An Obedient Heart or an Understanding Heart—Which Is It?

So grant your servant an obedient heart to judge your people,” Solomon asked in a dream, “to discern between good and bad, for who is able to judge this numerous people of yours?” (1 Kings 3:9)

Imagine such a request—for an ‘obedient heart.’ From a king!—who normally isn’t concerned with obedience to anything or anyone.

Furthermore, God equates this request for an obedient heart to ‘understanding:’

It was pleasing to Jehovah that Solomon had requested this. God then said to him: “Because you requested this and you did not request for yourself long life or riches or the death of your enemies, but you requested understanding to hear judicial cases, I will do what you asked. I will give you a wise and understanding heart, so that just as there has never been anyone like you before, there will never be anyone like you again. Furthermore, what you have not requested I will give you, both riches and glory, so that there will be no other king like you in your lifetime.” (vs 10-13)

I was just getting ready to comment on this at the midweek meeting when I thought I’d check how other translations put it. We have a handful of them on our own app, some mainstays like King James and American Standard Versions, some eclectic ones like Rotherham and Byington, and a few permutations of our own New World Translation. But for sheer scope, I like Biblegateway.com. Enter your scripture, append “in all English translations” to the result, and you have a list of 54 translations to choose from. It is not “all English translations,” as they say. It is all they have. Rotherham and Byington aren’t there, nor is New World Translation. But it still is a lot. Let’s check how many render 1 Kings 3:9 as “obedient.”

Whoa! None of them do! Well—just one, the Holman Christian Standard Bible. 53 of the 54 translations have something different!

By far, the most frequent rendering is an ‘understanding heart’ that Solomon requested, as opposed to an ‘obedient heart.’ 31 of the 54 versions say ‘understanding,’ with two more saying, ‘a heart that understands’—almost the same thing. The next most common is ‘discerning.’ Some versions change the ‘heart’ to ‘mind,’ as though what Solomon wants is to be the smartest kid in class.

So the New World has an ‘obedient’ rendering that only one other translation has! Did they just write it in? You know how our people like to lay it on with obedience. I was just entertaining the notion that the Witnesses got it wrong when I noticed a handful of versions that suggested they were on to something after all—maybe something others had missed.

The New American Bible—Revised Edition, the one I employed as house Bible in I Don’t Know Why We Persecute Jehovah’s Witnesses: Searching for the Why (because the New World Translation is there declared ‘extremist’) says ‘listening heart.’ The Names of God Bible says ‘heart that listens.’ Oh yeah? Listens to what? Or should it be who?

Indicating it is the ‘who’ to be listened to, the Wycliffe Version reads: “Therefore thou shalt give to thy servant an heart able to be taught, that is, enlightened of thee . . . And the Message Translation, which is sometimes so paraphrased as to veer into ludicrousness, here is spot-on. Solomon requests a ‘god-listening heart,’ it says.

So now I’m thinking that the brothers aren’t so daft after all, that they’re on to something that most miss and nobody but one says explicitly. Hmm. How to research this? Look up ‘obedience’ in the Insight book. There I find that the Hebrew word is ‘shama.’ Is 1 Kings 3:9 one of the places shama is used? The article doesn’t say.

Look up ‘understanding’ in that same encyclopediac work. Nothing.

Okay. Nothing remains than to hop on the great internet with the search terms, ‘1 Kings 9:3,’ ‘shama,’ and ‘obedient.’ This is a little risky because Witness apostates have peppered the internet with a gazillian tirades about how their former religion stinks to high heaven. But in this case, ‘obedient’ is the furthest thing from their minds, and nobody has bothered to weigh in on this particular verse. Instead an article by Daniel Hoffman is pulled up.

“When Solomon prayed for wisdom,” he says, “surprisingly, he did not use the word “wisdom.” What he prayed for, according to the ESV, [Easy-to-Read Version] was “an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil”

There is a Hebrew word for ‘wisdom.’ Solomon doesn’t use it! What word does he use? ‘Shama,’ the one that Insight on the Scriptures identifies as the root word of ‘obedience!’  Quickly the New World Translation has risen from ‘dog of the pack’ to ‘top dog!’

It is not that ‘understanding’ is wrong as a rendering. It’s fine as far as it goes. But it doesn’t go very far. If it does not convey the idea that ‘understanding’ comes from listening to God rather that simply being innately smart it does its readers a great disservice. Here’s how Hoffman puts it:

“So the ESV translation is not wrong. But I think maintaining the literal translation is better in this case. The more concrete “hear” reminds us that wisdom, discernment, or understanding, biblically conceived, is a matter first of all of hearing the word of the Lord. Wisdom in its biblical conception is not an abstract trait that some people just naturally have, but is a result of hearing the word of the Lord and digesting and embracing it.” (He says “hear” because shama has the connotation of hearing someone, in this case God.)

Is it really necessary to go so far as the New World Translation goes (and the Holman Christian Standard Bible) and say ‘obedient.’ No, I don’t think it is. But it just may be the best choice of renderings. After all, what is the point of ‘hearing’ God if you blow off what he says as nothing? Disobedience is afoot today. It is like what was said to Ezekiel: “Look! You are to them like a romantic love song, sung with a beautiful voice and skillfully played on a stringed instrument. They will hear your words, but no one will act on them.” (Ezekiel 33:32)

Ha! The words are a “romantic love song.” They are inspirational—the stuff of stirring song, moving poetry, rousing prose, but as to obeying them? No. And so Dee mentioned to me the other day how she had commented on someone’s ornate religious edifice he was carrying on about, that yes, people have built many beautiful things for God, “but I almost think it’s better when they find out what he wants and obey him instead.” That got her the fisheye from her recipient but I thought she hit the nail on the head. It’s not unlike what Samuel told Saul: “Look, to obey is better than sacrifice.”

That being the case, that obedience is important to God and we live in a time of marked disobedience, and we strive to avoid “the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience,” (Eph 2:2) you can make a case that ‘obedient heart’ is the best rendering of all.

This is not the first time I’ve spotted the New World Translation with a rendering that at first seems suspect but turns out to be superior. Ronald Sider, in his book ‘The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience grumbles that Galatians 5:13 literally reads, “be slaves to each other,” yet most popular translations dilute the verse to a more independence-savoring “serve one another in love”—a rendering promoting disobedience that he says contributes to the deplorable state of his own people, whose overall moral conduct is identical to that of the greater world whereas it is supposed to be a notch above. The New World Translation, however, holds to the original Greek, with “through love slave for one another.”

I noted it here as well with Psalm 22:16, where the New World Translation stuck to the literal Hebrew whereas almost everyone else succumbed to an at least arguably fraudulent reading.

If the New World ranks with the best translations in these three instances, why is it sometimes said that it is the worst? In almost all cases it is because it does not render certain verses in the formalistic, even if less rigorous, way that they must be rendered to support the trinity doctrine—and adherents to the trinity take offense. There is such a thing as letting beliefs dictate scholarship, whereas it ought to be the other way around.….

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Painting: ‘The Wisdom of Solomon”—James Tissot

(1 Kings 3:9, which this post expounds on, was included in the recently assigned week’s Bible reading. Therefore this post will fill in for that week’s meeting notes.)

 

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At the New System Dinner Table

“Well, here we are at the New System dinner table. We’ve regaled each other with stories of how we all learned to get along and not take offense at each other’s stupid foibles before the world went more nuts than usual and how it all came in handy later on. And now—knock me over with a feather!—here with us is one of the faithful ones of old. Bob, we know you were a guard but you can uncuff him. He’s okay. (Sorry, he’s still learning to be trusting.) We all have so many questions to ask.”

Mephibosheth: Yes I can see you all have many questions. And I’m ready to answer them. Fire away. Do you want more details on how I said about that liar Ziba who tried to flimflam me, ‘Let him take it all!’ because I was so overjoyed that King David (who foreshadows Jesus) had been restored to his throne? Pretty slick move, huh? Want to know more about that?

Tablemates: Not just yet.

Mephibosheth: Well, what then?

Tablemates: What we want it know is, what in the world were your parents thinking when they gave you the absurdly unpronouncible name Meshibofeth? And why didn’t you change it when you came of age? Did you notice how even Brother Malenfont flubbed your name at the Regional? Brother Malenfont! who doesn’t flub anything! He flubbed your name! Seriously, how did you get named that?

Mephibosheth: Well, I’ll tell you. It was just one of those things. Does that answer your question, Tom?

Tom: Perfectly.

Mephibosheth: Good. And now I have a question for you.

Tom: Um—little ol me?—Sure, you can ask but I don’t see what . . .

Mephibosheth: Did you really bust out laughing when you gave that Bible reading with my name four times in as many lines so that Charlie quipped he thought the earth was going to open and swallow the whole congregation because he had never heard someone guffaw during a Bible reading?

Tom: Uh—well—I didn’t really guffaw. I just chuckled a little. I mean, I’d worked so hard on getting your name straight—it was there seven times in the talk, and I did get it straight at first but then in that final passage I messed it up, and—uh—it was sort of involuntary. I didn’t mean it. Sorry.

Mephibosheth: That’s okay brother Tom. Here’s a verse for you that was in today’s WatchtowerStudy. It’s from Luke 12: 47-48:

Then that slave who understood the will of his master but did not get ready or do what he asked will be beaten with many strokes.But the one who did not understand and yet did things deserving of strokes will be beaten with few.”

We know you’re a clueless dope and you don’t mess up on purpose. Of course you are the one who doesn’t ‘understand’ because you don’t understand anything. So we’ll just beat you with few.

Tom: Thank you, Brother Mephiberrpeth

Mephibosheth: You can call me Phib.

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To be continued: here

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Flubbing Mephibosheth

Just look at this monstrosity I’m assigned to read!

So Mephibosheth ate at David’s table like one of the sons of the king.  Now Mephibosheth also had a young son named Miʹca; and all those who lived in Ziʹba’s house became servants of Mephibosheth. And Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he always ate at the table of the king; and he was crippled in both feet.

I mean, can they say it any more? FOUR times that unpronounceable name! What was wrong with Jonathan his dad? Why couldn’t he have named the kid Jon Jr? Throw in the middle name Albatross while you’re at it! And he was crippled in both feet? I’ll be crippled in my mouth after this talk!

Yes yes, I admire the optimism, I said to someone who assured me I could do it, but tell me true: did you name any of your kids Mephibosheth?

Maybe you can go with Mephie, another said.

Good idea. Just like Andy Taylor used to call his nephew Opie when the kid’s real name was Opilakimommaoctolibiario.

Look at it as an opportunity to pronounce it differently seven times, Stephen said.

 

Mission accomplished (sort of). Seven times the unpronounceable name read, including a veritable minefield of 4 at the very end.  He sells seashells by the seashore. “And if I ever have a son, I think I’m gonna name him . . . Bill or George, anything but Mephibosheth.”

 

I flubbed it!  just before the minefield and then laughed at myself for flubbing it. It’s just a tongue twister of a name to say fast and repeatedly. “I’ve never actually seen a brother chuckle at such times,” said one bro as he braced himself to see if anyone would be smited like Urijah grabbing the ark.

“I think the angels chuckled with you and were proud of your effort as well as all the others who gave this assignment around the world 🌎.   Even when you think you are losing, you’re winning in our eyes, especially Jehovah’s eyes,” said one sympathizer. I admit I had not thought of myself that way, as sort of a Geico lizard mascot to everyone else assigned that reading.

Said Murray: ‘You are not alone my brother. I did not have any dealings with that part this week. I was householder on the study portion, but two of the brothers who had to use the name had serious muble with their trouths & got their murds wixed up. He will need a name change upon his ressurection I reckon.’

“Is there anyone remaining of Saul’s house to whom I can extend loyal love, perhaps by giving them a name change in case it is Mephibosheth?” David probably said in a beta version of the Bible that has vanished. 

Yikes! No sooner do I flub the Meshibosheth minefield (2 Samuel 9) then I see this week’s Watchtower study title: “Are You “an Example . . . in Speaking”?  Theme scripture: Become an example to the faithful ones in speaking.”​—1 TIM. 4:12.

Way to rub it in.

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Are We Looking at a Bait and Switch?

In the manner of the Lord’s death, Roman soldiers break legs to hasten death. But they don’t do it to Jesus. He is already dead. The apostle John says: “In fact, these things took place for the scripture to be fulfilled: ‘Not a bone of his will be broken.’” (John 19:36)

He is quoting Psalm 34:20: “He is guarding all his bones; Not one of them has been broken.”

Yet, if you read the verse in its Psalm 34 context you would never get the impression that the subject dies.

They cried out, and Jehovah heard; He rescued them from all their distresses. (17)

Jehovah is close to the brokenhearted; He saves those who are crushed in spirit. (18)

Many are the hardships of the righteous one, But Jehovah rescues him from them all. (19)

He is guarding all his bones; Not one of them has been broken. (20)

Disaster will put the wicked to death; Those hating the righteous will be found guilty. (21)

Unbroken bones runs parallel to ‘rescued from all distresses,’ ‘saves those who are crushed,’ and ‘rescued from all hardships.’ If you’re rescued from all your distresses, you don’t expect to die. The only one who dies is ‘the wicked’ of verse 21, the one ‘hating the righteous!’

Hmm.

Are we looking at a bait and switch? 2D95125F-6A6D-4B31-9BDA-2CECD47C1F21 Is John doing some ‘quote-mining,’ pulling a verse out of context? Better to think that in applying it to Jesus he adding a new dimension to Psalm 34:20. Was Jesus’s life unbroken? Anyone seeing him impaled, his disciples included, would have to say no. What was unbroken, however, was his integrity.

Bones likened to integrity works pretty well. What gives a body ‘integrity’? What makes it stand up? Bones. Break the bones and it no longer stands.

Bones are often not literal in scripture. They can be “filled with dread,” in the case of a fearful person. (Job 4:14) “Jealousy is rottenness to the bones.” (Pr 14:30) On the bright side, “pleasant sayings are . . . a healing to the bones.” (Pr 16:24) The fear of Jehovah is ‘a refreshment to the bones.’ (Pr 3:8) In all of the above, ‘bones’ are symbolic.

But if the bones that not one will be broken are not literal then probably the other items of Psalm 34 are not literal either. ‘Rescued from all your distresses?’ You may still die, but with your integrity unbroken. It’s a little like the sparrows that “not one of them will fall to the ground without your Father’s knowledge.” That doesn’t mean they don’t fall to the ground. It just means God knows about it. This is a downright bummer to those whose sole focus is the present life, and it’s a bit of a check even for those whose is not

Still, in the long run, integrity is life. Jesus was resurrected. Those who keep integrity toward God, though they die, are resurrected. They may yet live forever, just with a little hiccup at the beginning.

This brings no comfort to those whose sole horizon is the short run, but it does to those who have the big picture. See what a difference your time frame makes. People do die in this system of things. Sometimes your faith gets you out of a jam even now, and when that is the case—well, you won’t hear me complain about it. They throw Felix into the hellhole (related Saturday AM at the Pursue Peace Convention) where prisoners are broken, and he emerges with the toughest one of them saying, ‘If anyone messes with you, they’ll have me to answer to.’ It’s his faith on display that protected him, in combination with qualities engendered by the Word of faith—don’t repay evil for evil but repay evil with good, consider others as superior to oneself, treat others with deep respect, keep a primary eye, not on your own concerns, but that of others.

The qualities instilled by application of Bible principles go a long way in safeguarding a person. They are very hard to instill in the absence of Bible study, since they go so contrary to the dominant spirit today. Even now, they bail a person out of trouble. But when they don’t, one is fortified by knowing that keeping integrity means resurrection, and resurrection means life. That confidence, in turn, strengthens the resolve not to break one’s integrity. All the people manipulated to do terrible things through fear of being killed themselves, whom Bro Sanderson spoke of? Doesn’t happen to those who trust in God.

One’s time frame makes all the difference. ‘Keep your eyes on the prize,’ as the song taken from 1 Corinthians 9:24 says. Make life in this system count, but even so, know it is not the ‘real’ one. John Maynard Keynes, the economist, shot back at those who insist the economy would always revert to normal ‘in the long run’ with, “In the long run, we’re all dead.”

He is right with regard to the time frame of persons whose sole reality is the present system of things. But in the time frame of those who trust in God, it is, “in the long run we all live.”

 

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The Forest in Symbolism and History

Could this really happen?

“Absalom was riding on a mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a large tree, and his head got entangled in the big tree, so that he was suspended in midair while the mule he had been riding kept going.” (2 Samuel 18:9)

That’s one bad boy of a tree is all I can say!

Maybe the problem was the mule. 9966A8AB-262E-4143-B56A-46A12C52ABD9 “A mule will labor ten years, willingly and patiently for you, for the privilege of kicking you once,” wrote William Faulkner. Absalom’s mule may not have kicked him, but it sure did do him dirty, hanging him up so hit man Joab could off him.

Maybe it was was the forest. You ‘can’t see the forest for the trees,’ but in this case Absalom can’t see the tree for the forest. 20,000 combatants died and “the forest devoured more of the people than the sword did on that day,” says the verse just prior (8). Maybe it was one of those ‘Lord of the Rings’ forests.

‘Lord of the Rings’ forests are built on a solid tradition of forests being treacherous, even places where the Devil hangs out! 116BEC57-458D-4F1F-B90F-A5EF81889517Mistress Higgins is forever trying to lure folks into the forest for unsavory shenanigans with ‘the Black Man.’ (The author of the Scarlet Letter, Nathanial Hawthorne, modeled her after a real person, Ann Higgins, who was executed for witchcraft in 1656.) That forest was one foreboding place, where “the boughs were tossing heavily above their heads; while one solemn old tree groaned dolefully to another, as if telling the sad story of the pair that sat beneath, or constrained to forebode evil to come.”

But at the same time, push deeply enough into the forest and break freeeeee! or at least settle for that illusion.

Backward to the settlement, thou sayest!” Hester remonstrates with Dimmesdale. “Yes; but onward, too! Deeper it goes, and deeper, into the wilderness, less plainly to be seen at every step; until, some few miles hence, the yellow leaves will show no vestige of the white mans tread. There thou art free! So brief a journey would bring thee from a world where thou hast been most wretched, to one where thou mayest still be happy! Is there not shade enough in all this boundless forest …

Guelzo (without quoting Hawthorne—that’s mine) points to early writers of American history with this Janus-view of the forest. (Janus—the ‘two-faced’ god facing both left and right) Fearful, on the one hand, but promising on the other. Though the ‘promising’ is for an ‘unpromising’ reason. Press into the forest deep enough and you can escape your own screw-ups from the past! The early American view of history according to Guelzo? “Don’t have any, don’t need any, don’t want any.”.  In new America, the “human experiment” can begin anew!

(“Gimme that fruit!” Adam said. “Let the ‘human experiment’ begin!” ‘No, no, no,’ God tacitly says. ‘You’ll screw it all up! Trust me on this, you do not want to usurp the duty of telling good from bad!’ ‘Nah,’ comes the reply—what can go wrong?)

It’s not winners who came to America. It was losers, those driven out for religious reasons, crushed by financial reasons, or refugees from ‘man dominating man to his injury’ reasons. The first settlers “were radical Puritans who were looking for a way out from under the thumb screws of the Church of England. It was only after every other avenue of escape [was] closed off to them that . . . they turned to those vast . . . countries of America” (Guelzo) And “looking over the bow of the Mayflower what could they see [but a] hideous and desolate wilderness full of wild beasts and wild men. Why, said [William] Bradford, even the air, diet, and drinking of water in America would infect their bodies with sore sicknesses and grievous diseases.”

That forest was a dangerous place, make no mistake. It remained ever dangerous in waves of westward expansion, though fear was mixed with growing confidence as humans invented, and then led, with bulldozers Upon reaching the coast and finally conquering the forest, what remains?

“Space—the final frontier,” intones James T. Kirk, introducing a show that would have been dead on arrival were it not for Lucille Ball. The forests are all conquered, some trees rounded up for a ‘tree museum’ for which you must pay a dollar and a half just to see ‘em! (Joni Mitchell) Space is the new frontier. Boldly going where no man has gone before! What is discovered out there? Guys that look just like us, save for pointed ears. Is that evolution great stuff or what!? Pour me a double-shot of it!

What do aliens gain from their new contact with humans? “One damn minute,” Spock pleasantly responds to one of Captain Kirk’s commands. He’s learned to swear! He had just spent the entire 45 previous episodal minutes on 20th-century earth; he had time-traveled there for some reason and Kirk had told him to use profanity. Keep tuque pulled over ears, swear, and they’ve never know you’re not one of them, he tells the Vulcan.

What a stupid, brain-dead, ignorant stab at science fiction prophesy! How unrealistic! However, had he said, ‘One f**ken minute,’ the forecast would have been spot-on. That’s the course ‘evolution’ has taken.

They didn’t learn that in no forest. No way. They were in all their civilized glory when they adopted that new norm.

To be continued:

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Flash Floods of Worthless Men

Now—THERE’S an image:

“The waves of death broke all around me; Flash floods of worthless men terrified me.” (2 Samuel 22:5)

Flash floods of worthless men.

Not all translations so personalize it but enough do to make it clear that the former are being overly prissy, the latter adding a necessary specification that the former avoid.

A deadly flood was carrying me away,” says English Revised Version. Oh yeah? A deadly flood of WHAT?

the floods of ungodly men made me afraid,” says King James Version

Thank you.

while torrents of abuse from the ungodly overwhelmed me” International Standard Version

Yes.

devil waters rushed over me. Hell’s ropes cinched me tight; death traps barred every exit.” Message 

Oh for crying out loud. Deviate too much into paraphrase and you bring on charges of ‘What have THEY been smoking?’ 

the floods of scoundrels overwhelm me” Orthodox Jewish Version

Yeah! That’s what I’M talking about!

 

This conjures up for me images of Jezebel searching for ‘good for nothing’ men in order to kill Naboth and steal his land, (1 Kings 21:9) as though by posting an announcement on the community bulletin board: ‘Wanted: Good for Nothing Men,’ to which various scoundrels thoughtfully respond, saying, ‘Um—that would be me.’

 

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The Memorial Speaker vs the Theologians

Somewhat better than the secular atheistic-leaning theologians are the ones from a believing background. But considerably worse are those from a fundamentalist background gone ‘scholarly.’ Mercifully, there are not many of them because Bart Ehrman is more than enough, thank you very much. He goes on and on about how Christians in the first century did this or that “because they didn’t want to go to hell.” Sometimes I call him “the Bible thumper who became a theologian but you can still see the Bible thumper in the theologian.” I far prefer some egghead professor discarding anything suggesting divine action because ‘critical thinking’ doesn’t allow that than Bart also discarding and justifying it as a departure from the unreasonable doctrines that because they are unreasonable does not infest the teachings of the secular scholars in the first place. 

He is also the only theologian I would characterize as a “smart-ass theologian.” Hear him go on about the “seven last expressions of Christ on the cross.” (there are that many phrases if you count up the gospels.) It never occurs to him to reconcile them. He takes for granted that since Jesus’ words from one gospel do not appear in another that the writers just interjected whatever words fit their own ‘theologies’ with the conclusion that there’s no way to know just what Jesus said and maybe he didn’t say anything other than ‘ouch.’

Whereas the Memorial speaker last night—I have never heard anyone combine the words this way—stated Jesus’ words at Matthew 27:46, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” then continued to Luke 23:46, “And Jesus called out with a loud voice and said: “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit.” At first glance, these two verses don’t reconcile very well. Would you entrust your spirit to someone who had forsaken you? Then the speaker went on to reconcile them. The withdrawal of spirit (forsaking) was so that Jesus would face the final test of integrity without God’s finger on the scales. One unaided perfect man (Adam) rebelled against God. Another unaided perfect man (Jesus) proves loyal to God. The counterbalance is complete.

That Jesus absorbed this, accepted it, and perhaps figured it out is evident in the saying found in Luke’s gospel, “into your hands I entrust my spirit.” His love for God was such that, even unaided by God’s spirit, he would prove loyal to the end. 

The speaker reconciled the two. Why doesn’t Bart do it? Why don’t any of them do it? The tricky reconciliation is only possible to someone who has an overall grasp not just of scripture but of the main theme of the scriptures. The secular scholarly theologians don’t have that. They haven’t a clue as to the overall theme of the Bible and appear to assume there isn’t any, that it is just a religious hodgepodge of individual ‘theologiies’ competing to outdo each other. 

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Women Must Keep Silent in the Congregation?—How are You Going to Put Lipstick on THAT One?

Women were lightly valued in the ancient Greco-Roman and yes—even the Jewish world. So God goes out of his way to highly value them.

The testimony of a woman was considered near-worthless back then. So God arranges that the two most important newsflashes in history be given to women.

The news that Jesus is the promised Messiah? First given to a woman:

I know that Messiah is coming, who is called Christ. Whenever that one comes, he will declare all things to us openly.”  Jesus said to her: “I am he, the one speaking to you.” (John 4: 25-26) Even the disciples had to jump through hoops for that one. 

Jesus raised from the dead? That bit of intelligence also first given to women:

Why are you looking for the living one among the dead?” the angel asked the women. “He is not here, but has been raised up. Recall how he spoke to you while he was yet in Galilee, saying that the Son of man must be handed over to sinful men and be executed on the stake and on the third day rise.” Then they remembered his words, and they returned from the tomb and reported all these things to the Eleven and to all the rest. They were Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James. Also, the rest of the women with them were telling these things to the apostles. However, these sayings seemed like nonsense to them, and they would not believe the women.(Luke 24:5-11)

They didn’t believe them! Because the testimony of a woman was worthless? The angel doesn’t even bother to correct the men. They’d figure it out eventually, the clods.

And don’t get me going about Jael in the Old Testament, who had the privilege of pounding a tent pin through Sisera’s head! Sometimes guys need that. (Judges 4:25)

So who do you think is assigned the talk explaining the apostle Paul’s words at 1 Corinthians 14:34? Me, that’s who! It’s not the easiest assignment in the world. Just listen to what Paul wrote:

Let the women keep silent in the congregations, for it is not permitted for them to speak. Rather, let them be in subjection, as the Law also says.  If they want to learn something, let them ask their husbands at home, for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the congregation.

I mean, how are you going to put lipstick on that one? How are you going to account for how they speak all the time in today’s Kingdom Hall meetings? The guy doesn’t even try to be politically correct—that’s Paul’s problem! From this verse stem the modern complaints that he didn’t like women and that he was misogynistic.

Well, for a guy who doesn’t like women, he sure applauded enough of them. There is Phoebe, who has proved to be a defender of many, including me.” (Rom 16:1-2) There is Euodia and Syntyche, who “have striven side by side with me for the good news” (Phil 4:2-3) And when Lydia “just made us come,” she didn’t interject, “Not you Paul—you’re a misogynist.” (Acts 16:15)

Women weren’t the only ones told to keep silent in that 1 Corinthians chapter. Men were, too, so that it appears to be a matter of special circumstances. Of gifts of the spirit that were destined to fade away but hadn’t yet in those days of Christianity’s infancy, congregation members who would speak in tongues when no one was around to interpret were to keep silent—what good is a tongue if nobody is around to understand it? (vs 28)

If someone was exercising the gift of prophesy and another started doing the same, one or the other was to keep silent. That way “all things take place for building up,” (vs 26) appropriate since “God is a God not of disorder but of peace.” (vs 33)

Always you have to figure in context for any item of scripture. It appears that the women who were to keep silent in 1 Corinthians 14 were also those of special circumstances. Maybe they were speaking just any old time out of order. Maybe they were challenging congregation teachers—male as a matter of spiritual headship. Maybe they were angling to be teachers themselves. It is not a verse that precludes commenting in the orderly Q & A structure of how meetings are carried on today, the same as men are to do.

So I ran all these points past the congregation in my talk. Afterwards, no women gave me dirty looks. At least, no more than normal.

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The Bridegroom of Blood and Rizpah—Verses to Trip up a Scoundrel

When I wrote the post about deciphering the bridegroom of blood, I didn’t know that those verses were on the program. Thus, it might have seemed that I was making some snarky remark about whatever had been written. I wasn’t. 

My post wasn’t really about Zipporah and Moses, anyway—that is but a side point. The real point is that passages like Exodus 4:24-26 are very hard to explain to people...

Now on the road at the lodging place, Jehovah met him and was seeking to put him to death. Finally Zipporah took a flint and circumcised her son and caused his foreskin to touch his feet and said: “It is because you are a bridegroom of blood to me.” So He let him go. At that time she said, “a bridegroom of blood,” because of the circumcision”

...and that one effect of them existing is that they serve to separate persons conscious of their spiritual need from persons who are not. It is as though a forerunner of ‘separating the sheep from the goats.’

Ida mentioned an ‘apostate’ in her family who was impressed with the Dawkins book, The God Delusion, someone who “was inquisitive in all the wrong ways and too smart for his own boots.” These characters get separated out by such passages, and the others mentioned in the post, like the one of God ‘making’ the blind one (Exodus 4:11) and the one of Jesus’ flesh and blood—true food and drink (John 6:55). The ones too “smart for their own boots“ (my wife says it is their pants they are too smart for) either are excited that they now have a chance to prove their intellect by explaining what it tells us about some technical point that is not spiritual and doesn’t really matter, anyway. Or, they are put off by it, declaring it ‘ridiculous’ and ‘not worth their time’—and you almost wonder if it is deliberate on God’s part to trip them up this way. I think it is. 

I take such ‘bridegroom of blood’ verses, and for the most part I shelve them. I play around with them a little bit, but if you take them too seriously they become like that pebble in your shoe that begins to drive you nuts. Yeah—it could mean a lot of things, and there is not enough detail to know. Besides, they are essentially trivia, something that doesn’t interest me all that much, even Bible trivia. Maybe it should, but it doesn’t. If there is not enough to go on, I make a few stabs at it, glean or salvage what I can, and move on.

It’s far more interesting to me how people are separated out over such passages—and it is roughly according to their heart. I used to illustrate it with a secular parallel: “When Trump tweets that North Korea has launched its nuclear missels, people of common sense will run for the hills. People of critical thinking will run to their keyboards to point out that the idiot can’t even spell the word right.”

Unfortunately, the secular situation has grown so toxic that I can barely use that illustration anymore, though I love it. Trump has been under non-stop attack since he began, he has a sizable ego, a background unlike any politician, a crazy set of hurdles to leap, and he has taken to acting so erratically that you don’t know if he is losing it or deliberately goading his enemies—the list of which grows ever longer with each erratic tweet. I don’t even pretend to know what is going on anymore. Heckuva system for running a country, though.

Rizpah offers another example of how sometimes we try to sanitize verses, whereas I almost think it would be better to say, “Hoo, boy!” and move on. Instead, we almost act as though ones like her are as modern-day Witnesses transposed to a different setting, with concerns intact about dress & grooming, and turning in service time. 

With Rizpah, it’s a worse mess than with Zipporah:

“...the daughter of Saul whom she bore to Adriel the son of Barzillai the Meholathite.  Then he handed them over to the Gibeonites, and they hung their dead bodies on the mountain before Jehovah. All seven of them died together; they were put to death in the first days of harvest, at the start of the barley harvest.  Then Rizpah the daughter of Aiah took sackcloth and spread it out on the rock from the start of harvest until rain poured down from the heavens on the bodies; she did not allow the birds of the heavens to land on them by day nor the wild beasts of the field to come near by night. David was told what Saul’s concubine Rizpah the...”

When this was in our CLAM program, the comment was that Rizpah’s great love for God was such that she would not allow the hung bodies to be devoured by the birds overnight because she had such high regard for his law—as though any other woman would have no problem letting the birds devour the remains of her sons. She probably went insane, is my take, and whether she had regard for the law or not hardly seems the point. 

Now, it turns out that I amazed everyone by knowing all about Rizpah—an obscure character that no one else had ever heard of. The reason for this is that there is a book called Rizpah, by Charles Israel, that I read shortly after coming into the truth. The remarkable thing is that it made Rizpah, one of Saul’s concubines, the pivotal character, and told everything though her eyes. And in her eyes, Saul was the hero, David the usurper, and “the dishonest scribes” had rewritten history to reverse what had really taken place. 

All the events in Bible narrative were covered. What was remarkable is that it all made perfect sense as she told it—events could be seen from that point of view. I’ll have to read the book again to see if I still feel that way—it’s sitting on my shelf now—I just got it from eBay. But it was the first in a series of impressions—sometimes they have grown weaker and sometimes stronger—that things can be presented another way, and that we choose the way we look at them because we choose a view that leads somewhere—if you choose Rizpah’s view, all you are left with are endless beefs about how things ‘should’ have been.

For me, this carries over as to how we view ‘apostates.’ Things can be seen from their point of view, but we choose ours because it leads somewhere. We avoid theirs because it doesn’t. Or rather it does, just like Rizpah’s views, but it leads to places we do not want to go because of heart. They do want to go where they go, again because of heart. Head has little to do with it—it is just employed to devise a convincing rationale for what the heart has already chosen.

Our choice: matters of life being decided by Jehovah’s standards. Their choice: “The way of Jehovah is not adjusted right,” and thus they choose man’s rule (we do, too, have the wisdom to direct our own step!—and even if we don’t, no one’s telling us what to do!) or they choose ‘Jehovah-lite’—(let’s not worry about us being a people for his name. Let’s redefine it as he being a God for our name). In either case, the head is charged to spin no end of arguments to “make it so,” as Picard would say.

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A Get Rich Quick Scheme From Genesis - It Works For Me!

Abraham and his household left Ur and traveled via the Fertile Crescent—up the Euphrates and down the east side of the Mediterranean—to reach the land God said would one day belong to his offspring. He overshot his destination for Egypt because there was a famine in the region shortly after arrival. (Did he say even a little: “Some promised land!”? He had had no problem with famine back home.)

When he eventually returned from Egypt, he was a wealthy man. Where did he get his wealth? From Pharoah! Pick up the account at Genesis 12:10

“Now a famine arose in the land, and Abram went down toward Egypt to reside there for a while, because the famine in the land was severe. As he was about to enter Egypt, he said to his wife Sarai: “Please listen! I know what a beautiful woman you are. So when the Egyptians see you, they will surely say, ‘This is his wife.’ Then they will kill me but keep you alive. Please say you are my sister, so that it may go well with me because of you, and my life will be spared.”

I understand this concern because my wife is also drop-dead gorgeous. I mean, heads snap around when cars pass her by—she nearly causes accidents. And being killed on account of men wanting her? I worry about this every time I venture into Walmart.

“As soon as Abram entered Egypt, the Egyptians noticed that the woman was very beautiful. And the princes of Pharaoh also saw her, and they began praising her to Pharaoh, so that the woman was taken to the house of Pharaoh. He treated Abram well because of her, and he acquired sheep, cattle, male and female donkeys, male and female servants, and camels.”

Wow! And she was such a looker, and Abram was so scared of the Egyptians that he figured they would kill him so as to take his wife, as though wife-stealing was something they would never commit, but murder was. (I gave a talk once in which I observed that Abram was then scared for his wife and his life—I liked the rhyming) This, too, only a man like me, whose wife is also a looker, would understand.

“Then Jehovah struck Pharaoh and his household with severe plagues because of Sarai, Abram’s wife. So Pharaoh called Abram and said: “What is this you have done to me? Why did you not tell me that she was your wife? Why did you say, ‘She is my sister, so that I was about to take her as my wife? Here is your wife. Take her and go!” So Pharaoh gave his men orders concerning him, and they sent him away with his wife and all that he had.”

As observed previously, he had a lot by then. He had cleaned out Pharoah!

Now, I do nothing but study my Bible and I immediately put into practice anything I read. I travel to cities where there are wealthy and powerful men, like Binghamton and Watertown, and introduce my wife to them as my sister. Their eyes bug out of their heads, of course, as soon as they see her, and they lead me to their wall safes on her account, open them up, and tell me to take anything I want. As it turns out, I want quite a bit.

Then they try to put the moves on my wife. She plays it cool, staying just outside of their grasp—we’ve run this scam many times before. Then I manage to let it slip, as though by accident, that she is actually my wife and not my sister at all. They get all nervous thinking that God is going to smite them. Next thing you know, the two of us are on the road, a few million dollars richer, heading to search out another sucker in another city.

Don’t tell me that there is no value in Bible study. Just don’t go there.

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