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May 2016

Swords into ploughshares

Isaiah 2 The comedian, Bill Hicks, used to joke: “A lot of Christians wear crosses around their necks. You think when Jesus comes back he’s gonna want to see a cross?” It’s not an original point.  The incongruity is obvious: a method of extreme torture and humiliating execution has become the most prominent religious symbol in […]

And it shall come to pass

Isaiah 2 Here’s a lovely piece of over-translation from the KJB.  Six English words are used to render a single Hebrew verb.  They might have simply said “It shall be”.  In fact many times they might have left it entirely untranslated (as many modern translations do).  But we would have missed a beautiful turn of phrase. […]

White as snow

Isaiah 1 “She’s pure as New York snow” goes the song.  That’s to say – not pure at all.  New York snow is quickly sullied by the city’s grit and grime.  But, for the first hour or so, a white blanket covers over a multitude of sins. Isaiah the prophet knew that his people’s spiritual condition […]

My beloved is mine and I am his

Song of Songs 1-3 The bible begins and ends with a wedding (Genesis 2; Revelation 19).  In the middle Christ comes as Bridegroom to win His bride.  Throughout, the LORD is described as “jealous” and his people as either “faithful” or “adulterous.” It’s no surprise then, that when Solomon turns from his exercise in spiritual doubt (Ecclesiastes) to pen the “Song […]

Of making many books there is no end

Ecclesiastes 12 With the threat of electronic media, some traditional publishers may be relieved at this verse: “of making many books there is no end” And students can particularly identify with the second half: “and much study is a weariness of the flesh.”  (Ecclesiastes 12:12) Even wise king Solomon sees the weariness of books and […]

Cast thy bread on many waters

Ecclesiastes 11 This phrase is both “useful” and “dangerous” argues David Crystal in his book, “Begat”.  The reason? Because no-one knows quite what it means! What is “thy bread”?  What are “the waters”?  And what is the outcome that is promised? Cast thy bread upon the waters: for thou shalt find it after many days.  (Ecclesiastes […]

A little bird told me

Ecclesiastes 10:10-20 When we use this phrase it’s often with a wry smile… “Now what’s this I hear about you and a new lady love..?” we tease. “… a little bird told me you were out with so-and-so.” In our modern usage it’s a bit of fun and a playful way of concealing our sources. […]

A fly in the ointment

Ecclesiastes 10:1-9 –  Doctor, Doctor, there’s a fly in the ointment! –  Yes, he’s recovering from a nasty soup burn. Ehem. “A fly in the ointment” is a minor detail that causes major irritation. The phrase has evolved from its biblical origins in Ecclesiastes: “Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth […]

Two are better than one

Ecclesiastes 9 You have to pick your wedding encouragements carefully. The story is told of an uncle who could not make it to the happy day and so telegrammed his greeting as a simple bible reference.  It was 1 John 4:18: “Perfect love casteth out fear.” A word in season, as the good book says […]

Eat, drink and be merry

Ecclesiastes 8 “A man hath no better thing under the sun, than to eat, and to drink, and to be merry: for that shall abide with him of his labour the days of his life, which God giveth him under the sun.”  (Ecclesiastes 8:15) This seems like good advice.  There is nothing better in life than to […]