Friday, April 29, 2011

The Pursuing Father Part 5

7. The self-serving plan. Perhaps the most theologically damaging traditional misunderstanding of this parable is in the popular perception of the phrase, “He came to himself.” This has long been interpreted as meaning “he repented.” This reading of the text dulls its cutting edge and breaks up the theological unity of the chapter.

The good shepherd must traverse the wilderness to find his sheep. He does not return to the village and wait for the sheep to wander home and bleat at the door of the sheepfold. The good woman lights a lamp and searches diligently to find the lost coin. She does not resume her chores expecting the coin to flip itself out of a crack in the floor and land on the kitchen table. The sheep and the coin must be rescued.

But if the Prodigal manages to make his way home by his own efforts, then the third story teaches that people are not impeded by original sin or depraved wills and can by their own effort, without divine grace, take steps toward salvation.

In the first story, the lost sheep is a symbol of repentance, and repentance is shown there as “acceptance of being found.” The second story confirms this definition. But if the Prodigal truly repents in the far country and struggles home on his own, then Jesus contradicts himself. As traditionally understood, the third story seems to affirm the opposite of the first two. But there is another alternative.

By telling the parable of the Good Shepherd, Jesus invokes Psalm 23, which also has a lost sheep and a good shepherd. The key phrase appears in verse 3, which is traditionally translated, “He restores my soul.” This statement has come to mean: I was downcast, and the Lord restored my spirits. That understanding is, no doubt, a part of the psalmist’s intention. But the Hebrew reads “yashubib nefshi,” which literally means, “He brings me back,” or “He causes me to repent.” Clearly, the psalmist is lost, and God, the good shepherd, brings him back to the paths of righteousness.

When the Prodigal’s speech is read in this light, a new meaning emerges. The psalmist believed God brought him back (to God) and caused him to repent. The Prodigal is going to solve his own problem–he came to himself. The verb for return does not appear! The long, rich history of Arabic versions contains a number of interesting translations of this key phrase. Some read, “He got smart.” Others translate, “He took an interest in himself” or “He thought to himself.” None of these translators saw the Prodigal in the far country as repentant. Ah–but what of his “confession”?

The prepared confession reads, “I have sinned against heaven and before you,” and this is (understandably) usually seen to indicate heartfelt repentance. Jesus’ audience, however, is composed of Pharisees who know the Scriptures well. They recognize that confession as a quotation from the pharaoh when he tries to manipulate Moses into lifting the plagues. After the ninth plague, Pharaoh finally agrees to meet Moses, and when Moses appears, Pharaoh gives this same speech. Everyone knows that Pharaoh is not repenting. He is simply trying to bend Moses to his will.

The Prodigal is best understood as attempting the same. Hoping to soften his father’s heart, the Prodigal plans to offer his solution to the problem of their estrangement: job training. He will work as a paid craftsman and be able to save money. He will not live at home for the present. But after the lost money is recovered, he can discuss reconciliation. Having failed to get a paying job in the far country, he will try to get his father’s backing to become gainfully employed near home. He will yet save himself through the law. No grace is necessary. He can manage–or so he thinks! But is the lost money the real problem?

In his soliloquy in the far country, the Prodigal opens his mind and spirit to the listener/reader. Wanting to eat, he says, “I am dying of hunger!” He thinks that if he can only recover the lost money, everything will eventually be solved. In the interim, he will be able to eat, and once the money is returned, the village will accept him back.

He does not consider the father’s broken heart and the agony of rejected love that his father has endured. While talking to himself in the far country he evidences no shame or remorse. If he is a servant standing before a master, his plan is somehow adequate. If he is a son dealing with a compassionate and loving father, his projected solution is inadequate.


Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Pursuing Father Part 4

5. Expensive living. Many times the Prodigal is accused of “loose living” or “riotous living.” The Greek adjective in this phrase, however, does not imply immorality. (Syriac and Arabic translations in the Middle East have for 18 centuries preserved this finely tuned detail.) Jesus gives no hint as to how the Prodigal wasted his money. We are only told that he was a spendthrift.

At the end of the story the older son publicly accuses his brother of spending the money on harlots. But he has just arrived from the field and knows nothing. He clearly wants to exaggerate his brother’s failures. This tension in the story disappears when words such as “riotous living” (KJV), “loose living” (RSV), or “dissolute living” (NRSV) appear in the text.

6. The search for employment. When his money is spent, the Prodigal would naturally return home. But he has broken the rules. He knows that the qetsatsah ceremony awaits him if he returns to the village. He is thus desperate to somehow recover the money. For this he needs a paying job. Twice he tries to obtain one.

The first attempt is feeding pigs in the far country. The second is the game plan he vocalizes on the eve of his return home. These two plans must be looked at with some care. The first plan, becoming a pig herder, does not work. The text deliberately affirms, “No one gave him anything.” Like Lincoln’s Gettysburg address, this parable contains no excess verbiage. Each phrase is carefully crafted to carry precise meaning.

As a pig herder, the Prodigal is fed but not paid. The first-century Jewish reader knows the Prodigal must earn back the money he wasted if he is to avoid the qetsatsah ceremony. Having failed at his first try, he plans one last roll of the dice–he will go home, get job training, and earn his way. To be accepted for that job training, he will need his father’s endorsement. But how will he convince his father to trust him one more time?


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

The Pursuing Father Part 3

3. The hurried sale. The Prodigal sells quickly (“A few days later”). He is obliged to do so. Anger in the village rises against him because he has shamed his father and his entire extended family by offering a large portion of the family farm for sale with a healthy father still farming it. He has to conclude the sale and get out of town as quickly as possible. As noted, Jewish law did not permit such a sale. The Prodigal does not care.

4. The qetsatsah ceremony. From the Jerusalem Talmud it is known that the Jews of the time of Jesus had a method of punishing any Jewish boy who lost the family inheritance to Gentiles. It was called the “qetsatsah [ket-saht-sah] ceremony.” Horror at such a loss is also reflected in the Dead Sea Scrolls. Such a violator of community expectations would face the qetsatsah ceremony if he dared to return to his home village.

The ceremony was simple. The villagers would bring a large earthenware jar, fill it with burned nuts and burned corn, and break it in front of the guilty individual. While doing this, the community would shout, “So-and-so is cut off from his people.” From that point on, the village would have nothing to do with the wayward lad.

From the various references to this ceremony, it appears that the ban was more comprehensive than the Amish “shun.” When shunned, an Amish person can at least eat at a separate table. The first-century Jewish shun appears to have been a total ban on any contact with the violator of the village code of honor. As he leaves town, the Prodigal knows he must not lose the money among the Gentiles. He does. In the far country he lives among Gentiles. They own pigs!


Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Pursuing Father Part 2

1. The request. The younger son requests his inheritance while his father is still alive and in good health. In traditional Middle Eastern culture, this means, “Father, I am eager for you to die!” If the father is a traditional Middle Eastern father, he will strike the boy across the face and drive him out of the house. Surely anywhere in the world this is an outrageous request.

The Prodigal is not simply a young boy who is “off to the big city to make his fame and fortune.” Rather, this young son makes a request that is unthinkable, particularly in Middle Eastern culture. The father is expected to refuse–if he is an oriental patriarch! In fact, he is not, which brings us to the second point.

2. The father’s gift. The father grants the Prodigal the freedom to own and to sell his portion of the estate. Five times in the parable the father does not behave like a traditional oriental patriarch. This is the first instance. The inheritance is substantial. This is a wealthy family that has a herd of fatted calves and a herd of goats. House servants/slaves appear. The house includes a banquet hall large enough to host a crowd that will eat an entire fatted calf in one evening. Professional musicians and dancers are hired for that banquet. The father is respected in the community, and thus the community responds to his invitation.

Transferring the inheritance is a serious matter that should only be dealt with by the father as he approaches death. Furthermore, the Prodigal “gathered all he had,” or as the New English Bible puts it, “turned [it] into cash.” This means that he is selling his part of the family farm.

As that happens, this horrendous family breakdown becomes public knowledge, and the family is shamed before the entire community. Jewish law of the first century provided for the division of an inheritance (when the father was ready to make such a division), but did not grant the children the right to sell until after the father’s death.

In a second departure from the expected norm, the father grants the inheritance and the right to sell, knowing that this right will shame the family before the community. Thus, from the opening lines of the parable, it is clear that Jesus does not use an oriental patriarch as a model for God. In the contemporary West, Jesus is often accused of having done so. Such is not the case. Rather, he has broken all the bounds of Middle Eastern patriarchy in creating this image of father. No human father is an adequate model for God. Knowing this, Jesus elevates the figure of father beyond its human limitations and reshapes it for use as a model for God.


Monday, April 25, 2011

The Pursuing Father Part 1

I really enjoy Kenneth Bailey's work and thought it would be interesting to excerpt some of his commentary on the parable of the Prodigal Son from his excellent book: Finding the Lost: Cultural Keys to Luke 15. His work has made a huge difference in my deeper understanding of the Middle East and its customs as they apply to Christ's teachings.

Kenneth E. Bailey:

This story badly needs to be rescued from familiarity and from its traditional cultural captivity. For centuries, we in the West have read the story in the light of our own cultural presuppositions, which have dulled its cutting edge.

I spent most of my childhood in Egypt, and from 1955 to 1995 our family
lived in Egypt, Lebanon, Jerusalem, and Cyprus, where I taught New Testament in
seminaries and institutes. For all of my adult life, it has been my privilege to study the New Testament while living and teaching in the Middle East. Indeed, when I began to take seriously the traditional Middle Eastern culture of which Jesus was a part, the parable of “the father and his two lost sons” began to unfold for me in a new and exciting way.

In the light of that culture, available through early Jewish and Eastern Christian sources, answers can be found to the original challenge with which my pilgrimage began. In short–are the Incarnation and the Atonement a part of this crucial parable? Yes, they are. I will try to explain why.

This parable must be seen as the third part of a trilogy in Luke 15. The
Pharisees challenge Jesus: “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them(quotations taken from the NRSV unless otherwise noted).

The Babylonian Talmud makes clear that rabbis did not eat with the‘am-ha’arets (the people of the land) who did not keep the law in a precise fashion. Luke records, “So he told them [the Pharisees] this parable [singular].” What follows are the three parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin, and the two lost sons (the Prodigal Son). Thus we see that Luke understood them to be three parts of a single parable.

A shepherd pays a price to find and restore a lost sheep. The woman does the same
for her coin. In these two stories it is clear that Jesus is the good shepherd and he is the good woman.

Which raises a question about the third story: Is he also the good father? And does this third story parallel the first two stories by having the father pay a high price to find and restore his son(s)? To answer these questions, which point to the larger issue of atonement and incarnation, at least 14 aspects of the parable need to be rescued from their traditional interpretation.


Friday, April 22, 2011

Hidden Messages in Ruth

The Book of Ruth is filled with irony, double entendres, drama and even humor. In Chapter 1 there is a hidden discussion between Naomi and her daughters-in-law. She wants them to come with her; they are all the family she has left, yet she knows that Bethlehemite society is not accepting of strangers, especially Moabite women (as is obvious from Chapter 4:6). Unable to say this directly, she hints of it in an ironic statement: "Turn back my daughters, go your way, for I am too old to have a husband. For even if there were hope [for marriage] and [I were to conceive] tonight and bear children, would you wait for them to grow up?" Why would her daughters-in-law expect her to produce husbands for them? Obviously, Naomi knows how difficult it will be for them to remarry in Bethlehem. Orpah gets the massage and returns home, while Ruth clings to Naomi.

Chapter 2 includes a humorous description of Ruth's being unaccustomed Judean culture: And she went and gleaned in the field after the reapers. In Hebrew, the word "reapers" is masculine gender. It appears that Ruth, unacquainted with Judean customs of modesty, went gleaning in the field behind the male reapers. It also appears that out of courtesy, no one said anything to her.

Boaz came from the city and noticing this unusual event asked right away: "To whom is this girl?" The reaper, possibly embarrassed to have allowed such a situation, covered up for himself with the excuse, "She is a Moabite girl who came with Naomi from the fields of Moab," meaning — she is a foreigner, so obviously she does not know how to act.

Boaz tries to hint to Ruth to glean with the woman reapers. And Boaz said to Ruth: "You have heard my daughter, do not go to glean in another field, do not change places and thus shall you cling to my [reaper] girls." Boaz diplomatically told her to glean in his field but only among the woman reapers. Ruth did not get the message, assuming he was just being kind in inviting her to stay in the field.

In the meantime, Boaz told his male reapers to keep their distance from her, and not to embarrass her if she continued to glean among them. When Ruth returns home, beaming that Boaz came over to talk to her, she still does not comprehend what she has been told. After telling Naomi about her meeting with Boaz, she says: 'He even told me to cling with his [reaper] boys until the end of the harvest.'

Naomi, familiar with the customs of Judah, understands Ruth's mistake right away, and tells her: "Better my daughter that you go out with his girls so that they should not harm you in another field." That is when Ruth realizes what Naomi means: "And she clung to Boaz' girls to glean until the end of the barley and wheat harvest."

From The Jewish Bible Quarterly, Vol. XXX:2 (118), April-June 2002 by Raphael Shuchat

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Why Do We Have Trials?

There are two major errors we can make regarding trials: The first mistake is the failure to anticipate trials. Jesus suffered trials. Jesus promised us trials (John 16:33). All the apostles suffered trials. Trials are an expected part of the Christian life. And, like all storms, preparation can be critical in successfully enduring them.

A second mistake is to harbor a morbid fear of trials. Remember 1 Corinthians 10:13: "There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it."

The Apostle Paul certainly knew sufferings (2 Corinthians 4:7-11, 16-18; 2 Corinthians 11:23-28; Hebrews 11:32-40). And he regarded them as opportunities. There are many reasons why we face trials.

Here are just a few:

  • To glorify God (Daniel 3:16 -18, 24-25)
  • Discipline for known sin (Hebrews 12:5-11; James 4:17 ; Romans 14:23 ; 1 John 1:9)
  • To prevent us from falling into sin (1 Peter 4:1-2)
  • To keep us from pride. Paul was kept from pride by his "thorn in the flesh" (2 Corinthians 12:7-10)
  • To build faith (1 Peter 1:6-7)
  • To cause growth (Romans 5:3-5)
  • To teach obedience and discipline (Acts 9:15-16; Philippians 4:11-13)
  • To equip us to comfort others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)
  • To prove the reality of Christ in us (2 Corinthians 4:7-11)
  • For testimony to the angels (Job 1:8; Ephesians 3:8-11; 1 Peter 1:12 )

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Hairstyle Directions

They shall not make baldness upon their head, neither shall they shave off the corner of their beard [head], nor make any cuttings in their flesh. Leviticus 21:5

Verses in scripture have their own historical background. This is highly critical when we study the scriptures. God had definite reasons for giving each of His teachings, some of which arose out of certain situations taking place outside of its pages. We need to become aware of these background circumstances in order to understand these sections completely.

Here is an excellent example. The text says, “and you shall not shave the corners of your head.” To understand this passage properly, we must ask ourselves a question: “Why would God have given that instruction?” Is He telling us how to get haircuts? What was happening historically at that time that would necessitate special instructions from Heavenly Father about our hairdos?

If we examine the culture of the Canaanites, we would find that the Canaanites were literally cutting designs in their hair, much as some do today. Moreover, they were doing so for religious purposes. Thus we discover that, most likely, God’s instructions concerning our hair were intended to prevent us from acting like the Canaanites or practicing their religion.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Hiding the Face

And the heathen shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity: because they trespassed against me, therefore hid I my face from them, and gave them into the hand of their enemies: so fell they all by the sword. Ezekiel 39:23

Hiding of face” is a Semitic idiom which means refusal to see the petitioner or the rejection of an appeal. In the East when a judge or a government official is unwilling to hear a certain complaint he refuses to see the persons who come to see him. He does not allow them to come before his presence.

The Jews had trespassed against their God and had broken his covenant and transgressed his commandments. When they prayed to God he hid his face from them; that is, he refused to hear them. He knew that their repentance was insincere. Therefore they were left without guidance and finally defeated by their enemies.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Cut Off Your Hand

And if thy right hand offend thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.
Matthew 5:30

Cut off your hand” is an Aramaic saying which is used in conversation but with no reference to actually cutting off one’s hand.

People often say to each other, “Cut off your hand from my vineyard” which means do not gather grapes in my vineyard. “His hand is too long” means, he is a thief. “Shorten your hand” means, do not steal. Again “Cut your hand” means, cut out a bad habit.

The hand is mentioned because it is the agent by which the mind and body do their work

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dip His Foot in Oil

- Deu 33:24 -
And of Asher he said, Let Asher be blessed with children; let him be acceptable to his brethren, and let him dip his foot in oil. Deut. 33: 24

Dip his foot in oil” is an Eastern idiom which means “Let him become very prosperous.”

In biblical days oil was used as a medium of exchange. And it was still used as such in the Near East until World War II. Oil may also mean butter. In the East a man with plenty of olive oil or butter is considered wealthy.

Easterners, when describing a rich man, say, “He bathes in oil and milk.” Olive oil and butter are exchanged for dry goods, wheat, silver, and gold. In the parable of the unjust servant, oil was loaned just as one would loan silver and gold [Luke 16:6].

The land of Asher was fertile and good for grazing. Olives also are plentiful in northern Palestine and Lebanon.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Door of the Tent

He [Abraham] was sitting at the entrance of the tent as the day grew hot... Genesis 18:1

The entrance to the tent is covered by a curtain which hung down from the top of the entrance. The Hebrew word "dal" means "hang down" and is the root for the word "dalet" meaning "door.” This word is also the name of another Hebrew letter, a representation of the tent door.

The door of the tent is the most important part of the tent, not because of its appearance, but is function as the entrance into the tent. The door of the tent can be equated with the throne of a king.

In the Hebrew culture, the father of the family is the "king", the one who holds full authority over the family. The father will often sit at his door much like a king will sit on a throne. All family legal matters were performed at the tent. Here he will watch over his household as well as watch for passing travelers. The nomadic rules of hospitality are very strict and complex.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Dwelling in Tents

By faith he sojourned in the land of the promise, as in a strange country, taking up his abode in tents together with Isaac, and Jacob, the joint-heirs with him of the same promise. Heb. 11:9

It is not the act of dwelling that is emphatic here, but the fact that this dwelling was "in tents". If expressed in the ordinary way it would mean "DWELLING in tents with Isaac and Jacob." But said this way, it means "dwelling IN TENTS with Isaac and Jacob."

The first symbol we find in the patriarch’s life is his moving tent. He left the wealth and earthly prospects of his native home and committed himself to the vicissitudes of a pilgrim life. Although an heir of the world, he was himself to have no certain dwelling place, but was to wander as a stranger on earth looking for a better country and “a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” …

We shall never have our hearts or our interests so invested in the things of life as not to be able, like Abraham, to emigrate at God’s call to some altered circumstances, or even to fold our tent altogether and enter upon our eternal existence. …

Wherever the patriarch rested his tent, there he also erected an altar to his God.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

NOT a Mamma's Boy


Esau was the firstborn son of Isaac and Rebecca. As a firstborn son in that culture, it was his job to learn the family business and prepare himself to serve as the family head upon the death of his father.

Esau and Jacob's father Isaac was a nomadic shepherd with very large flocks and many families of live-in workers. If some hunting needed to be done for some reason, there were plenty of servants to send on that errand. Esau's hunting would come under the category of sport, not work.

But Esau was not a young student learning to be a wise chieftain to those who would someday look to him for leadership. It wasn't that he liked to hunt occasionally for relaxation. No, the text says, he was "ish sadeh," 'a man of the open fields'. His life orientation was to shirk his responsibilities to go hunting.

The last phrase of Genesis 25:27 gives a specific behavior of Jacob's that demonstrated the contrast between Esau's character and the character of our ancestor Jacob. That phrase refers to Jacob as "a tent-dweller."

I've heard people who have misunderstood this verse in mistranslations call Jacob "a mamma's boy" and Esau "a he-man." That is probably how Esau understood the situation, too. But the Holy Spirit, through the text of this verse, is introducing us to Jacob as a man who showed his sincere devotion to God by honoring his parents and working at the family business, while his older brother, the heir to the business, spent his time skillfully hunting down animals for fun.

by Glen Penton

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Plain Man

And the boys grew: and Esau was a cunning hunter, a man of the field; and Jacob was a plain man, dwelling in tents. Genesis 25:27

"Dwelling in tents" implies that Jacob stayed home and attended to his cattle. But in what sense was he a "plain" man?

The Hebrew adjective is tam, which means complete, perfect. It is the adjective applied to Job, when the LORD calls him "a perfect and an upright man" (Job 1:8; 2:3). It is the adjective used in Psalms 37:37—"Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright." RSV reads "blameless" instead of "perfect" in these verses.

It seems clear that Genesis 25:27 is to be taken as a quite objective statement. The writer is not here concerned with the moral character of either of the twins; he is not apportioning praise or blame. He is simply stating the basic difference between their respective interests and ways of life.

In contrast with Esau's special craving and skill, Jacob was an 'ish tam, a complete man, in the sense that he took seriously life's ordinary duties.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Lions in Snow

And Benaiah the son of Jehoiada, the son of a valiant man, of Kabzeel, who had done many acts, he slew two lionlike men of Moab: he went down also and slew a lion in the midst of a pit in time of snow: 2 Samuel 23:20

A lion in the midst of a pit in time of snow” : Probably nowhere else in the world would a lion and snow come together. This lion strayed up out of the Jordan river valley and was trapped by a sudden snowfall. (G.A. Smith, Historical Geography of the Holy Land)

(Booker, George., By The Way, ChristadelphianBooksOnline, Section III)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Don't "Join the Scapegoat"

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool. Isaiah 1:18

"The red scarf symbolically represented one’s sins. If the goat came back, your sins found you out! So the ceremony had to be changed. We know this from a Jewish writing called “Kippurim,” the plural of “Kuppur,” meaning atonement.

So, they had two goats. The first goat was sacrificed and the blood from that goat was taken to the west end of the Temple, the Holy of Holies, and sprinkled on the symbolic mercy seat, presence of God. The sins of the people were confessed on the head of the second goat, the scapegoat (the Asazel).

The goat was led from Jerusalem over the Mount of Olives. At a certain point the priest would stop and look over the Temple wall, over the Court of Israel wall, through the open Nicanor Gate to the open door of the Temple. His eyes would look back to the symbolic presence of God as he confessed the sins of the people on the head of the goat while ascending the Mount of Olives.

The goat was then led to the top of the Mount of Olives where a man stood with a huge white flag, the size of a bed sheet. Men with flags were stationed on the hills due east of the Mount of Olives along the route the priest took the goat.

When they came to a cliff, the goat was blindfolded with the red scarf so it would not be frightened and was then pushed off the cliff to a sudden death. This was necessary so the goat would not find its way back to Jerusalem.

A piece of trivia, but the way to say, “go to hell” in Hebrew is to say, “join the scapegoat.” When the scapegoat was pushed over the cliff, the men stationed along the route raised the white flags and within a matter of seconds revealed the information that the ceremony had been completed. The people then gave thanks to God for forgiveness that their sins had been “separated as far as the east is from the west.”

Fleming, James W. 2002. Desert Spirituality. Biblical Resources Conference Lecture Series, June., pgs 86-87

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


And they shall no more offer their sacrifices unto devils (satyrs), after whom they have gone a whoring. This shall be a statute for ever unto them throughout their generations. Lev. 17:7

"Satyrs" literally means “goats.” They were deemed to be sylvan gods or demons who inhabited waste places (Isa. 13: 21; Isa. 34:14). The worship of the goat, accompanied by the foulest rites, prevailed in Lower Egypt. This was familiar to the Israelites, and God desired to wean them from it (cf. Josh. 24:14; Ezek. 20:7).

(Hertz, Dr. J.H., The Pentateuch and Haftorahs, 2nd Ed., Soncino Press, London, 1992, pg 486)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Horses In Your Dreams

Horses, among other domesticated animals, had meaning in Jewish folk literature also.

Trachtenberg quotes from a thirteenth-century work, Ets Chayim (The Tree of Life). The excerpt is discussing omens, especially those in dreams to determine the interpretation of a dream.

As we know, since the time of Joseph, Jewish dream interpretation has been considered most important: “...A white horse is a good omen; a red horse a bad, he will be hounded and pursued; a donkey, he may be confident of salvation...”

(from Trachtenberg, Joshua. Jewish Magic and Superstition: A Study in Folk Religion. New York: Atheneum, 1970, p. 239)

Monday, April 4, 2011

Fish Talk

And the LORD spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land. Jonah 2:10

[Donna: Mark McWhorter wrote this for children and I thought it was a fun insight for adults as well.]

"There are some in the religious world today who are saying some wrong things about God. They say that God did not really give us specific things in the Bible to know and obey. They say that we cannot know what God wants us to do.

These individuals think that God is so smart and so intelligent that we cannot possibly understand what He wants us to do. They believe that there is no way that God can get down on our level of thinking to say what He wants us to know. So they say that He just gave us some cloudy principles to learn.

Some who teach this, say that there is God talk and then there is man talk. And that there is no proper translator between the two.

But there is a scripture in Jonah that show all of this thinking to be wrong. In Jonah 2:10, we read, “And the Lord spake unto the fish, and it vomited out Jonah upon the dry land.” Does that sound like God had a hard time telling the fish what to do? Does that sound like the fish did not understand what God told it to do? A fish is not near as smart as one of us. God made us a lot smarter than any fish.

In Jonah 3:1-2, God tells Jonah what he wants him to do. Jonah had just been vomited up on dry land by a fish. Did Jonah have any trouble understanding what God wanted him to do? Did God have trouble telling Jonah what He wanted him to do? Do not let anyone tell you that God has trouble telling us what He wants us to do. God created us. If He created us, He surely can talk to us in language we can understand. And He created us with a mind to understand what He wants us to do to obey Him. "

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

Friday, April 1, 2011

Unfailing Watchcare

Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep. Psalm 121:4

A fish's eyes never close, so they are taken to represent the watchful care of our Heavenly Father for his children. Ellen Frankel tells us more:

"Because fish dwell in the depths, they have traditionally been associated with awe and mystery.

Fish are also associated with fertility because of the vast quantity of eggs they lay. When Jacob blesses Joseph’s two sons, Ephraim and Manesseh, he says: “Let them multiply in the midst of the earth.” The Hebrew word for “multiply”—ve-yidgu—is derived from fish—dagim. …

The rabbis pointed out that just as the sea protects fish from the Evil Eye by covering them, so too the Evil Eye has no power over the “seed of Joseph,” the Jewish People, because Jacob blessed Joseph’s two sons, and all their descendants, by comparing them to fish (Berakhot 20a)."

(Frankel, Ellen, and Betsy Platkin Teutsch. 1992. The Encyclopedia of Jewish Symbols. Northvale, NJ: Jason Aronson Inc., pg 55)