Category Archives: Figures of Speech

Away in a Manger (feeding trough!)

Megiddo Manger

Feeding trough found at Megiddo on the southern edge of the Jezreel Valley

The gospel of Luke contains specific details regarding Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem of Judea.  One of the things mentioned in this narrative is that he was placed in a “manger” (Luke 2:7, 12, and 16).

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, … and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.  And there were shepherds … find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger … found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

The Greek word φαντη that is used here typically refers to a stone type trough that was used for feeding of animals—sometimes in the stalls within a dwelling.

This word is used once more in the Gospels (Luke 13:15) where it refers to a “stall” (NIV), actually a feeding trough, for a donkey—and it is clear from the context that this was within a house (Luke 13:10–17).

Megiddo Trough at Rockefeller Musem

Reconstructed Feeding Trough and Pillars from OT Megiddo

The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall (φαντη; “manger“) and lead it out to give it water?

It appears that after the birth of Jesus, that he was actually placed in a feeding trough somewhat similar to the ones presented here if not ones that were carved into the stone floor of the “stable”—a far cry from the rickety wooden “mangers” of Christmas pageants.

For details on this topic see Kenneth E. Bailey Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes — Cultural Studies in the Gospels. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2008, pp. 28–32 as well at the various Greek lexicons.

As Christmas approaches, I thought I would repost a few “blogs” that are related to the celebration.

Advertisements

Inscribed Columns in Temples

In the first three chapters of the New Testament book of Revelation the author addresses seven churches in the Roman Province of Asia (=modern western Turkey).  In doing this he often makes allusions to cultural items that were especially meaningful to his first century hearers.

For example, in the name of Jesus he writes to the Church at Philadelphia:

I am coming soon … the one who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my GodI will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. Rev 3:11–13 (NIV)

Continue reading

Grass Growing On Roofs

Throughout biblical times the house roofs of the common folk were often made of layers of plaster and mud that were laid down over reed mats that in turn were placed over branches and logs.

Logs, Branches, Matting Exposed on a “Modern House”

Because of the mud roof, grass would grow there during the winter months.

Mud Roof With Grass Growing On It

These roofs were often rolled to help make them moisture resistant.

This grass, because of a meager root system, was the first to wither and dry up.  Note what is said of the wicked in Psalm 129:6:

May they be like grass on the roof,
which withers before it can grow.

Stigers, H. G. “Roof.” Page 204 in volume 5 of The Zondervan Encyclopedia of the Bible. Edited by Moisés Silva. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2009.

Drinking Water 8 Months Old?

In both ancient and modern times water was a precious commodity in the Middle East.  Villages and cities were built near springs where possible, but in other cases wells were dug AND, from about 1200 B.C. to the present day, plastered cisterns collected the precious rainwater during the winter months.

Ancient Cistern at Ashqelon

Cisterns are cavities that are hewn out of the rock, or soil, and are lined with plaster so as to be able to store water.  In the Middle East, the runoff from the winter rains filled them, and the stored water was used throughout the year.

In the cistern from Ashqelon, note the remnant of the small opening at the top, through which a container was lowered into the cistern to draw water.

Opening of a Cistern

Continue reading

The Winners’ Prizes — Dead Vegetation?

In a previous entry I shared some pictures related to “Running the Race.”  The winners of such competitions were awarded, among other things, victory crowns—the composition of which depended upon the games.

GSATNMMI02

Modern Recreation of Victory Wreaths — On the left a Pine Wreath for the winner of an event at the Isthmian Games and on the right a Laural Wreath for the winner of an event at the Olympic Games — Click on Image to Enlarge and/or Download

The games at Isthmia were held twice during the four year Olympic cycle.  The city of Corinth was in charge of these games and Isthmia was only 6 miles from Corinth.  The games included athletic as well a music contests.  It is very probable that the games were held during Paul’s stay at Corinth.  Indeed, he writes to the church at Corinth:

1Cor. 9:24     Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.  25 Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.  26 Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air.  27 No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize. (NIV)

Continue reading

Inscribed Columns in Temples

In the first three chapters of the New Testament book of Revelation the author addresses seven churches in the Roman Province of Asia (=modern western Turkey).  In doing this he often makes allusions to cultural items that were especially meaningful to his first century hearers.

Temple of Zeus at Euromos (Turkey)

For example, in the name of Jesus he writes to the Church at Philadelphia:

I am coming soon … the one who overcomes I will make a pillar in the temple of my GodI will write on him the name of my God and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which is coming down out of heaven from my God; and I will also write on him my new name. Rev 3:11–13 (NIV)

Continue reading