Welcome message

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.

For more information, see my website: www.biblechild.com

With every good wish - Samuel Martin

Thursday, June 06, 2013

True Eastern Wisdom Is Coming West

True Eastern Wisdom Is Coming West

Human beings have been living in tents for the greater part of human history. In fact, more settled lifestyles of living in houses and cities are fairly new compared to those who have been living in tents. 

Now in more modern times, those who lived in tents were looked down up on as being lower class, uneducated, migrants, uncivilized and a whole host of other names. 

I remember my dad telling me about growing up in central California in the late 1930's. When his family arrived in the Visalia region of central California in 1935, my dad and his family lived in a tent with a dirt floor for several years. This was because they were poor migrants from Oklahoma who fled the Dust Bowl and went to the promised land of California because there was water and work. Dad often commented that he was grateful to have never missed a meal.

But my dad was called names like "Oakie" or "Hillbilly" because he and his family were poor migrants and had to live in a tent. Later on, they did move into a house, but my dad never forgot his roots and spoke about his early experiences in life "camping out" as a lifestyle.  

People who live in tents though have often been looked down on by the upper classes, but those who live in tents are in good company and follow divine examples. Note the following examples. First, the universe itself is likened to a tent which is stretched out.

 Bless the Lord, O my soul!
O Lord my God, you are very great!
You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
covering yourself with light as with a garment,
stretching out the heavens like a tent. (Psalm 104:2 ESV)

The sun itself also lives in a type of a "tent."

 The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
whose voice is not heard.
Their voice goes out through all the earth,
and their words to the end of the world.
In them he has set a tent for the sun, (Psalm 19:1-4 ESV)

First, the LORD, of course, is no stranger to dwelling in tents.
O Lord, who shall sojourn in your tent?
Who shall dwell on your holy hill? (Psalm 15:1 ESV)

Let me dwell in your tent forever!
Let me take refuge under the shelter of your wings! Selah (Psalm 61:4 ESV)

the tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent, (Exodus 31:7 ESV)

When Moses entered the tent, the pillar of cloud would descend and stand at the entrance of the tent, and the Lord would speak with Moses. (Exodus 33:9 ESV)

Now dwelling in tents is definitely what we would have to call something which originates in an Eastern lifestyle orientation. It has a strong historical connection to a patriarchal lifestyle. Note how ancient it is. People from the earliest of times have been living in tents and pursuing a pastoral type lifestyle connected to animal husbandry. Note this text from the earliest part of Genesis.

Adah bore Jabal; he was the father of those who dwell in tents and have livestock. (Genesis 4:20 ESV)

The early Patriarchs mentioned in the Bible also were living in tents and pursing some elements of a nomadic moving lifestyle as the Scriptures attest to on numerous occasions.
From there he moved to the hill country on the east of Bethel and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east. And there he built an altar to the Lord and called upon the name of the Lord. (Genesis 12:8 ESV)

Now many of the customs that these early tent dwelling peoples who often lived in desert areas and practiced animal husbandry have come to the West from the East in the pages of the Bible.

No custom has reached more Western areas which claims an Eastern origin than that of corporal punishment/spanking/smacking. This idea is so well known in the Western world and people who today champion this practice point to the Bible and its history as the source for this ageless divine wisdom.

Today, Western religious leaders in particular take it upon themselves to tell their adherents what the Bible means and how to understand what it is that God wants them to do in raising their children.

These Western religious leaders continue the traditions of Western churchmen telling Eastern churchmen the truth. We have many examples of this in the early history of the Christian Church and it continues today. Those who symbolically dwell in houses continue to look down on those who dwell in tents.

But what do the tent dwellers have to say to those dwelling houses? What do the voices crying from the wilderness say to those dwelling in cities? This is the question we are asking in this post.

Now, before we ask this question, we have to have some basic orientations (a term which in itself tells us to look eastward) concerning how we are going to look at this issue.

1. I think that most of us will agree that Church leaders living in Western countries are going to have a very limited connection to Eastern culture and Eastern ways of life preserved in rural, desert dwelling communities of the Near East.

2. While those people who do live in Eastern regions and pursue lifestyles which are similar to ancient Biblical culture, we have to admit that there are some differences to the lifestyles that these people pursue today and how they connect to those of ancient times. However, having said that, it is obvious that as far as geography, custom, culture and lifestyle is concerned, those who pursue pastoral and patriarchal type lifestyles in the Near East today have a connection to Biblical culture which is more real than those people who live in modern cities in the developed world. I think most people would agree that this assertion is reasonable.

With these two points, let’s begin asking what can we moderns learn about raising our kids from these desert, pastoral nomads?

This was the question that I began to ask myself some 20 years ago when I first began to study the issue of what does the Bible mean in the book of Proverbs when it talks about "sparing the rod". (Proverbs 10:13, 13:24; 19:18; 23:13,14) Does it mean what Western Churchmen are telling us it means?

Now, I knew that the book of Proverbs itself was a very ancient book that had its roots in ancient Near Eastern Culture. Note the following, which I have quoted in my free ebook concerning a section of the book of Proverbs, which is very important to this issue and its Eastern origin. In this regard, I am going to refer to a part of Appendix Two written by my late father in his book, "Restoring the Original Bible,"(1) which speaks directly about the Eastern origins of one section of the book of Proverbs, which ancient Biblical scholars who study these matters are well aware of. The section under consideration is found in Proverbs 22:17 to 24:22.

"This is one of the most interesting sections in the whole of Proverbs. One who reads the King James Version would hardly realize that a new division was being introduced but it is clearly evident in the original text. Division Three actually begins in the middle of chapter 22. The title to it is found from Proverbs 22:17 to 21. Let us look at it. [It must be understood that the verses that now follow are not individual proverbs in themselves. They represent a superscription to Division Three.] 

Bow down thine ear, and hear the words of the wise [plural: wise ones], and apply thine heart unto my knowledge. For it is a pleasant thing if thou keep them [the following proverbs of Division Three] within thee; they [these particular proverbs] shall withal be fitted in thy lips. That thy trust may be in the Lord, I have made known to thee this day, even to thee. Have not I written to thee excellent things [or, as the Revised Standard Version has it: thirty sayings] in counsels and knowledge, that I might make thee know the certainty of the words of truth; that thou mightest answer the words of truth to them that send unto thee?

After this long introduction, we then find the first proverb of Division Three. It is Proverbs 22:22,23.

"Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the afflicted in the gate: for the Lord will plead their cause, and spoil the soul of those that spoil them."

There are actually thirty sections to this Third Division (Proverbs 22:22 to 24:22). The Revised Standard Version, the New English Bible, and most modern translations realize that this is the meaning of the key words in Proverbs 22:20. Why do they know this? The Hebrew of Proverbs 22:20 could be stretched to mean thirty from the use of the word excellent. But there is even a greater assurance that thirty sayings is the correct rendering because this section of Proverbs has been found to have existed even among the Egyptians.

There is an ancient document in the British Museum (a writing of the early Egyptian priests) which is a parallel to the Third Division of the Book of Proverbs. [A portion of the text is also found on a writing tablet now in Turin, Italy.] It is called The Instruction of Amen-em-opet (or, Amenophis). The date when the original Egyptian work was written has been disputed some say before the time of Solomon, others afterwards (See Ancient Near Eastern Texts, pages 421-424 for more information and the recording of the complete Egyptian text.) The Egyptian version differs in some respects from that in the Book of Proverbs, but there can be no question that the two documents are really the same. And interestingly, the Egyptian version says there are thirty parts to it.

If the Egyptian text is earlier than that of Solomon, it could well be that it was a product of the time when Joseph and the sons of Zerah were in Egypt and writing many of the wise sayings of the past. It is well within reason that many of these early philosophical works of the Israelites (while they were in Egypt) or of other wise Egyptians could have been maintained for long periods of time among the Egyptians. There is another Egyptian proverbial text called The Instruction of the Vizier (the chief minister) Ptah-Hotep that sounds so much like the writing of Joseph both in its teaching and the subjects of the text and a historical identification may in some manner be possible. We are told that the time of Joseph and the sons of Zerah was that of much literary activity in Egypt. And since The Instruction of Amen-em-opet has found inclusion within the biblical Book of Proverbs (22:22 to 24:22), it may well be that this section of Proverbs may date back to the time of Joseph as well as Division One (Proverbs 1:7 to 9:18). This would mean that the Book of Proverbs is truly an international collection of many wise sayings from a number of ancient philosophers and sages of the past.

It could be interesting to compare some of the statements in our Book of Proverbs with those found in the Egyptian version, [It must be recalled that there is not exact agreement in every detail. This shows that editing of material was done on a wide scale so that the messages within the Proverbs could be maintained in a particular context.] In the introduction of Division Three in the Book of Proverbs there is the statement (in the King James Version) concerning excellent things (verse 20). There is a vague connection with the word three or possibly thirty associated with the original Hebrew word. But in the Egyptian version it is clearly thirty sayings. This agreement has even helped scholars to know what the biblical book means.

There are other parallels.

The Book of Proverbs compared to The Instruction of Amen-em-opet

Rob not the poor, because he is poor: neither oppress the
afflicted in the gate (Proverbs 22:22).

Guard thyself against robbing the oppressed and against
overbearing the disabled (Ancient Near Eastern Texts (ANET), p.421a).

Make no friendship with an angry man; and with a furious man
thou shalt not go (Proverbs 22:24).

Do not associate to thyself the heated man, nor visit him for
conversation (ANET, p.423a).

Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand before
kings (Proverbs 22:29).

As for the scribe who is experienced in his office, he will find
himself worthy to be a courtier (ANET, p.424b).

When thou sittest to eat with a ruler, consider diligently what
is before thee (Proverbs 23:1).

Do not eat bread before a noble, nor lay on thy mouth [be not
gluttonous] at first (ANET, p.424a).

Labour not to be rich: cease from thine own wisdom (Proverbs

Cast not thy heart in pursuit of riches, for there is no
ignoring Fate and Fortune (ANET, p.422b).

These are just a few of the parallels that can be found between the biblical Book of Proverbs and this papyrus document found in Egypt. These remarkable points are valuable in showing that there was much interchange of proverbial material among those of the Middle Eastern countries. Indeed, there is an Aramaic work (in the language of the Syrians) which dates to the fifth century before Christ which has a section very similar to that of Division Three of our Book of Proverbs. It is from The Words of Ahiqar.

The Book of Proverbs compared to The Words of Ahiqar

Withhold not correction from the child: for if thou beatest him
with the rod, he shall not die. Thou shalt beat him with the rod,
and shalt deliver his soul from hell [from the grave.]
          (Proverbs 23:13,14)

Withhold not thy son from the rod, else thou wilt not be able to
save him from wickedness. If I smite thee, my son, thou wilt not
die, but if I leave thee to thy own heart thou wilt not live.
     (ANET, p.428b)

It is not known whether Solomon got his proverbial statements (besides the ones he composed himself) from The Instruction of Amen-em-opet, but it is clear from what the Book of Proverbs says itself that he gathered together many of the wise sayings of ancient wise men. It could well be that Solomon, and later editors of the Bible, simply garnered together the most valuable of what they considered to be the divine wisdom of the ancients. One thing is for certain. The whole of Division Three has been found in the literary collections of the early Egyptians. This shows that the Bible is far more in line with the philosophical teachings of many ancient wise men than we may have imagined." (Ernest L. Martin, Restoring the Original Bible, Appendix Two: ASK Publications: Portland, OR,1994)

Proverbial collections today found in the Bible have been found in other Near Eastern texts and the similarities are obvious. Considering that there are these regional exchanges and similarities in proverbial statements perhaps other opportunities in looking at proverbial materials even present today in Near Eastern society will yield some interesting information for those who have eyes to see and ears to hear?

Now, today's Western religious leaders are so quick to tell us what God means in the book of Proverbs and this fits into so nicely with what so many are teaching. However, do other points of view regarding these same texts exist in the East? This is a question that I have been asking myself for 20 years and today I am asking it from scholars and experts who have devoted their lives to studying Near Eastern lifestyles. But before we get into some of the answers I have heard, let me give a little bit of my own experience. 

My experiences with nomadic herders here in Israel

When I was a small boy, I lived in Jerusalem for five summers consecutively from 1969-1973. I was quite small at that time, but I still remember it quite well. To learn about why I was there, check out this link from the September 3 1973 issue of Time Magazine -  http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,910753,00.html

Where I live today in northern Jerusalem (since 2001) is exactly where I lived when I was a small kid. Of course, the area has grown quite a lot since then and houses have been built all around us today, but when I was a small kid, it was not that way. It was much less developed and had much more wide open land and on some of those wide open spaces, nomadic pastoral herders lived as our neighbors. 

Today, we still have a few of these neighbors living near my house and I have had some contacts with them as they are my neighbors and I have no apprehension to go and talk to any neighbor.

In addition, we encounter these pastoral nomads in other contexts when visiting other locales here in the Holy Land. One experience I had involved being invited into the tent of a leading tribal leader here near where I live for a short visit. 

I took part in this visit with some other people and we were invited to have tea and speak to this tribal leader about what was taking place in his tribe and community.

He was a very simple but dignified man who had two wives and 19 children. During my visit, the women in his family generally kept out of sight, but later we did meet his wives and his many daughters.

When we were invited into his tent, we sat down and were served by some of his many younger sons who were in there late teens. He sat with his eldest son next to him who generally speaking was being groomed to take his place. 

It was a very interesting experience because this man, who was at least 75, was very much the leader in his home and community and you could see that the society and cultural environment had great influence on the upbringing and socialization of his young sons.

However, then something very interesting to me happened. 

While all of the men in his house were in the tent where the men normally met with other men from his surrounding community meeting with us, a very small girl aged no more than 18 months walked into the tent and started to walk around among the people assembled there.

We all thought she was a very cute little girl and certainly thought that this little girl was a relative of the tribal leader, but after only a minute of her paying attention to us, she then walked over to the tribal leader and he picked her up and said: "my youngest daughter" and smiled.

After visiting more with the tribal leader, we learned from him that he had never visited a doctor one time in his life and relied solely on natural herbs from the desert region where he lived for what ailed him. He was an amazing, very simple and extremely dignified man, but the way he treated his little daughter and how she was allowed to freely walk around even the men's tent was very telling to me. He seemed not to be too worried about controlling that little girl too much and allowed her to walk around even in the presence of guests in his tent. 

I never forgot this experience and it provided the impetus for me to seek out more information concerning how these nomads raised up their kids. So, when the opportunity to do this came yesterday, I took full advantage of it.

A meeting with Professor Clinton Bailey

Many of you many known that I am pursuing my graduate level education here in Jerusalem at www.uhl.ac. For more information, please check out their website. 

One of the courses I have been attending is a graduate seminar course which for the last six semesters has been dealing with the topic "Daily Life in Ancient Times." This weekly seminar course brings the top lecturers from around the world to give lectures on topics related to the seminar.

Yesterday, the speaker was Professor Clinton Bailey. Professor Bailey is one of the world's leading experts on Bedouins and Near Eastern Nomadic culture. He came to speak on the issue of tribal laws relating to murder in modern Near Eastern Nomadic culture. 

Now, Professor Bailey has been studying these Near Eastern Tribal Nomadic cultures since 1958. He is one of the world's leading authorities on these peoples who are today still scattered all over the Middle East and he has travelled far and wide studying these peoples. He is well known and highly respected and one of his areas of particular expertise is in ancient poetry and proverbial statements among these peoples. 

In fact, he has authored a number of books on these subjects and they are available on Amazon. Check out the following:


After a very interesting lecture, I had a chance to meet Professor Bailey and I got to ask him some questions. 

I, of course, was very interested in his experience with these Eastern peoples and in particular how they raised their children.

First, I asked him, considering his expertise on ancient proverbial texts among these people, how did they treat and bring up their children? Now keep in mind that this scholar has been working with these people for over 50 years. His answer staggered me.

What he told me to summarize his opinion, he got out his book and quoted a proverb which he said really captured his fifty years plus experience with these peoples covering numerous countries all over the Near East.

He told me that generally speaking, these peoples were not in any way rough or strict so much with their small children! This was exactly what I had experienced with the tribal leader that I had met in his own tent!

Then, Professor Bailey quoted to me the following proverb (from his own book) which he said captured well his view and experience. It goes something like this.

He said the proverb divided the raising of children into three periods of seven years each.

It said the following:

The first seven years, treat your son mildly
The second seven years, treat him strictly
The third seven years, keep him close to you (to teach him and prepare him for adulthood)
After that, lose the reins and let him run free (like a horse)

This to me was a revelation, but not a surprise. This, in fact, is exactly what I have proposed in my free ebook showing that the Biblical texts in Proverbs were never intended to be implemented on small children (or girls also according to the Biblical texts) and that to apply them to small children under the age of ten or so is just mistaken.

This is Eastern Wisdom and how the Eastern Wise men and women today understand child raising.

How do Western Wise men and women understand it? We all know the stories of those dear misguided people in the spanking/smacking crowd (we all know who they are) who suggest that the time to start the corporal punishment/spanking/smacking is when babies are in arms and still nursing at the breast. This is so disconnected to reality.

This is so far away from Near Eastern wisdom. This is just child abuse in Church dress! 

Let's be clear. Western Church leaders have been getting it wrong for so long and have urged their followers not to look East. However, today, times are changing and the fruit that these dear misguided people have reaped is rotten and people are looking for sustenance on other trees and in other tents. Let us continue to look East back to the land and region where the Bible came from in the first place.

Download Samuel Martin's free ebook - Thy Rod and Thy Staff, They Comfort Me: Christians and the Spanking Controversy here - http://whynottrainachild.com/2013/06/22/download-martins-book/


No comments: