Friday, July 30, 2010

He Cometh With Clouds

Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. Revelation 1:7

It is like this every day here from the 1st of May to 31st of October. From seven or eight o’clock in the morning till five to six o’clock in the afternoon there is not a drop of rain, and never a cloud between earth and sun. Every day at about one o’clock pm if an east wind is not blowing, (which fortunately it seldom does except for a fortnight on and off in May and October), a delightfully cool breeze, laden with slight moisture, such as we are now enjoying, sets in from the great sea westward, the Mediterranean Sea, which lies along the west of Palestine.

If you want to realize Bible stories you must think of such unbroken fine weather for some six or seven months running every year! This accounts for the allusions to “clouds” in the Bible as a strange and wonderful sight; for from 1st of May to 31st of October they are as rare in the Holy Land as they are common in England.

The very thunderstorms come only in the winter in Palestine, whereas here they only come ordinarily in the summer. Hence the alarming and miraculous judgment when Samuel called down “thunder and rain in wheat harvest (1 Sam 12.17-18), that is, from 1st of May to about the 15th of June, for harvest comes in Palestine before summer, not, as with us, after it in the autumn.

Thus Jeremiah cries, with fine accuracy, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved (Jer 8.20).” The “cloud” that covered Israel with a glorious shade all day in their desert wanderings was a truly wonderful and miraculous sight in itself alone, as well as in its situation (Exod 13.21-22, Num 14.14 etc).

When it is said, in the month of June, at our Blessed Lord’s ascension, “a cloud received Him out of their sight” (Acts 1.9), it was a much more remarkable event than many suppose. When, too, it is declared of His second advent, “He shall come with clouds(Rev 1.7), “they shall see the Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven(Matt 24.30), it means, as you now see, under this unbroken cloudless sky, much more than it would mean in England.

(Neil, Revd James., Peeps Into Palestine, Stanley Martin & Co. Ltd, UK, ~1913)

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Rain During Wheat Harvest

Is it not wheat harvest to day? I will call unto the LORD, and he shall send thunder and rain; that ye may perceive and see that your wickedness is great, which ye have done in the sight of the LORD, in asking you a king. 1 Samuel 12:17

Is it not wheat harvest? The time of wheat harvest was May and June. From early spring till late autumn no rain falls in Palestine. During the summer months “a cloud seldom passes over the sky, and a thunderstorm is a miracle(G.A. Smith).

(Hertz, Dr. J.H., The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, 2nd Ed., Soncino Press, London, 1992, pg 651)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Cisterns and Survival

The nobles send their servants for water; they go to the cisterns but find no water. They return with their jars unfilled; dismayed and despairing, they cover their heads. Jer. 14:3 NIV

Judah depends on wells and underground reservoirs called cisterns for its water supply. The people dig cisterns out of solid rock or line clay reservoirs with cement to prevent seepage and evaporation. Women regularly gather around the cisterns to fill household water jugs and visit with each other. Irrigation trenches from the cisterns also nourish elaborate palace and city gardens.

In a land of little rainfall, cisterns provide water for the people’s survival and their social well-being. A drought impacts rich and poor, young and old, alike. The Israelites fear the droughts that have plagued their land over the centuries, realizing that God often uses such dryness as a judgment (1 Ki 8:35).

(General Editor Jean E. Syswerda, NIV Women of Faith Study Bible, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2001, pg 1252)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Shechinah on the Mt. of Olives

And the Spirit of God came upon Azariah the son of Oded: And he went out to meet Asa, and said unto him, Hear ye me, Asa, and all Judah and Benjamin; The LORD is with you, while ye be with him; and if ye seek him, he will be found of you; but if ye forsake him, he will forsake you. 2 Chronicles 15:1-2

Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: Isaiah 55:6

Thus far the Rabbis: All the more impressive is their own admission and their lament–so significant as viewed in the light of the Gospel: “For three years and a half abode the Shechinah” (or visible Divine presence) “on the Mount of Olives,”–waiting whether Israel would repent–and calling upon them, “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” And when all was in vain, then the Shechinah returned to its own place!”

(Edersheim, Alfred. 1994. The Temple: Its Ministry and Services. Updated edition. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers., pg 17)

Monday, July 26, 2010

Two Mules' Burden of Earth

And Naaman said, Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules' burden of earth? for thy servant will henceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the LORD. 2 Kings 5:17

Two mules’ burden of earth. i.e. of the Holy Land, for constructing an altar to the God of Israel in Syria. Naaman held the heathen view that a deity was only powerful in the country which recognized him; and therefore that outside Palestine, God could only be worshipped on soil from Israel’s land!

(Hertz, Dr. J.H., The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, 2nd Ed., Soncino Press, London, 1992, pg 468)

Friday, July 23, 2010

Watch Tower

Dr. James Fleming writes,

"The watchtower is a tall structure built of field stone in the midst of steep, terraced vineyards. Often the vineyard is far from the village, and needs to be protected both from natural enemies and from thieves. The watchtower serves as temporary living quarters for the owners during summer. When the grapes become ripe in July, the family will be found camping out in the watchtower by night while harvesting the fruit during the day.

The watchtower is symbolic of divine protection:

"the name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous flee into it and are safe" (Proverbs 18:10)

"Let me sing to my friend the song of his love for his vineyard.He dug the soil, cleared it of stones, and planted choice vines in it. In the middle he built a tower, he dug a press there too." (Isa. 5:1-2, JB)

"Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower." (Matt 21:33, NIV)

Special watchfulness was required before the grape harvest to guard the fruit from animals and thieves. But once the grapes were gathered, it was a time of joy. Singing and shouting accompanied the treading of the grapes (Isaiah 16:10).

To the ancient Israelites, the bursting grapes and shouts of joy suggested the destruction of enemies and the victory conquest. The fruit of the vine is often referred to as "blood" (Genesis 49:11) and the destruction of enemies as "treading" them underfoot. This image is extended to God, who is pictured in judgment as shouting "like those who tread the grapes" (Jeremiah 25:30), His garments stained with blood from the enemies trampled under His feet (Isaiah 63:2). "


Thursday, July 22, 2010

Living Without Olives

Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation. Habakkuk 3:17-18

The olive was very important to people during Bible times. The berry, when pickled, was used in the relish put on bread for almost every meal. Almost every kind of dish was cooked in olive oil. It was very difficult to cook right without it. Olive oil was used in the lamps. The entire supply of soap was made from parts of the olive.

The worker left home in the early dawn with nothing more than olives wrapped up in a quantity of his paper-like loaves of bread. Most of his meals when away from home and at work were this type of meal.

Habukkuk says that even if there are no olives he will have joy in God. For there to be no olives would mean there would be almost no way to have a fire in the lamp. There would be little food prepared the way most was usually prepared. In fact, there would be little to eat because the olive was a part of almost every recipe. It would mean staying dirty because there would be no soap.

Habukkuk is stating that he will joy in the Lord no matter circumstance he finds himself living in. He can be hungry but he would be joyful for his salvation in God. He can be out of a job and dirty but he would rejoice that God loves him. He would follow God no matter what the situation is.

(Mark McWhorter , Copyright 2002, Published by The Old Paths Bible School,

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Studying Under the Fig Tree

And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. Matthew 21:19

A fig tree is sweet smelling and provides shade and fruit. One Rabbinic tradition says: The best place to study the Law is under a fig tree. Fig trees are still planted near synagogues today. Jesus said to Nathaniel, “I saw you (while you were a child in school) under the fig tree (John 1:48).”

Figs appear at the same time as the leaves. A “hypocritical fig tree” would have the leaves of religion, but no fruits of faith – See Mathew 21:19.

(Lash, Neil & Jamie., “Jewels From the Journey,” Jewish Jewels, Ft. Lauderdale, FL., pg 4)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Silencing the Opposition

Place the staffs in the Communion Tent, before the Ark of Testimony where I commune with you. The staff of the man who is My choice will then blossom. I will this rid Myself of the complaints that the Israelites are directing at you." Moses spoke thus to the Israelites, and each of the leaders gave him a staff for his paternal tribe. There were twelve staffs, with Aaron’s staff among them. Moses placed the staffs before God in the Testimony Tent. The next day, when Moses came into the Testimony Tent, Aaron’s staff, representing the house of Levi, had blossomed. It had given forth leaves, and was [now] producing blossoms and almonds were ripening on it. Moses brought all the staffs out from before God, and let all the Israelites see them. Each man took his own staff. Numbers 17:19-24 [Hebrew translation and verse numbering]

Moses was instructed to take a single tree and split it into twelve parts, lest it be contended that Aaron’s staff was particularly fresh. Then the staff designated as Aaron’s should be placed in the very midst of the others, lest anyone say that it blossomed because it was located closest to the Ark and had for this reason sprouted almonds that were fit for food. Moses acted in accordance with these instructions and the staff of Aaron flowered.

The great miracle was that a dried wooden stick should sprout blossoms in the course of one night, and then buds and then fruit. So it was that when the people perceived this miracle, each of the tribal leaders picked up the staff that carried his name, admitting that the priesthood belonged to Aaron and the work of the Tabernacle to the Levites. Every claim of theirs was henceforth silenced.

Two wondrous things happened with the staff of Aaron. The first miracle consisted of the fact that not only did the almonds blossom and then sprout two buds, but that while one of them shed its leaves in the expected manner of fruit-bearing trees that shed their foliage after the fruit is produced, the other shoot remained intact from then on, both in the summer and in the winter.

The second miracle was that the staff brought forth two kinds of almonds–sweet ones and bitter ones. The sweet ones sprouted on the right side of the staff, and the bitter ones on its left side. Whenever the Israelites acted in accordance with God’s will, the almonds on the right side would grow luxuriantly, while if they transgressed the will of God, those on the left side would flourish and the ones on the right would turn bitter. These three kinds of offshoots brought forth by the staff, are indicated in the scriptural text, following: "...had blossomed...had given forth buds and branches...and almonds were ripening on it."

(Kaplan, Aryeh, ed. 1991. The Torah Anthology, Book Fourteen. Brooklyn, New York: Moznaim Publishing Corporation., pgs 45-46)

Monday, July 19, 2010

An Almond Tree

Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree. Then said the LORD unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it. Jeremiah 1:11-12

An almond-tree. Heb. Shaked, and the Heb. For “watching” is shoked. There is more than a play on words here. The almond-tree is so named in Hebrew because, blossoming early in January, it is the first to awake from winter’s sleep. On seeing it, the thought flashes across the Prophet’s mind that God is awake and watches over His word to fulfil it, without delay.

(Hertz, Dr. J.H., The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, 2nd Ed., Soncino Press, London, 1992, pgs 230-231)

Friday, July 16, 2010

People As Trees

He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers. (Psalms 1:3 [NIV])

The Psalms are packed with vivid word pictures and simple metaphors that make their messages immediately accessible and applicable. The person who loves and concentrates on God’s words and ways is compared to a fruitful tree here—only one of several places in the Old Testament where God’s people are compared to sturdy trees (Isa 44:2-4; Jer 17:7-8).

In a description of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ himself is depicted as a “splendid cedar” that will give shelter and shade to all who take refuge in him (Eze 17:22-24). The tree metaphor’s richness is evident when we consider the elements of a healthy tree: the deep roots that feed and stabilize it, the branches that gracefully offer shade, the leaves that often possess healing properties, the fruit that nourishes.

A blessed person is one who is deeply rooted in the soil of God’s Word and who draws sustenance from his living water.

(General Editor Jean E. Syswerda, NIV Women of Faith Study Bible, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Mischigan, 2001, pg 858)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Leaves Shall Not Wither

And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. Psalms 1:3

"The leaves shall not wither." He is saying this, that every word which flows forth out of your mouth in faith and love shall be a means to bring conversion and hope to many.

(Ehrman, Bart D., The New Testament and Other Early Christian Writings, Oxford University Press, New York, 1998, “The Letter of Barnabas”, chapter 11:8c, pg 353)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Cutting Taxes

Both the Romans and the Turks stripped the land of Israel of its trees. People were taxed according to how many trees were on their property – less trees, less taxes. The expression “cutting taxes” comes from this practice.

(Lash, Neil & Jamie., “Jewels From the Journey,” Jewish Jewels, Ft. Lauderdale, FL., pg 4)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Trees Listed As Property

And Abraham hearkened unto Ephron; and Abraham weighed to Ephron the silver, .... And the field of Ephron, which was in Machpelah, which was before Mamre, the field, and the cave which was therein, and all the trees that were in the field,... were made sure Unto Abraham for a possession in the presence of the children of Heth, before all that went in at the gate of his city. Genesis 23:16-18

Westerners familiar with long-established systems of ownership according to which a purchaser of land usually gets everything on it and under it have puzzled over a queer set of details in the records about an ancient sale. Primarily because he wanted a cave for use as a family tomb, Abraham bought the field of Ephron. He got the field and the cave, but that didn’t end the matter; “all the trees that were in the field, that were in all the borders round about, were made sure (Gen. 23:17).”

This oddly precise stipulation has been clarified by study of the Hittite code recovered from the ancient capital city of Bogazköy (in modern Turkey). According to the code, trees were so valuable in the ancient near East that it was a standard Hittite practice to enumerate each one included in a real estate transaction.

With the great significance of green property recognized, it becomes clear why both Ephron the Hittite and Abraham took care that all the trees involved in their transaction were “made sure,” or individually counted and listed.

(Garrison, Webb., Strange Facts About the Bible, Testament Books, New York, 1968, pg 124)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Vices in Caricature

As a jewel of gold in a swine's snout, so is a fair woman which is without discretion. Prov. 11:22

The Book of Proverbs lampoons fools, lazy people, and quarrelsome women by using comical caricatures. These images describe the contentious woman and the woman who lacks discretion in a witty and clever manner. “As a gold ring in a swine’s snout, so is a beautiful woman from whom sense has departed(Proverbs 11:22). “It is better to live in a desert than with a contentious and angry woman(Proverbs 21:19). “It is better to live on a corner of a roof, than in a house of companionship with a quarrelsome wife(Proverbs 25:24). “A constant dripping on a rainstormy day and a quarrelsome woman are alike(Proverbs 27:15).

This paper appeared in Humor: International Journal of Humor Research, Vol. 13:3, Sept. 2000, 258-285. ©2000, by Hershey H. Friedman, Ph.D. & Bernard H. Stern

Friday, July 9, 2010

Biblical Patience

And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; 2 Peter 1:6

Often we think of patience in passive terms, as if the patient person is utterly submissive and half asleep. But this version of patience needs a Biblical corrective. Barclay teaches from 2 Peter 1:6 (where the King James Version uses the term patience):

“The words never mean the spirit which sits with folded hands and simply bears things. It is victorious endurance [and] constancy under trial. It is Christian steadfastness, the brave and courageous acceptance of everything life can do to us, and the transmuting of even the worst into another step on the upward way.

It is the courageous and triumphant ability to bear things, which enables a man to pass breaking point and not to break, and always to greet the unseen with a cheer.”

William Barclay, Letters of Peter and Jude (Edinburgh: St. Andrews, 1960), 258.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

God's Talking Donkey

And the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey, and she said to Balaam, "What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times? Numbers 22:28

“Just because we cannot see the spiritual does not mean that we should be unaware of its presence. After opening the donkey's mouth so that it could speak, God opened Balaam's eyes so that he could see the angel too. The implication is that ordinarily we are no more capable of seeing spiritual beings than animals are capable of uttering human speech.

The story of Balaam's talking donkey makes a popular children's story. But it is not a fairy tale. The [Old Testament] relates the conversation in a matter-of-fact manner, simply explaining that "the LORD opened the mouth of the donkey" (Numbers 22:28). The implication seems to be that all animals would be capable of speech if only God opened their mouths. Remember the talking serpent in Eden?

The miracle of the talking donkey is not just for amusement. It is an illustration to prepare us for the [verses] that are about to follow. In Numbers 23-24 Balaam inadvertently speaks a series of blessings and prophecies over the people of Israel. Balaam's prophecies are directly from God. How could God speak through the wicked sorcerer Balaam?

The lesson of the talking donkey illustrates that God is not limited to using only righteous men to deliver His messages. If He can use the mouth of a donkey to get a message across, He can also use the mouth of a wicked man like Balaam. In a sense, Balaam plays the role of God's talking donkey.”

First Fruits of Zion Parasha: Balak

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Fair is Fair

So Miriam was shut up outside the camp for seven days, and the people did not move on until Miriam was received again. Numbers 12:15

"Even Aaron and Miriam were not above the sin of grumbling. Numbers 12:1-2 relates a few details about their complaint against Moses. Apparently they had something against Moses because of the Cushite woman he had married. (The Torah does not tell us the details of their gripe, but people are often irritated by their sibling's spouses.)

The complaint against Moses had to do with his role as leader over the assembly. Both Miriam and Aaron were prophets in their own right. They had both personally received prophecies from God. They began to resent Moses' sole leadership over the assembly. "Has the LORD indeed spoken only through Moses? Has He not spoken through us as well?" (Numbers 12:2), they asked. Miriam and Aaron assumed that no one could hear their private conversation. It was their own private gripe against their brother. They forgot that God could hear. The Torah says, "And the LORD heard it" (Numbers 12:2).

How many times do we indulge in similar "private" conversations, forgetting that God is listening?

The LORD struck Miriam with leprosy as a punishment for speaking evil speech against her brother. Moses immediately interceded on her behalf with a short, urgent prayer. The LORD relented and removed the leprosy, but Miriam still had to be put outside of the camp for seven days until she was ritually fit again.

The most puzzling thing about the story is why Miriam was smitten with leprosy while Aaron was not. Is that fair? Perhaps Aaron was spared because of his responsibility in the priesthood or perhaps it was that Miriam was punished more harshly because she was the instigator of the gossip. Those are possible explanations, but there seems to have been one ancient tradition that taught Aaron was also struck with leprosy.

According to that tradition, the Torah does not explicitly mention Aaron's punishment out of respect for the office of the high priest. Instead, Aaron's punishment was edited out of the record but remembered nonetheless.

We know this was an opinion in early Judaism because one ancient rabbi warns that "Anyone who says that Aaron was also smitten with leprosy will have to give an account [in heaven]. When God has concealed the matter concerning Aaron [how dare we reveal it?]" (Sifre 105).

Clement, the disciple of the Peter, preserved the same tradition. He taught that Aaron was also put out of the camp for seven days. Clement says, "On account of envy, Aaron and Miriam had to make their abode outside the camp" (1 Clement 4:11 )."

Adapted from aish and ffoz commentaries by Benzion HaLevi Sherry

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Unjust Steward

And he said also unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. Luke 16:1-2

"There was a rich man who had a manager who was reported to him as squandering his possessions. He called him and said to him, "Give an accounting of your management, for you can no longer be manager.' The manager said to himself, `I know what I shall do, so that when I am removed from the management people will welcome me into their homes.' He summoned each one of his master's debtors, and he began saying to the first, `How much do you owe my master?' "And he said, `A hundred measures of oil.' He said to him, `Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.' "Then he said to another, `And how much do you owe?' And he said, `A hundred measures of wheat.' He said to him, `Take your bill, and write eighty.' His master praised the unrighteous manager because he had acted shrewdly." (Luke 16:1-8, edited)

This is another parable that is difficult for us - it seems like Jesus is saying that cheating your employer is a model for us to live by. Was that really what He was saying? Knowing more about the context of this parable may cast new light on Jesus' message. *

One thing to note is that the rich man probably lived far away and employed the manager to keep track of his loan repayments. Loan managers, like tax collectors, were paid commissions from the accounts that they oversaw. Thus, the more they could collect from the debtors, the more they earned. Biblical law stated that a Jew who received a loan could not be charged interest, so charging any more than the principal would have been an unlawful practice.

But since it was difficult for the poor to find anyone who would loan money without some kind of compensation, historians think that loans were recorded for a higher amount than their actual value to circumvent the prohibition against charging interest. It would have been the difference that went to the loan manager.

With this extra information in mind, it casts this parable in a new light. The loan recipients may have hated the manager for his profiting from the overcharges at their expense. When the shrewd loan manager lowered the bills, he may have been correcting the bills back to their true amount, and forfeiting his own pay. By doing this, he would have been "repenting" from the corruption that had been making enemies for himself. Even though it cost him monetarily, he would have gone from being hated to being loved by all the people he dealt with. Even his boss would look good in the eyes of the debtors.

Indeed, this may have been the first honest act of his life, when he realized that he needed people's friendship more than their money. While we can't be sure of this scenario, it does paint a different picture of the manager's act. When he realized that "judgment" was coming from his boss, he straightened out his life so that he would not suffer forever for his corruption. We all know that we will be called to account for our lives, and we should all act wisely knowing that eternal dwellings are at stake."

* Historical data comes from a talk given by Dr. Randall Buth called "The Unjust Steward" from the Center for Study of Biblical Research (CSBR). The author of the longer article is Lois Tverberg.

Monday, July 5, 2010

God Gives the Increase

I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.

Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. 1 Corinthians 3:6,8

In Palestine and Syria plowing, planting and watering are each done by different people. The country is mountainous and fields are difficult to plow, especially in Judea where the fields are merely small terraces on slopes and on the mountain sides. Plowing is done with oxen. It takes an expert to handle the plow and direct the oxen. Generally this type of work is done by elderly and experienced men.

And it is only the older men who know how to scatter the scanty seed and plant the crops. Indeed, this type of work cannot be entrusted to the care of young men.

Watering is not considered a difficult task. It is done by younger men and women. The crops are watered once a week. Planters receive higher wages than those who water the crops.

Paul had planted the seed of the Christian gospel in many cities in Asia Minor and Macedonia, and Apollos had watered it. But then the seed was entrusted to God, who guards it and causes it to grow.

Paul denounces the idea that he and Apollos and Peter were building on different foundations and that they were at variance with each other. They were entrusted with different tasks, but they were building on the foundation which was laid down by Jesus Christ, who is the builder of the House of God.

(Lamsa, George M. 1945. New Testament Commentary. Philadelphia: A.J. Holman Company., p. 239-240)

Friday, July 2, 2010


And a mighty angel took up a stone like a great millstone, and cast it into the sea, saying, Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more at all. Revelation 18:21

The size of a great millstone. The name "Gat-Sh’manim" ("Gethsemane," Mt 26:36&N) means "oil press," that is, a stone mill for grinding olives into pulp for their oil. Until quite recently the Arabs in the villages here in Israel used such presses for the same purpose, and many of the millstones are sill around. They are circular with a hole in the center about 9 inches square; diameter averages about five feet, thickness a foot and their weight well over a ton.

(Stern, David H. 1996. Jewish New Testament Commentary. Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications., pg 837)

Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Wicked Who Devour

There is a generation, whose teeth are as swords, and their jaw teeth as knives, to devour the poor from off the earth, and the needy from among men. Proverbs 30:14

In the East table knives and forks were unknown until recent years. The people used their front teeth as knives to cut off pieces of meat. The reference here is to the oppressors who devour the poor and the needy. These men are known as having sharp teeth like swords. In American slang they are called "sharks."

When the Israelites forsook the way of the Lord and transgressed his commandments, their rulers and judges became wicked. They devoured the poor and corrupted justice. These wicked men had no knowledge of God, neither did they fear the Most High [Ps. 10:4].

In the East when princes or government officials defraud or exploit their people it is said, "They have devoured [eaten] the poor and the weak." Job says, "And I broke the jaws of the wicked, and snatched the prey out of his teeth" [Job 29:17, Eastern text]. Jesus used the same Aramaic metaphor:

"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you embezzle [Aramaic ‘eat’] the property of widows..." [Matt. 23:13, Eastern text].

(Lamsa, George M. 1964. Old Testament Light. San Francisco: Harper Collins., pg 584)