From the Category, “The Eastern Eye”
[The Bible is an “Eastern” book. It was written many years ago in the “East” which today we refer to as “The Middle East.” As such, there are many customs and idioms that are not familiar to the “Western” mind.
In understanding the Scriptures it is important for us to understand the culture, but it doesn’t mean that we should necessarily follow that culture. Rather, it is in the understanding of the Eastern culture that we gain light and understanding about many things in the Bible.]
In the last Eastern Eye article, I discussed the parable Jesus spoke about a man waking his neighbor at midnight to borrow three loaves of bread. I pointed out the loaves in Bible times were different than our loaves today. The bread in the Bible was round and flat, like a pancake, about the size and thickness of a plate.
The point of the parable was how to pray, as Jesus then said, “And I say unto you, ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you. For every one that asks, receives; and he that seeks finds; and to him that knocks it shall be opened.”
This article is a follow up to that record from the Gospel of Luke. Jesus then said to those who were dads if a son asked for bread, would you give him a stone; or a fish, would you give him a serpent; or an egg would you give him a scorpion? Considering those three questions through our western minds one might wonder if Jesus was asking them if they were really, really stupid. He wasn’t.
Again, the bread in the Bible was round and flat. They stacked these “loaves” on a round stone about the size of the bread and many times they put another flat round stone on top of the bread. Over time, the oil from the bread discolored the stones, and from a distance, they looked like bread. No father would reach over and grab the stone and mistake it for bread and give it to his son.
In Bible times, they caught quite a variety of fish in their nets, and sometimes more than just fish. The serpents Jesus referred to are water serpents that at a glance could look like a fish. A closer examination would reveal if it was a fish or a water serpent. No dad would be so careless as to not make sure it was indeed a fish before giving it to his son.
Scorpions in Bible times were white, black and brown. A full grown scorpion’s body was shaped like an egg. It was white and yellow on the inside. What father whose son requested an egg would mistakenly give him a scorpion?
After asking these three rhetorical questions, those hearing would answer, “Of course not!” Then, Jesus went on and asked, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your heavenly Father give the holy spirit to them that ask him?”
When Jesus said, “you being evil,” he did not mean they were bad people. But on the other hand, none of us are perfect. Jesus once said, “There is none good but one, and that is God.” He was making the point that as a dad, as imperfect as we are, we still give good things to our children and not things that will harm them.
But our loving heavenly Father is the great Giver. Our heavenly Father is good and far surpasses any dad in giving us good things to us when we ask, even to the point of giving the holy spirit.
Having a little understanding of the Biblical culture really opens up this section where Jesus taught about prayer.
And I say unto you, Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.
For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened.
If a son shall ask bread of any of you that is a father, will he give him a stone? or if [he ask] a fish, will he for a fish give him a serpent?
Or if he shall ask an egg, will he offer him a scorpion?
If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall [your] heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask him?
And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
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There are a number of books that you can read to get insight on customs, manners, idioms and meanings from the Eastern culture in which the Bible was written. The best I know of were written by Bishop K. C. Pillai. I have had the pleasure of listening to many recorded teaching by him.
He wrote three books, and they are hard to find, and are usually over priced. But, if you want to you can check this link to see what Amazon has to offer. Light Through an Eastern Window
Another great resource that I have used for years is a book called, “Manners and Customs of the Bible,” by James Freeman. Mine was printed in 1972 and I know they have newer additions. For the newest edition, just click the link and it will take you to Amazon. The New Manners and Customs of the Bible (Pure Gold Classics)