Friday, June 03, 2011

Pots Taking Flight

I wrote an article here on Saturday, June 9, 2007 titled "Buried Treasure & Treasured Bronze", which included Spurgeon's treatment of 1Chronicles 4:23. I've received this annual message from each year on June 3rd since 2007. This is the first year I noticed & focused on Spurgeon's reference to a strange passage in Psalm 68:13:

"We, too, may be engaged in the most menial part of the Lord's work, but it is a great privilege to do anything for 'the king'; and therefore we will abide in our calling, hoping that, 'although we have lien among the pots, yet shall [we] be as the wings of a dove covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold.'"

It seemed odd that I had not noticed this before, especially with it mentioning dove wings. Modern Bibles have a significantly different version though (the KJV's "pots" simply followed 16th-century versions based on Coverdale's seminal work):

NKJV: "Though you lie down among the sheepfolds/saddlebags..."

NLV: "When you lie down among the sheep..."

Rotherham: "Though ye rest between the folds..."

Beck: "Some of you lingered among the sheepfolds..."

TEV: "(Why did some of you stay among the sheep pens on the day of battle?)"

Knox: "...and you, all the while, resting quiet among the sheep-folds!"

TNIV: "Even while you sleep among the sheep pens..."

CEV: "And for those who stayed back to guard the sheep..."

Douay: "If you sleep among the midst of lots..."

Fenton: "Though you have lain on the dung..."

Young: "Though ye do lie between two boundaries..."

Lamsa: "Though you sleep among thorns..."

NIV: "Even while you sleep among the campfires..."

NWT: "Although you men kept lying between the camp ash heaps..."

About 2-dozen other versions I consulted render it "sheepfolds" like the NKJV (based on the 1885 RV). The ETR, Moffatt, & TLB omit it completely! The NAB includes a candid margin note:

"The Hebrew text of these verses is very obscure."

It turns out that this plural Hebrew word (SPTYM 8240) appears only twice, here & in Ezekiel 40:43 describing the place where sacrifices were prepared:

NKJV: "Inside were hooks, a handbreadth wide, fastened all around; & the flesh of the sacrifices was on the tables."

KJV: "And within were hooks, an hand broad, fastened round about: and upon the tables was the flesh of the offering."

Furthermore, the word translated as "sheep" over a hundred other times in the OT ($AN 6629) in no way resembles this one (notice that all 3 root letters are different).

Pots are very different objects from hooks, & both of those are very different from sheepfolds (& the other educated guesses by scholarly translators ranging from ashes to thorns to fire to dung). Strong's concordance candidly declares this word to be "meaning doubtful" (not that the word SPTYM means "doubtful", but that nobody knows for sure what it meant). This is why I argue against people who promote the nonsensical Biblical Inerrancy doctrine (though I argue for the ultimate authority of God's Message, found primarily in the Bible).

Strong's translation for 8240's root verb (SPT 8239) seems a little more certain meaning "to set, ordain, establish, or bring". It's very interesting that this word appears 5 times in just 4 verses, but with 2 direct associations to pottery:

"And Elisha came again to Gilgal; and there was a dearth in the land; and the sons of the prophets were sitting before him; and he said unto his servant, 'Set on the great pot, and seethe pottage for the sons of the prophets.'"--2Kings 4:38

"My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death."--Psalms 22:15

"LORD, thou wilt ordain peace for us: for thou also hast wrought all our works in us."--Isaiah 26:12

"And utter a parable unto the rebellious house, and say unto them, 'Thus saith the Lord GOD: "Set on a pot, set it on, and also pour water into it..."'"--Ezekiel 24:3

Instead of translating SPTYM as the aforementioned diverse objects, I'm wondering why it's not simply something like "establishments". Here are my paraphrased versions:

"Within [the stone tables] were establishments [probably recessed areas/ledges where objects could be placed], a handbreadth wide, prepared all around; & the flesh of the sacrifices was on the tables."

"Though you reside among the establishments [i.e., things connected to the ground like buildings that remain stationary on Earth], yet you will be like the wings of a dove covered with silver, & her feathers with yellow gold [i.e., things connected to aircraft destined for Heaven]."

So now we can clearly see this verse as being unfolded by Paul in the NT along with so many other OT types/shadows fulfilled by Christ:

"The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven. As is the earthy [like clay pots], such are they also that are earthy; and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly."--1Corinthians 15:47-9

"But God--who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us--even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus..."--Ephesians 2:4-6

G.M. Grena