Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘unclaimed piece of land

Customs in the Levant: Figures of speech in the Bibles (March 24, 2009)

Note: The Bibles, New and Old, are packed with parables, stories, and figures of speech based on the customs of the Land in the Levant. 

In the Levant we understand intuitively these figures of speech that the West has hard time to comprehend.  

In the Levant we understand and readily accept the meaning, though it takes a life time to assimilate the true meaning.  

The Bible is packed with stories representing the customs and traditions of the in-land people because the Jews or Hebrew barely had any communication or trade with the coastal urban centers that had versatile and cosmopolitan customs.  Fact is in the time of Moses, Jerusalem was already an urban center 800 years ago. Jesus was born and raised in mostly coastal urban centers such as Haifa, Sidon and Tyr (District of Lebanon at the period)

Jesus said “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a person who is convinced that there is a treasure hidden in a piece of land. He gathers all his saving to buy the land” The preachers in Western civilization would like to interpret this sentence as a gold or silver mine in the land that need to be excavated and they go at great length into legal terms to differentiate among the words “hidden and buried”. 

The customs in our Land was to bury the jar of saved gold and silver coins in the garden on an unclaimed piece of land because the habitat was small (barely one large room where the entire household sleep and eat in) and could not sustain serious hiding places.  Tribes would hide their treasure in the desert before waging a battle and many would never survive to dig up their treasures.

Thus, the individual who bought the land thinking the jar was hidden in it, he would have to dig up most of the land anyway to find the jar of treasure, if he were correct in his information. 

The meaning is “in order to reach the Kingdom of Heaven you would have to go through the same process of fulfilling a dream by investing money, time, and effort most of your life”. Consequently, faith is a good starting point to sustain the duration in the long haul, but it is not enough if you lack charity in your heart; you have to learn to care and love and support your brothers and neighbors. It is a hard and long endeavor to pass through the “hole of the needle

For example, many predicators in the West tried their best to explain the concept of “a hole in a needle” when Jesus said “It is easier for a camel to go through the hole of a needle than a rich person to go to heaven”.  The preachers in the west invented a more plausible and palatable explanation by saying that “the hole in the needle” was the small door in the huge gate reserved for the passage of individual. They said that a camel could pass through if not loaded with baggage; another nice figure of speech though not correct.

In the languages of the Land, Arabic, Aramaic, or Hebrew the names of the small doors in gates were never called by anything that referred to needle. The language in the Levant is extravagant for describing the almost impossible tasks that require perseverance and ingenuity.

“Kingdom of heaven is like a land that was sawn with good grains of wheat.  At night, an enemy comes and saw “zouan” (a grain that resembles wheat but causes pain, dizziness, and suffering for many days when mixed with wheat grains; it is mostly used to feed chicken). The cultivators (slaves) asked the master permission to sort out and pull out the “zouan” from the field. The master said that it is useless since the whole field is ruined.”  

In dire periods of famine, many would mix “zouan” with wheat to make profit regardless of the consequences.  The honest master would not take the chance of being perceived as a fraud if his good grain was inadvertently adulterated with “zouan”.

In another verse, Jesus told the servants to patiently and meticulously remove the “zouan” from the wheat, then gather around a bonfire to burn the “zouan”

The same idea relates with leaven that was saved in a bag of wheat in order not to rot quickly; in another verse in order to leaven the entire bag of wheat flour.  In ancient periods, people would eat unleavened bread because it was very hard and difficult to keep usable leaven in hot and desert regions.  Thus, leaven had the bad connotation of a spoilage agent, such as when Jesus warned his disciples “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees” but the contemporary people do not understand this figure of speech: they are living at an advanced and urban period when leaven is no longer associated with spoilage but as a good catalyst. 

Consequently, the parable of Jesus “Kingdom of Heaven is like a leaven that a woman hide in 3 bags of wheat flour until all the bags were leavened and ready to bake, refers to the good use of small quantities that can affect large lots.  Thus, a term could be used to convey contradictory meaning if we are not conversant with the customs and period of the saying.

In the Levant, cultivators believe that “zouan” will grow among wheat no mater how careful we proceed in sawing fields. Consequently, it is advisable to rotate the field to grow other kinds of harvests in order to have the opportunity to pull out all the “zouan” that spoiled the field for later wheat harvests.

Jesus said in the Lord prayer “Lord, give us our daily bread” The people in the Levant believe that their daily bread is not just from their labor:  The Lord had participated from start to finish to offering the daily bread.  I cannot help but offer a current and political rapprochement: the successive US Administrations and the media “talking heads” would like us to believe that whatever prosperity is befalling other States it is simply because of US contributions. On the other hand, whatever calamities and miseries the world is suffering should not be laid on the USA: the USA does not bear any responsibility and should not be blamed.

Jesus said “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a woman who had misplaced one of her ten coins.  She searches all nights and all days (when the husband is not home), she searches in every nook and cranny and she sweep the floor until she finds the missing coin.  Then this woman would call up her neighboring women friends to join her and celebrate” (Most of the time they spend more on these gathering than what the coin was worth).

People worked hard to earn a coin and the man of the house would invariable express his displeasure for a missing coin and every women had gone through the same experience many times in their lives and it was a real occasion for women to gather, recount, and recall their daily troubles. 

There are times for anxiety and relentless searches and times for relaxation and sharing.  There are moments for prioritizing our quests and leaving many tasks undone to focus on an urgent one, such as saving our soul in order not to anger our Lord. 

This story is almost identical in meaning to the shepherd who leaves 99 head of sheep grazing unattended in order to find the lost one.


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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