The Death of Absalom Foretold

When you read the Bible you begin to see the story-within-the-story.  What I mean by that is that stories in the histories and prophets of the Tanakh are often first told in the Torah.  These new stories retell the same one in the Torah but add new insights to the precepts of God.  These stories show us the meaning of God’s will in our lives through a lived-out story.  An example is how the rabbis have viewed the story of Jonah as a retelling of Noah, but in an entirely new light.  In Noah, the one man (and his family) was saved from the flood – in Jonah the one man is plunged into the flood.  In Noah, the wicked would be destroyed – in Jonah, the wicked would be saved.  The comparisons can go on and on (perhaps the subject of a future post).  But once you understand this idea of stories being retold in new ways, you begin to see them all over the place.

At our Sunday evening church service, our preacher Gordon Dabbs was continuing his series on David’s life, this week focusing on David’s son, Absalom.  While I listened to his sermon, his words triggered something in my mind and I found a Torah parallel to this story that I will now share with you.  My thanks to Gordon for sharing his sermon which triggered my thoughts.

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God’s Legs

There are many word-pictures in the Bible to illustrate to the human mind what God is like.  One of the biggest we see is God as our shepherd.  I’d like to examine something that perhaps you have never thought of regarding God shepherding His people.

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The Laying on of Hands – S’mikhah

If you are a student of the New Testament then you will immediately recognize the phrase “the laying on of hands,” but you may wonder where this practice came from. Once we read through the Gospels and arrive in Acts we find this peculiar act where the Apostles lay their hands on people and they receive either the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:18), or it is some sort of giving of authority (Acts 6:6). Perhaps the most peculiar thing about this is that people seemed to know what was going on when they did it. In other words: it wasn’t a brand-new process. Rather, this was an established tradition that dates back to the time of the Patriarchs, known as giving s’mikhah.

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Context is Crucial – A Commentary on Mark 12 (part 5)

This is the fifth part of my commentary on Mark 12 as we look at this chapter in its original context.  We are asking the question, “what did this passage of scripture mean to its original hearers?” and it is transformative to our understanding for certain.  Be sure to see the other parts of this commentary too as each builds on the previous.

Part 1 – Setting the Stage: The Sadducees

Part 2 – The New Tenants

Part 3 – Give to Caesar…

Part 4 – A Silly Question

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Context is Crucial – A Commentary on Mark 12 (part 4)

This is the forth part of my commentary on Mark 12 as we look at this chapter in its original context.  We are asking the question, “what did this passage of scripture mean to its original hearers?” and it is transformative to our understanding for certain.  Be sure to see the other parts of this commentary too as each builds on the previous.

Part 1 – Setting the Stage: The Sadducees

Part 2 – The New Tenants

Part 3 – Give to Caesar…


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Context is Crucial – A Commentary on Mark 12 (part 3)

This is the third part of my commentary on Mark 12 as we look at this chapter in its original context.  We are asking the question, “what did this passage of scripture mean to its original hearers?” and it is transformative to our understanding for certain.  Be sure to see the other parts of this commentary too as each builds on the previous.

Part 1 – Setting the Stage: The Sadducees

Part 2 – The New Tenants

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Context is Crucial – A Commentary on Mark 12 (part 2)

This is the second part of my commentary on Mark 12 as we look at this chapter in its original context.  We are asking the question, “what did this passage of scripture mean to its original hearers?” and it is transformative to our understanding for certain.  Be sure to see the other parts of this commentary too as each one builds upon the previous:

Part 1 – Setting the Stage: The Sadducees

In post will cover the question “who are the ‘new tenants’ mentioned in Jesus’ parable”?

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Context is Crucial – A Commentary on Mark 12 (part 1)

Note: This was originally one post, but since it’s over 4,000 words, I decided to break it up into several smaller posts.  I’ll be posting the next parts one per day over the next few days.

Introduction

One of the ministers at my church, Bob Chisholm, told this story to the congregation not too long ago.  He was at a conference on Biblical studies attended by people from many different denominations when he went to a lecture given by a Jewish rabbi.  The rabbi got up to speak and began by telling everyone that what he was about to say would revolutionize his listeners’ studies.  Bob was naturally very intrigued by the idea and listened with great anticipation.  What secret, what kernel of Jewish wisdom would this rabbi impart to him?  The rabbi said something akin to, “When you study to Bible, in order to get the best understanding from it, do not ask merely ‘What does this text mean today?’ but rather ask yourself, ‘What did it mean to its original hearers?'”  Bob was stunned, but not because it was so revolutionary, but because he’d been taught that all along at the Harding Graduate School.  However, he noticed it was apparently quite shocking to many in the room.  Was it really that foreign of a concept to try to understand what the written Word meant to its original readers?  Apparently so.

In this series of posts I want to show you what understanding the original context of the Bible does for you by taking you through Mark 12.

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The Community of God

America is the pinnacle of western society, an ideology founded by the ancient Greeks.  I do not mean in any way that America is superior to other nations traditionally considered “western” (as opposed to “eastern society”).  What I mean is that as a culture and society, we have completely bought into humanism and materialism.  We are obsessed with everything the ancients were:  education, entertainment, sports, media, and religion.  And in a culture where people are made into icons because of their achievements (or in the case of President Obama winning to Nobel, for intentions), naturally the society begins to turns inwards.  It’s all about me, what I’ve accomplished, and how much attention I can bring onto myself.  “I wanna be somebody!” people say.  I don’t think there’s any doubt that in our culture, “it’s all about me. Me. Me. Me!”

Eastern culture has traditionally been the complete opposite, focusing all about the community.  This is of course changing as the west influences the east more and more.  But eastern culture, and especially Jewish culture, is focused on the good of the community.  This is seen throughout the Bible and is something we tend to forget or overlook.

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