Monday, June 20, 2011

Shepherding tidbits

6:47 p.m. Today's project was to begin my research for Thursday's Bible study on I Samuel. We will be covering Chapter 17, where David slays Goliath. This famous Bible chapter has so many choice lessons for us, but I was struck by the details of David's shepherding equipment that proved instrumental in his victory over the Philistine giant.

One of my sources, Manners and Customs of the Bible, has been in my library since the 1980's, when Pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie trained the home Bible study pastors (and me, the home Bible study pastorette, the only one there with a baby in tow) including reference materials we would find most useful. I was a mom at home, so it was with much prayer and careful saving that I bought each volume, because our single-earner home was on a tight budget. Most of my money was spent on commentaries, but Manners and Unger's Bible Dictionary have proved indispensable for the times when I mentally ask "what's the significance of this?" about some odd item or fact that appears in the verse I'm reading. The women I teach are excited about the cultural knowledge, just as I am. And for an historical book, these details add a great deal of richness to our understanding.

After David had tried on Saul's armor and found it too big to walk in (vv. 38-39), he gathered his shepherd's tools in v. 40:

Then he took his staff in his hand; and he chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in a shepherd's bag, in a pouch which he had, and his sling was in his hand.

Manners and Customs of the Bible:

The shepherd carries a staff which he holds in the center. It is used not only as a support in climbing hills, but for the purpose of beating bushes and low brushwood in which the flocks stray and where snakes and other reptiles abound. It may also be used for correcting the shepherd dogs and keeping them in subjection. Thus Goliath says, "What am I, a dog, that you come to me with staves?"

The scrip was a bag of leather thrown over the shoulder, and used by shepherds and travelers to carry provision. It is still used by Eastern shepherds and is made of the skin of a kid stripped off whole and tanned.

The sling was made of leather, or of plaited work of wool, rushes, hair, or sinews. The middle part, where the stone lay, was called the cup...there was a loop at one end which was placed over the thumb, in order to retain the weapon when the stone was flung and the other end became free. The sling was used by shepherds to keep the beasts of prey from the flock, and also to keep the sheep from straying. Husbandmen likewise used it to drive away birds from fields of corn...In using the sling, the stone was put into the broad hollowed part, the ends were grasped together in the hand, and after a few whirls around the head to give impetus, the stone was discharged, frequently with force enough to penetrate helmet or shield.

Goliath mocked, reviled, cursed and disdained David's practical weapons, but the one weapon this shepherd had that made all the difference was faith in the Living God. That is what made him unbeatable. David's God-guided missile hit its mark, and Goliath hit the ground.

When we stop to pray for God's assistance like I did this afternoon as wedding expenses mount, I realized why my plans for income did not pan out, nor did they need to--God had already provided!

Let's keep this quote from Corrie ten Boom in mind:

Look around and be distressed;

Look inside and be depressed;

Look at Christ and be at rest.

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