]: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul. Acts 16:14

[Lydia would have been a very wealthy woman and a great help to the early Church.]

The only way they knew how to make the violet blue color was from the murex snail. Blue violet was an extremely expensive color. The color can be purple, blue or rose, depending on the murex snail.

First, you have to find the snail, which likes to live in about 30 feet of water. In Jesus’ day, they lowered boxes with slates full of clams down into the water and let the box sit on the bottom. The murex snails would crawl along and stick their little front feelers and tickle a clam and the clam would close on it. Then, they pulled the box up and that was how they harvested murex snails.

Then a hole is drilled above the hypobronchial gland to extract the purple dye. It takes 10,000 murex snails to get one thimble full of dye. In 300 B.C. one pound of blue violet dye in 1991 dollars was worth $38,000. One pound of the dye in 300 B.C. was equivalent to two year’s salary. In 300 A.D. there was an edict setting down price control measures because certain things were getting too expensive. One tunic dyed purple, wrung out so you could use as much dye as you wrung out again, cost $100,000.

Ecologically the demand for purple dye was such that the snails were disappearing even though the snails were returned to the sea after the dye was extracted so they could be harvested again.

Fleming, James W. 2002. Desert Spirituality. Biblical Resources Conference Lecture Series, June., pgs 67-70

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


Rich biblical symbolism surrounded sandals. Voluntarily removing one’s sandals was a sign of respect or mourning (Exodus 3:5, 2 Samuel 15:30). Having one’s sandals forcefully removed was a sign of humiliation (Deuteronomy 25:9). Handing over one’s sandals signaled the transfer of a legal right (Ruth 4:7).

“I once heard a family-court judge say that although hundreds of juvenile offenders and their parents had been brought before him, he never once had seen a parent put a protective arm around the youngster’s shoulder (Smiley Blanton, MD. “The Magic of Touch”).”

How differently the father in Jesus’ parable acts. He literally enfolds the boy in forgiveness.
The second detail that portrays the father’s attitude is his order to place shoes on the boy’s feet. The boy was willing to return home as a slave: “I no longer deserve to be called your son.Shoes were a sign of sonship, not slaveship. Only free people wore shoes; slaves did not. This was true also in American slave days. A Negro Spiritual rejoices that, in heaven, all of God’s children will wear shoes.

The final detail that portrays the father’s attitude is his order to place a ring on the boy’s finger. A signet ring, which this probably was, was a sign of authority. It contained the family seal used for authenticating legal and commercial papers. To possess the ring was to have the power to act in the name of the person or family to whom the seal belonged: Pharaoh said to Joseph… “You shall be in charge of my palace….” With that, he took off his signet ring and put it on Joseph’s finger. (Genesis 41:39-42)

The father extends to his younger son not only a total welcome (embrace), but also total forgiveness (shoes) and total restoration (ring) to the status he had before he left home.

(Link, Mark S.J., The Seventh Trumpet, Tabor Publishing, Allen, TX, pg 126)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Tearing Garments

Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, Acts 14:14

Tearing the clothes and cutting the hair in mourning is very common among Semitic people. When they receive sad news, as of the death of relatives, men tear their clothes and women cut their hair as a token of mourning and grief. This custom still prevails among the Arabs, Jews, Assyrians, and Kurds.

Likewise when a man is accused of treason, he tears his garments, in order to prove his innocence and as a protest. In such cases the tearing of garments indicates humiliation. When a person is humbled and severely punished, he is stripped of all or part of his clothes. When governors, noblemen and officials are demoted or dismissed on charges of treason and disloyalty, the royal robes, rings and other tokens of authority are taken from them. In some instances, the giver of the garment takes it from the body of the person who has been accused and tears it in pieces.

On the other hand, insane persons nearly always walk about naked. Mourners and accused men often become very violent and act insane. In most cases, the garment is ripped open in front from the neck down. Noblemen and kings tear only a small part of their garment. David and all the men who were with him tore their garments when they were informed of the death of Saul and Jonathan (Sam. 1:11). At times mourners are prevented by friends from tearing their garments. Some mourners therefore wait until their friends arrive before they try to tear their garments.

Paul and Barnabas tore their garments as a protest against those who proclaimed them gods. By tearing their garments, they emphatically declined the honor of being gods, proving that they were men. Gods have no garments to tear, nor do they act like crazy men. Paul and Barnabas wanted to show that they were human beings like everyone else. Had they not done this, they would have been charged with treason by both the state and religious authorities for posing as gods.

Paul knew the temper of the Eastern people. He knew that such acts would not be tolerated by the priests and people in general. The crowd was moved by his speech, but the enthusiasm would not last long. On the other hand, Paul and Barnabas were preaching about the God of heaven and earth; they could not have accepted any honor that was contrary to the gospel of Christ.

(Lamsa, George. New Testament Commentary, A.J. Holman Co., Philadelphia: 1945, pgs 103-104)

Friday, October 8, 2010

I Will Make Thee as a Signet

In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the LORD, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the LORD of hosts. Haggai 2:23

The meaning is evident from the importance of the signet ring in the eyes of the Oriental, who is accustomed if he owns a ring to carry it constantly with him, and to care for it as one of his most prized and valuable possessions.

The signet being an emblem of authority, was used to stamp documents and other legal articles. Indeed, without being stamped by a signet, no document was considered authentic.

(Bowen, Barbara M., Strange Scriptures that Perplex the Western Mind, WM B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1944, pg 58)

Thursday, October 7, 2010


And when Jehu was come to Jezreel, Jezebel heard of it; and she painted her face, and tired her head, and looked out at a window. 2 Kings 9:30

Tire, as used in the KJV, has nothing to do with fatigue or with the rims of wheels. It is a shortened form of “attire.” As a noun, it means a headdress or an ornament; as a verb it means adorn.

Bind the tire of thine head upon thee(Ezekiel 24:17) means “Bind on your turban.” So also in Ezekiel 24:23. The Hebrew noun represented here by “tire” is translated “bonnet” in Isaiah 3:20 and Ezekiel 44:18, “beauty” in Isaiah 61:3, and “ornaments” in Isaiah 61:10. When Jezebel “painted her face, and tired her head, and looked out at a window(2 Kings 9:30), the Hebrew verb for “tired” has the general meaning “adorned.

(The Bible Word Book, Bridges & Weigle pg 345)

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Hem of His Garment

But unto you that fear my name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings, Malachi 4:2

One of the best known miracles of healing that Jesus performed was the occasion when a woman who had suffered from a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind him and touched the hem of his garment, Matthew 9:20. The woman was, in fact, reaching for the tassels on Jesus' prayer shawl.

In Hebrew, these tassels, which are attached to the corners of the prayer shawl, are called tzitzit. [Note: Pronounced like the sound in pizza--Zeet zeet]

Why should she stoop to touch the fringe? Why not his arm, or his feet? As the Atorah [prayer shawl] was placed over the head, it formed his own tent. Wings of the garment were formed when the arms were held out. For this reason, the corners of the prayer shawl are often called "wings."

During the first century there were several traditions associated with the tzitzit concerning Messiah. One was that these knotted fringes possessed healing powers. Certainly the woman with the issue of blood knew of these traditions, which would explain why she sought to touch the hem (the wings) of Jesus' prayer garment. The same word used in Numbers 15:38 for corner is used in Malachi 4:2 for wings.

With this understanding in mind, an ancient Jew under the prayer shawl could be said to be dwelling in the secret place of the Most High and under His wings (Ps. 91:1-4). The lady with the issue knew that if Jesus were the promised Messiah, there would be healing in His wings (fringes).

That this was the opinion of many other people is revealed by the crowd who sought his healing powers, "that they might only touch the hem of his garment: and as many as touched were made perfectly whole," Matthew 14:36.

When one realized the significance of this concept to the first-century Hebraic mind, it becomes clear why this woman was instantly healed. She was expressing her faith in Jesus as the Son of Righteousness with healing in His wings and declaring her faith in God's prophetic Word.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Handkerchiefs of Healing

So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them. Acts 19:12

The Aramaic word rookiatha refers to pieces of old garments which are used for mending clothes. Men never wear aprons, nor can they afford to give such garments away. In countries where cloth is woven by hand and scarce, people mend their clothes. Even rich men and women refuse to give their garments away when they are worn out. They mend them with new or old pieces of cloth. The mending of clothes is so common that no one is embarrassed or disturbed, no matter how many patches of different colors and materials he may have on his trousers. Some clothes are so mended that at times it is difficult to tell what the original cloth was.

On the other hand, when a garment is so worn out that it cannot be mended, it is cut up and used for mending other garments. On one occasion, Jesus illustrated his teaching by referring to the use of new cloth to mend an old garment (Matt. 9:16; Mark 2:21; Luke 5:36).

When Peter walked by, the people brought the sick out of the houses and laid them on the ground so that his shadow might fall on them (Acts 5:15).

Paul, like the other apostles, had the gift of healing. On his journeys he performed a number of miracles. His fame as a healer had spread so widely that people who could not come to him were satisfied to have a small piece from on of his old garments. But it was their faith in Jesus Christ that healed them, and not the cloth.

Garments of certain noted bishops and religious men who practice healing are considered sacred. And pieces of garments and portions of the Scriptures written on parchment or paper are carried great distances for healing purposes. People have such strong faith in the healer that they believe that even a piece from his garments or a prayer written down by him will heal the sick and restore the insane. They understand that the piece of garment is nothing but a material object. What helps them is their faith in the healer and the thoughts concerning his power that are aroused by the piece of cloth. Indeed, this token helps to establish the contact that strengthens the faith of the sick in the healer and his healing power.

Some healers living in far-off and isolated places, bless water so that the sick person may wash the afflicted parts of his body with it. The sacred water is mixed with other water and used for bathing the sick. This also serves to strengthen their faith….

This practice of visiting the healer undoubtedly became established because of the difficulty of traveling. In the East, holy men are always prey to the attacks of bandits and members of rival religions, and thus cannot travel to see all the sick, in person. The sick then must travel to see the holy men. The strong faith manifested by the believers that enables them to persevere through the difficulties and hardships of travel no doubt contributes much toward their cure. Some healers just speak a word of comfort and assure the sick of quick results. Some afflicted men travel more than a thousand miles to reach a healer or a shrine. Since traveling is not customary, the journey is probably the first in their lives. The change as well as the faith required to make the journey, quickens the healing power which exists in every individual but which sometimes is dormant.

Paul was sought by many men and women who needed his help spiritually, mentally and physically, but he could not be present everywhere at once. At times, he could not travel at all because of lack of money and the danger to his life. This is why he allowed the people to have a piece of his tattered garments. He felt compelled to do something, if only in a small way, for those who besought him to relieve their suffering.

(Lamsa, George. New Testament Commentary, A.J. Holman Co., Philadelphia: 1945, pgs 136-138)

Monday, October 4, 2010


And Saul armed David with his armour, and he put an helmet of brass upon his head; also he armed him with a coat of mail. 1 Samuel 17:38

Habergeon means a short, sleeveless hauberk or coat of mail. The term is used in the KJV as translation of three Hebrew words, to only one of which it properly applies. That is shiryon, which occurs in 2 Chronicles 26:14 and Nehemiah 4:16, where its plural is translated “coats of mail” by RSV. It is the word for the coat of mail worn by Goliath and for that which Saul put on David and David would not wear (1 Samuel 17:5, 38).

A different word, shiryah, occurs in the description of Leviathan (Job 41) where the KJV renders verse 26: “The sword of him that layeth at him cannot hold: the spear, the dart, not the habergeon.” These are offensive weapons, and “habergeon” is out of place.

RSV translates: "Though the sword reaches him, it does not avail; nor the spear, the dart, or the javelin."

The other word is tahara, which occurs in the description of “the robe of the ephod” which Aaron wore (Exodus 28:32; 39:23). The meaning of this term is uncertain; the Hebrew lexicons state that it probably means a linen corselet. In any case, it is clear that the robe of the ephod was to be put on over the head and slipped down into place on the body, and that tahara refers to a garment that had to be put on in the same way.

The KJV renders Exodus 28:32: “And there shall be an hole in the top of it, in the midst thereof: it shall have a binding of woven work round about the hole of it, as it were the hole of an habergeon, that it be not rent.”

RSV reads: “It shall have in it an opening for the head, with a woven binding around the opening, like the opening in a garment, that it may not be torn.”

In the description of the locusts from the bottomless pit (Revelation 9:1-11) Tyndale and the other sixteenth-century translations said that “they had habbergions, as it were habbergions of yron(vs. 9). The KJV moved in the right direction by changing “habbergions” to “breastplates.

But the Greek word thorax, which is here used twice, separated the the Greek word for “like,” meant not only breastplate but the part of the body which the breastplate covers. RSV translates: “they had scales like iron breastplates.” The entire description should be read in both version. In verses 2, 3, 5, 7c, 8, and 9 the same simple Greek word hos occurs, and means “like.” The KJV uses “as” except in 9a, where it uses “as it were.”

(The Bible Word Book, Bridges & Weigle pg 160)

Friday, October 1, 2010

"With Their Loins Girded"

And thus shall ye eat it; with your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and ye shall eat it in haste: it is the LORD'S passover. Exodus 12:11

Another very important part of the Eastern costume is the girdle, which is a long piece of cloth like a shawl, folded around the waist or loins. It is useful in keeping in order the long loose robes worn in those countries.

Christ frequently alludes to the uses of the girdle, and bids His people to be ready, waiting for their Lord; having their loins girded and not to sit in idleness with loose and disordered garments. These girdles are still worn by both men and women, some are worsted, some silk, and the Bedouin men often wear leather girdles.

(Bowen, Barbara M., Strange Scriptures that Perplex the Western Mind, WM B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1944, pg 50)