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Context is Key!

July 24, 2008

If anyone reads the Bible (or goes to a website opposed to Christianity that likes to post Bible verses that are totally taken without any consideration of context and doesn’t bother to take 5 minutes to research the matter ) they will be surprised to find what seems like troubling verses and stories such as this one from Judges 19:22-30 that says:

22 As they were making their hearts merry, behold, the men of the city, worthless fellows, surrounded the house, beating on the door. And they said to the old man, the master of the house, “Bring out the man who came into your house, that we may know him.” 23 And the man, the master of the house, went out to them and said to them, “No, my brothers, do not act so wickedly; since this man has come into my house, do not do this vile thing. 24 Behold, here are my virgin daughter and his concubine. Let me bring them out now. Violate them and do with them what seems good to you, but against this man do not do this outrageous thing.” 25 But the men would not listen to him. So the man seized his concubine and made her go out to them. And they knew her and abused her all night until the morning. And as the dawn began to break, they let her go. 26 And as morning appeared, the woman came and fell down at the door of the man’s house where her master was, until it was light.

27 And her master rose up in the morning, and when he opened the doors of the house and went out to go on his way, behold, there was his concubine lying at the door of the house, with her hands on the threshold. 28 He said to her, “Get up, let us be going.” But there was no answer. Then he put her on the donkey, and the man rose up and went away to his home. 29 And when he entered his house, he took a knife, and taking hold of his concubine he divided her, limb by limb, into twelve pieces, and sent her throughout all the territory of Israel. 30 And all who saw it said, “Such a thing has never happened or been seen from the day that the people of Israel came up out of the land of Egypt until this day; consider it, take counsel, and speak.”

I’ve been dialoguing with a friend for several weeks about the nature of the Bible and the importance of understanding the context that the passage is written in – here was my brief response to a problem that he had with this passage:

Can I just explain the importance of context real quick when it comes to understanding the Bible? Let’s take a verse that appears to be troubling such as Judges 19:22-30 (posted above). Of course, if you just look at that passage you probably say, “wow, this is awful, I can’t believe this is in the Bible and people believe this.” But let’s look at context – Judges is a book that describes the period of time that precedes Israel (God’s chosen people) demanding a king. But what the book shows is that they had a king (God) but failed to recognize that. Rather than obeying God they wanted a king other than God to obey. This is a consistent theme throughout the book. Chapter 19 begins with a phrase that is used frequently in the book, stressing that the Israelites were not acknowleging God as king: “In those days, when there was no king in Israel.” As a result, there was horrible corruption that characterized what life was like because the Israelites tried to do what was right in their own eyes rather than obeying God. For emphasis, the last two sentences of the book are: “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” The whole point of the book is showing how horrible things got because the people did what was right in their own eyes, and the story quoted above is just one illustration of that. So the point of this passage is not anything like “go and do likewise” or “God commanded this to happen,” but instead a picture of the danger of a society that ignores God. Context is key!

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 24, 2008 9:44 pm

    Excellent post Bryan! Context is key!

    Keep up the good work for the kingdom!

    In Christ,
    Tim

  2. Matthew permalink
    July 28, 2008 3:39 am

    dude…i don’t read your blog as much as i’d like, but it’s awesome…keep it up. it’s encouraging, and i’m sure it helps you solidify your thoughts by getting them “down on paper” or should I say “down on server”

  3. August 2, 2008 10:05 pm

    Tim,
    Thanks brother! I enjoyed checking out your blog as well – keep up the good work!

    Matt,
    Miss you man – hope you’re enjoying KY and married life!

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