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.

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