Click on the “picture” of poems to enlarge.
This is the final segment on bible-time pressures to conform to the community’s expectations. This same source I’ve been using to explain cultural differences also explains much about the Bible’s poetry. The above “picture” shows just two examples of poem structures from a huge number of examples revealed in this book. The second half of the first poem shows how structure helped with the conclusion in last week’s blog. Today’s blog will discuss the second poem.
Cultural differences and poem structures together shed much light on many of Christ’s parables. Regarding the foxes having holes,
Aside from this obvious level of meaning…a political symbolism may be involved…the “birds of the air” were an apocalyptic symbol in the intertestamental period referring to the gentile nations. The “fox” was a symbol for the Ammonites… Jesus calls Herod Antipas “that fox” (Luke 13:32) …the political overtones of the sayings of Jesus are often overlooked…. An oppressed people are seldom allowed to declare publicly that they are oppressed. They must talk…in symbols.
Next, the command to go and “leave the dead to bury their own dead,”
If his father had really died, why then was he not at that very moment keeping vigil over the body…? In reality he intends to defer the matter of following Jesus to a distant future when his father dies as an old man…. The phrase “to bury one’s father” is a traditional idiom that refers specifically to the duty of the son to remain at home and care for his parents until they are laid to rest…
Even today this tradition continues. If Middle Eastern families want to migrate to another country,
this specific language used again and again… “Are you not going to bury your father first?” …when a rebellious son tried to assert independence…the father’s final stinging rebuke is… “You want to bury me.”
That’s partly why it was as if the son wanted his father dead already in the Prodigal Son Parable, when asking for the inheritance. It’s why the whole community would’ve taken offense. And the father’s forgiveness is so much more significant than we normally realize. (There’s more here about the Prodigal Son parable, too.)
About the volunteer who first wanted to “take leave of those at my home,”
Elisha, when called to follow Elijah, asked for time to “kiss my father and my mother” (1 Kings 19:20). His request was granted and he even took time to butcher and roast a pair of oxen. Is it not reasonable that this volunteer’s request be granted? The Greek word…can mean “say good-bye to” or “take leave of” …The distinction between the two translations is important in Middle Eastern culture. The person who is leaving must request permission…. This gentle formality is observed to the letter all over the Middle East on formal and informal occasions…. Everyone listening to the dialogue knows that naturally his father will refuse to let the boy wander off…the volunteer’s excuse is ready-made.
Priorities. What are yours?
The above “picture” of poems was scanned from Poet & Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes