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Dear friends,

Welcome to my blog. I am honored to have you visit. I hope you'll find my articles a blessing. I welcome your input and especially comments and questions.

I write as a Christian from Jerusalem, Israel about Biblical subjects.

I am particularly interested in the subjects of children, families, women's issues, corporal punishment, science and nature as these subjects relate to the Holy Scriptures.

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With every good wish - Samuel Martin

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The lifestyle of Samuel the prophet and the importance of Biblical culture - Part Two

The lifestyle of Samuel the prophet and the importance of Biblical culture - Part Two

Since moving here to Israel, I have become aware of some of my neighbours who live part time near my home. They are known locally as Bedouin. These Bedouins earn their living mostly raising sheep and goats (some also have camels). My neighbours apparently spend their winters in the Jericho region (because it is warm) and in the spring and early summer (when it starts to get too hot for them and for their animals in Jericho), these people pack up their tents and move to higher ground.

In fact, one group of them are my immediate neighbours. They live on the next major hill about one kilometre behind my house to the northwest.  

Some of these people have been living like this since the time of Abraham and even earlier than that going back to the very earliest periods. But, we find that even in the time of Samuel the Prophet, believe it or not, he maintained a similar lifestyle. Note the following text which shows this:

 “And he went on a circuit year by year to Bethel, Gilgal and Mizpeh … Then he would come back to Ramah.” (I Samuel 7:16, 17)

This passage on the surface is a real yawner and there is nothing really being said here. On the surface, one might think so, but when one adds the component of geography and knowledge of the climate of Israel, you start to see that Samuel had some good old semi-nomadic tendencies. Why? Look at the places mentioned. Gilgal: that is down in the Jordan valley near Jericho. That is the place to spend the winter opposed to the cold inhospitable temperatures of Jerusalem (in the mid to high 30’s to low 50’s most of the winter) or Bethel, which is more to the north and higher in elevation (and colder) at over 900 meters (just under 3,000 feet) above sea level.

So, in winter, Samuel would probably be near Jericho (300 plus meters below sea level), then in the spring, he would move west and come up to the hill country of Ephraim and spend some time in Mizpeh (several kilometres southwest of my home) and then maybe move up to coolness of Bethel in mid-summer (900 plus meters above sea level) before coming back to Ramah (1/2 mile east of my house) and then going back down to Gilgal when the rains came.

This “circuit” is similar to what the Bedouin do today. Samuel clearly had a position that was a little different than the Bedouin and he was undertaking different activities to be sure, but when you put some of the geographical and climactic flesh on this skeleton, this text comes to life in a really exciting way.

The point to all of this is that we should, in my opinion, never think that these seemingly unimportant texts might not have important meanings to us. Those texts which we might think are not important at all may have information in them just waiting to be discovered if we will just think about them and work to put the flesh on these skeletons of truth. This is where using geography can be very important. It becomes another discipline to the interdisciplinary approach to scholarship that Bible research really demands if you are going to really study it in depth.

While it is important to know geographical tidbits that help us to better understand the lifestyles and habits of biblical personalities, what is more important for us is to make sure that we understand the cultural practices related to human relations and to be sure we are not mixing apples and oranges. 

This is one of the biggest problems we have today with well-intentioned Bible teachers who are experts in the King James Version of the Bible and know the "thee's", the "thy's" and the "thou's" backwards and forwards, but never seem to step out of these cultural boundaries. Honestly, within these boundaries, some limitations to understanding are present.

It seems they never seem to ask questions like the Ethiopian Eunuch who said "How can I, unless someone guides me?"

Let's use all the tools at our disposal to help us understand that good old Book: the Holy Scriptures. This is definitely what God wants us to do and I believe He will be pleased with us if we honor Him in examining His Scriptures daily (Acts 17:11) with the broadness and variety of tools, due care and diligence that is demanded of the same.

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