[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.]
Growing up I can remember on a number occasions my dad saying, “No one gives you something for nothing.” He understood that even if someone “gave” you something, someone paid the price for it somewhere along the line.
In Isaiah there is a verse that talks about buying water, milk, and wine without money. Understanding the Eastern culture gives great insight not only into this verse, but also what the verse implies.
It Is A Figure Of Speech
Buying without money and without price is an Eastern figure of speech. It pertains to a merchant in the marketplace who sells his goods. Those merchants would call out the price of their goods. Shoppers would then stop and pay the price for the things they wished to purchase.
There are places like that today in some parts of the world. A few years ago, Kathy and I experienced The Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, which is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with over 1,200 shops. I can tell you they are not shy about calling out to you!
But there were occasions in the Bible times when the merchant would cry out, “Come and buy without money and without price.” When people heard a merchant crying out, “Come and buy without money and without price,” they knew it meant someone was grateful to God for reaching a milestone in their life.
Showing Gratitude To God
When someone in that culture reached a birthday, they celebrated it by doing something nice for other people. They did this to show God their gratitude for being alive, for living another year. Since you cannot see God, bestowing kindness or gifts to others was considered giving a gift to God.
It is really the opposite of our culture. Today when someone reaches a milestone, say an anniversary or a birthday, they expect to receive gifts in honor of the event. But the Eastern culture of the Bible was much different. They celebrated by doing something good for others.
The Price Was Paid
One of the ways someone would do this was to go to a merchant in the marketplace. He would then pay the merchant for all of his water, or wine, or milk. Once he made his purchase, the merchant in turn began to cry out, “Come and buy without money and without price,”
Those that hear the merchant crying out, and especially those who are needy, can come and “buy without money.” It is free to them, but the price has been paid. The benefactor would stay at the merchant stand as people came to “buy without money,” so that they could express their thanks to the one who paid the price.
A Deeper Meaning
In the days of Isaiah, everyone understood this Eastern figure of speech. But it goes much deeper than selling water, wine, or milk. Isaiah prophesied much about the coming redeemer.
Mankind could never pay the price necessary for redemption. So, God gave His Son as payment for all of mankind. The price was paid and all legal claims were satisfied.
Because of the completed work of Jesus Christ we can have salvation at no cost to us. That’s why the Bible says that we are saved by grace. Eternal life is a free gift to us.
My dad was right; someone always pays the price. And just as those who “bought milk without price” expressed their thanks to the benefactor who paid the price for them, we too can express our thanks to God Who paid the price for us.
Ho, every one that thirsts, come you to the waters, and he that has no money; come you, buy, and eat; yes, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.
Feel free to leave a comment, even if it’s a fishing story of your own. I have a few of those and maybe you do too. We’d love to hear what you have to say.
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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 by Bishop K. C. Pillai. I have had the pleasure of listening to 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)