Bible Quizzes for Smart People XVI
Bill Long 1/6/07
1. "the laborer deserves to be paid," NRSV. Or, in the more stately KJV, "the laborer is worthy of his reward."
There are two places in the Scriptures where this appears, but I want the one where the preceding words are "You shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." A quick Google search yielded the following. Someone has written a professional paper on work-related issues entitled: "The Laborer is Worthy of His Hire [the American Standard Version and RSV use "Hire"]: Shaker Religious Communes in External labor Markets." Not to be outdone, another person has presented a paper entitled "The Laborer is Worthy of His Hire: Teacher Compensation and Incentives." So, the term has been loosed from the original biblical context and can be used as a sort of gnomic utterance to summarize a larger point someone is trying to make. I also like the words: "you shall not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain." Where is that verse found, by the way? Oh, it is found in another place, too. Where? Interestingly enough, both of these quotations appear to be quoted as Scripture, though "the laborer deserves to be paid" has no OT antecedent, as far as I can discover. So, identify the quotation, please.
2. "the way of a man with a girl," NRSV. The KJV has, "the way of a man with a maid."
This isn't exactly an "X-rated" verse (see these essays for that!), but it does have overtones or undertones for our hyper-gender-aware culture. When the traditional marital vows were said, the couple was pronounced "man and wife." Feminists objected to this formulation because it makes it look as if the person with a basic identity (man) is being connected with someone whose identity is now captured by her relationship (wife). In other words, she doesn't stand on her independent and equal feet. Thus, "husband and wife" would be more "egalitarian." Well, this Scripture partakes, it seems, of a similar double-standard. The context for this passage is fascinating--the author is describing things that, frankly, he doesn't understand (and he admits to it!). Is this wording superior to "the way of men and women with each other" or "the way couples connect?" I think so, actually. Whenever we think we understand the world, we are brought back to things that are "too wonderful" for us, and this is one of them. How does the chemistry between men and women work? How does a man actually succeed in "moving" on a woman? That is the problematic of this verse. Where is it from and what other things doesn't the author understand?
3. "For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light."
This, really, is an "easy" verse but is so useful and so winsomely attractive that I couldn't resist giving it to you. I think the thing that seared this verse into my memory was Handel's Messiah. This "Chorus" appears at the end of Part I of Messiah, right after two balmy and beautiful Alto Airs:
"Come unto Him, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and He will give you rest. Take His yoke upon you, and learn of Him, for He is meek and lowly of heart, and ye shall find rest unto your souls" and "He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: and He shall gather the lambs with His arm, and carry them in His bosom, and gently lead those that are with young."
By the way, where is the latter verse from? (Think Isaiah). Handel's actual words are "His yoke is easy and his burden is light." When you sing these words for the first time you are taken on a journey of Handelian proportions, where the music and your soul dances in delight as the Lord's burden seems as effortless as the prancing music. So, where do you find the verse?
4. "Is it right for you to be angry?"
If there is one thing I have become convinced of in life is that many people do have a right to be angry about their past or their present situation. Things happened to us before we could choose our course. Our way is shaped, our expectations drilled into us, our emotional structure seemingly fashioned before we have responsibility for one important decision in life. As a result of this many people go on to make bad choices in life, especially with respect to marriage. When middle age "hits," and life falls apart, people are angry. They feel betrayed, let down, and even bitter about life. Instead of being "amorous" towards God, they are "amarous" or bitter. The Latin root "amarus" is at the base of several obsolete English words to express bitterness, such as "amarine" or "amaritude." Indeed, the "mara" root for bitterness is even in Hebrew. Recall the Scriptural passage where a person says,
"Call me no longer XXXX,/ call me Mara,/ for the Almighty has dealt bitterly with me./ I went away full,/ but the Lord has brought me back empty..."
That is the felt experience of many people in life. However, in the Scripture quoted in 4. above the speaker is suggesting that the hearer of these words really has no grounds to be angry. Ultimately we have to get to a point in life where we say that however bad was our past, however lethal the circumstances of our begetting and upbringing, it is no longer right for us to be angry. Even though anger gives great energy and even focus in life, it clouds the judgment, embitters the soul, and makes life a living hell for the angry person and those around him/her. Where, then, can you find this (these) verse(s)?
5. "Oh my head, my head!"
Taken by itself, these words seem to say absolutely nothing. Or, slightly revised, they say only that someone's head is hurting. But if you know these words, you know the story behind why someone says "My head, my head!" And if you know that story you know not simply an interesting chapter of biblical history but several compelling theological points. Just as I believe that a word can be a window into a world, so an apparently stray biblical reference can open up worlds of meaning. I think this verse "stuck" with me when I was reading Matthew Henry's Commentaries in my early 20s. In those days I would pore over Scripture with zeal. Henry was himself so immersed in Scripture that he would describe present-day life experiences with generous borrowings from Scriptural language. I wanted to be like him, I think, so I internalized some of his "tricks." I no longer read Matthew Henry, but he made my spiritual bones strong, providing the calcium I needed for the rigors of life. Where, then, do you find this verse?
Another day, another quiz. That is not in the Scriptures! Here is the next one.