Truth in Love 23 January 2022

As my wife and I were doing our Bible Reading the other night, we got to the part of Genesis where Jacob blesses his sons, near the end of his life. As we were reading through the text, I looked over at her and said, “Some of these don’t really sound like blessings at all, do they?” Her response was that most of them sounded more like curses than blessings. Then we looked again at the text. The Bible we were reading from had a heading for chapter 49 that said, “Jacob blesses his sons”. That’s why we were expecting blessings. But the text actually says: “Then Jacob called his sons and said, ‘ Gather yourselves together: that I may tell you what shall happen to you in days to come.’” Aha, did you catch that? These were never intended as blessings, but rather were a prophecy of the future generations of Israel. The sector heading was misleading. So what difference does it make?
Quite often we have a tendency to forget that in our Bibles there are necessarily some opinions of man interspersed with the word of God. Among these are simple things required for translation purposes such as inserting a definitive object (a, an, or the) before a word to make it easier to read in English. Other times, it might involve translating an idiom into a more correct understanding rather than a literal rendition which might have a completely different meaning. (I always use the example that if you asked me for a million dollars and I responded, “Go jump in the lake.”, I wouldn’t actually be commanding you to cast yourself into a body of water. You’d immediately understand that I meant “No” in an emphatic way. Occasionally, there are even words that have taken on different meanings and the translators have had to decide which meaning to use. A classic is the term Holy Ghost. In the 1600’s when the KJV was being written, “ghost” meant “guest” and the idea was that the Spirit of God was a welcome guest in our lives. Through the years, the word “ghost” evolved into an entirely different and somewhat disreputable meaning. So, by the time the ASV came out, the term “Holy Spirit” had replaced the term “Holy Ghost” in our Bibles and remains that way in modern translations. One of the biggest manmade additions to our Bibles has been the chapters and verses which were assigned that way with no apparent reasoning or rationale. It’s quite obvious that the last part of Romans 5 and the beginning of Romans 6 are expressing the same thought and sometimes a verse cuts a sentence in two. And don’t even get me started on study Bibles where someone writes a commentary to tell you what the Bible actually means.
So, back to our dilemma. We quickly realized that these words from Jacob to his sons were not blessings. But they were prophetic. And then we continued reading the word of God, warned afresh to focus on His words and not opinions.