I know the saying I’ve heard many places, “Never quote/read a Bible verse.” The meaning is of course to emphasize the word “a” and point out that all verses have context. Although that is true, I don’t think that means we can never read just one verse and get a clear meaning or teaching out of it. Here’s a pretty neat verse, though:
50:12- “If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the world is mine, and all that is in it.”
In context (50:9-13), you can see that it is surrounded by God noting that God has no needs, that God does not need to eat or drink, and the like.
In the Ancient Near East, sacrifices were often thought to be providing the needs for the gods. Here, in context (50:8, 13), it is clear that YHWH is distinguishing Himself from those alleged deities. There are no needs God has. Indeed, if God had needs, there would be no need to tell us because all belongs to God already. This is a powerful reminder of God’s sovereignty over all the universe.
There is also no small amount of irony/humor involved in the passage. The irony is centered on the fact of God’s power as well. Supposing that a God who created the entire universe does exist, is it not frankly hilarious to imagine that same deity depending on us to provide food? Against the backdrop of the Ancient Near East (see Walton’s work for an extended look), this makes more sense, though. It was thought that by providing for food and drink for the gods, the one offering the food could free the deity up to take care of more cosmic needs. In stark contrast, the God of the Bible claims not only to be fully capable of taking care of the cosmos, but also asserts there are no needs God has that we can fulfill. It’s an astonishing declaration of God’s might.
It also can provide some degree of comfort: God doesn’t need you. Grace is a gift.
What are your thoughts? How might we take this verse in its ancient context and draw out the humor for today?
As I’m working through the Bible writing a kind of running commentary on it as I go, I continually encounter depths of the material I hadn’t encountered before. One such place is the Samson narrative–one of my favorite stories in the entire Bible. The following is an extended version of one of the notes I put in my running commentary:
In Judges 15:3, having discovered his wife was given to someone else, Samson notes that “this time” he has the right to take vengeance. What does this mean? Is Samson saying that he has a right ‘this time’ as opposed to last (when he took vengeance because of the Philistines getting the answer to his riddle through his wife)? Or does he mean that he has a right ‘this time’ in addition to the last time?
Added dimension: In 14:19 when he strikes down 30 Philistines he does so in the power of the Spirit of the LORD. Further dimension: 14:4 speaks of how the LORD was seeking to confront the Philistines.
It seems to me this must imply that God, in sovereignty, is guiding the events towards an end God desires. Given this, we may be tempted to say Samson’s right is indeed a right to vengeance–a divinely given one. But it is possible God is also using this (clearly) sinful man in spite of the sinfulness of his behavior, including his desire for vengeance (which belongs to God alone).
Which interpretation do you think is correct? Why?