Things Change, Don’t They?

I’m not a Bible scholar and I’ve never taken a course on the history of the Middle East, but I think contemporary understanding of the Bible might be missing an important truth: things change.

For example, I believe land topography changes. Just this summer I saw a news item on TV showing how much the drought here in the Midwestern US had dropped the level of certain lakes. That was in one year. Imagine what would happen over a period of three years in a land with no irrigation.

So I look at a map and think, Why couldn’t the Red Sea actually have stretched all the way to the Mediterranean during the time of Moses? Think, too, about the effect of the devastating plagues on the land. Was there even a Sahara Desert in Egypt before the locusts and hail and tainted river water?

Those who experienced the brunt of the recent “super storm,” Sandy have come away saying “Mother Nature” is more powerful than we are. The wind and rain and waves tore up man-made structures, but also uprooted trees and washed away coast land.

Imagine what forty days and forty nights of super storm could do.

I read the Bible and see Samson killing a lion not far from what today is the Gaza Strip, I read about deer and other wildlife not known to flourish in and around Israel, and I think, why couldn’t those animals have lived there when the vegetation was different? I read about all the variety of trees and forest areas various people cleared and the fruit trees the Israelites were instructed not to cut, and I think, things have changed.

I think the same could easily be true about culture. How many times have I heard sermons describing the plight of women in Israel–except, the Bible doesn’t seem to give the same picture. I wonder if some of these ideas about what life was like for women then haven’t been influenced by what life is like for women in the Middle East now.

They were subservient, many teaching the Old Testament claim. How do we explain the judge Deborah? Or Abigail who saved her husband and all that belonged to him by taking action herself? What about Jael who single-handed killed a fleeing opponent? How about the woman who defended her city by throwing down a millstone from the wall? Or the city whose leader was a woman? What about Athaliah who took the throne in Judah for six years? Or Jezebel who was the power behind Ahab’s throne? Obviously not all the women who took power or leadership were good. The point is, they are far more prevalent than you’d think if the culture had such a strict attitude toward women and their subservient place in society.

The New Testament is similar. Aquilla, for example, took his wife Priscilla with him to evangelize. Paul was confronted about going to Jerusalem by Agabus who had four daughters, all prophetesses. Anna prophesied in the temple over the baby Jesus. And as an adult He Himself spoke to women frequently, and in public. Paul counted women like Euodia and Syntyche as fellow workers. Nympha hosted a church in her house. Paul noted the faith Timothy’s mother and grandmother had. Lydia was a business woman as well as a leader in her community.

Granted, some of these women lived and traveled in areas heavily influenced by Greek culture. But that reinforces my hypothesis. Culture changes, often because of the influence of other cultures. This principle was one God warned Israel about. They were to avoid intermarrying with pagan women so they wouldn’t become idol worshipers themselves.

Things change. Land changes. Culture changes. And people change. No one is a better example of this last fact than Paul who went from murdering those following Christ to evangelizing people for Christ. Unless you count Peter, denying Christ one day and preaching Him before thousands a couple months later. How about the believers in Corinth who went from approving of immoral behavior in their midst to repenting and disciplining the one living in sin. Or Onesimus, Philemon’s slave who ran away, only to come back because He came to faith in Christ and Paul sent him back.

Too often I think we read the Bible as if things then were just like they are now. And I think we look at things now as if they will always be like they are. Unless, perhaps, they get worse.

Believing that things, land, culture, people don’t change ignores the power of God. Thankfully the Bible is full of examples to the contrary.

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4 Comments

  1. In Junior High our family took a trip to Israel. So when I read a passage about the towns, the rivers, seas, or the deserts, I visual what I saw without much thought to how different it probably looked like in the Bible times. Thanks for the post.

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    • I’ve seen pictures and movies of the Holy Lands, Bob, and it began to get under my skin that the things I saw didn’t mesh with what I read. Bu then it dawned on me–with drought, with flooding, the terrain would naturally change. So I’ve taken to visualizing Old Testament Middle East a lot more like modern day Kenya than Egypt. It seems to fit the facts more. 😉

      Becky

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  2. Topography changes, but the laws of physics do not. Societies change, but the message of Christ does not. I wonder, changing the subject, if you would consider putting a date on your posts? I hadn’t visited in a while, clicked on what might be a Home, and got a screen with no dates to orient me if you were still currently posting. Thanks!

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  3. Thanks for taking the time to comment. Great point about the message of Christ staying the same. Amen and amen!

    I know how irritating it can be to read a post and have no idea when it was written. This template does include dates, but it’s not easy to find them. They’re below the post with the category, tags, and comments links. You can also access dates by putting your cursor over the calendar in the sidebar. It shows the title of the post for that particular day. Then, too, if you use the “select month” drop down menu, you can access any posts based on dates.

    Hope that helps.

    Becky

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