Roadblocks to Interpreting The Bible Accurately # 3 (ii)

The third roadblock to interpreting the Bible accurately, we’ve said, is not reading the same in context. Having examined reading the Bible in its historical context (“what is the historical context of what I’m reading?”), we move on to the second crucial question.

The second question to ask when determining the context of a Biblical text is:

2) What is the cultural context of what I’m reading?

Take Genesis 29 for example. It details the account of how Jacob loved Laban’s daughter Rachel, and desired to marry her.

It was the culture of the Orientals (as it is in many cultures today) to receive a substantial brideprice from the intending groom or his representative (see Gen 24:53). Since Jacob had nothing to offer (being poor), he offered seven years of drudgery in Laban’s fields (vv. 18-20).

Having completed his years of labour, Jacob demands for his bride (vs. 21). But Laban, being cunning, pulls a switcheroo, giving Jacob his eldest (Leah) instead of Rachel, on their wedding night (vv. 22-25). Vs. 24 also mentions that Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah as a maid. This was according to the custom of that day, in which a daughter was given in marriage, together with a maid to care for her (see Gen 24:59, 61).

Laban attempts to justify his deception by stating that the culture of that people considered it an abomination for the youngest to be married BEFORE the oldest (vs. 26). Laban is lying though. The culture of the people of the East (vs. 1) permitted that the younger be married before the older if the older had some bodily defect, which Leah had! (see vs. 17).

It would appear that Laban merely wanted to save his daughter Leah the embarrassment of not being found desirable by a man. So by way of trickery, he gets Jacob to serve another seven years for Rachel, while simultaneously marrying Leah (vv. 27-28).

Now, one might ask how EXACTLY Jacob was beguiled into marrying Leah. “Why couldn’t he tell that she was not Rachel, until the next morning?” (vs. 25). An understanding of the cultural context of that day would help foster understanding here.

It was the culture of the Orientals that the bride wear a long veil on her wedding night. The couple were then taken to a dark tent reserved specially for them and were left in the dark, till the next day. So it would have been impossible for Jacob to realize the deception till it was morning.

This is just one of SEVERAL examples in which ascertaining the cultural context of a Biblical text enables a better understanding of the same.

The Bible texts come alive once they are read in their historical-cultural contexts.


© Josh Banks Ministries. 2022.


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