Seriously, learn your alphabet, King David.

With my last post we looked at the way Hebrew poetry sometimes uses the Hebrew alphabet, beginning each line of a poem or song with consecutive letters of that alphabet. These poems or songs are called alphabetic acrostics, and show up a lot in Psalms, most of Lamentations, and once in Proverbs. Some folks also point to Nahum 1, but it's a little weird.

Today I want to talk about something cool that happened with an acrostic in Psalms.

That's the nerdiest sentence I've ever written.

Actually, probably not. So that's embarrassing... anyway...

Psalm 145 is a psalm of praise to God. It's grand and majestic in its description of the works and character of God as understood by ancient Israel. And it even does this in the form of an acrostic. Verse 1 begins with the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet, verse 2 begins with the second letter, and so on.

Well, until you get to verse 14.

Verse 14 should begin with the Hebrew letter nun. Phonetically, nun is kind of like the …

Knowing your ABC's

When I was a kid, I remember one of my teachers helping the class with a gift for our mothers. It was an acrostic based on the word "mother." I'm sure you know what an acrostic is and you probably even remember making one a time or two as a child. It's when the first letter of each line of a poem spells out a word. I'm sure mine went something like this:

Marvelous Outstanding Terrific Hey mom, I'm not very creative Errr, can we work on something else instead? Recess must be coming up soon, right?
Seriously, here's a lovely acrostic I found online based on the word "mother."

You get the idea.
The Hebrew Bible is no stranger to acrostics. Unfortunately, they aren't readily apparent in our English translations. They're literally lost in translation, because the Bible wasn't written in English.
Sometimes, the Hebrew Bible uses acrostics on a rather grand scale. The book of Lamentations is a great example. It's one of those books we …

When I think about you, my bowels are refreshed.

Splagchnon (pronounced something like splongkh-non) is my favorite word in the Greek New Testament. It doesn't show up much, but it's still my favorite. Splagchnon is a body part that often metaphorically represented the seat of emotions for Greek-speaking people. Kind of like heart for us. Only it wasn't the heart for Greek speakers. It was the entrails. Yep. I promise I'm not making this stuff up.

Think about how that would change emojis on our smart phones.

Splagchnon shows up in Acts 1:18 when Luke describes the death of Judas. He says that Judas burst open in the middle and all of his splagchnon spilled out. Ewww. The NIV says all his intestines spilled out. The NRSV says bowels. So gross. I love it. I remember watching George A. Romero's Day Of The Dead when I was a teenager. Whenever I read Acts 1:18 I think of this scene from the film. (You probably don't want to click that.)

When splagchnon shows up in the New Testament, it's often translated "…

They Might Be Giants

David and Goliath.

These names evoke a visual response in our mind's eye.

If an NCAA basketball tournament game is described as "David vs. Goliath," we get the metaphor. My favorite example is actually a football game, when Appy State went into "the big house" and beat the Michigan Wolverines in 2007. David took down Goliath. Even if you don't know about that game, you probably get the metaphor.

The story of David and Goliath is found in 1 Samuel 17. David is a shepherd, the youngest of eight sons. His three oldest brothers were in battle against the Philistines and one day David, at the request of his father, left the sheep to bring his big brothers some food.

When David arrives at the battle scene, he witnesses Goliath, a Philistine soldier, challenging the army of Israel to present a worthy foe. In 1 Samuel 17:4 (and later in 17:23), Goliath is called "the man between the two." Translations usually don't call him that. Most call him "…

They named him laughter... kinda

Abraham and Sarah waited a long time for a child of their own. When the little guy finally became part of their family, Abraham was at least 100 years old and Sarah was more than 90 years old. So of course, they named him Isaac. Isaac means "he laughs," and to be fair, it is kind of funny.

They'd been laughing about it for a while. Abraham laughed first, in Genesis 17:17, when God told him that his 90 year old wife was going to have a baby. It says he fell on his face and laughed. Duh. If I was Abraham, I'd laugh just to keep from crying. He's 100 years old for goodness sake.

A chapter later, in Genesis 18:12, Sarah laughed when she heard the news. Again, I don't blame her. The whole thing is terrifying.

When Isaac is born, Sarah says in Genesis 21:6, "God has made laughter for me. Anyone who hears will laugh over me." This word will follow Isaac around for the rest of his life, and not just because it's his name.

Later, after Isaac has married,…

The Psalms And Popular Culture

The Psalms pervade our culture. It doesn't matter what you think of God, the Bible, or the Church, it's hard to live life without running into the Psalms. There's a reason Bible publishers include the Psalms when they print those little "New Testament only" Bibles. It's as if they're thinking, "Well, if we're going to eliminate the entire Hebrew Scriptures from the Christian canon, maybe we should throw in the Psalms just so people feel better about it."

That has the potential for a tangent. I'll just move forward.

As I was saying, the Psalms are everywhere.

Attend a traditional funeral in the United States and there's a good chance you'll hear Psalm 23 ("The Lord is my shepherd...") or at least find it printed in the program for the memorial service. A long time ago, Clint Eastwood starred in a film called Pale Rider, playing a preacher who saved a town besieged by a bunch of ruffians. Check out how the movie began th…

Hebrew is funny

Really, it is. I mean, not always intentionally, but simply because it says things differently than how we say them in English. Like all languages, Hebrew can be idiomatic. In other words, like all languages, sometimes it says things that are natural in Hebrew that aren't so natural in English.

Again, all languages do this. Case in point, "My nose is running."

Eh? To where? And is it making good time?

There is a great Hebrew idiom found in the middle of a story about David in 1 Samuel 25. Here's a quick summary of the story:

David, the shepherd who killed Goliath, is leading a band of rebels and is considered an enemy of the current king, Saul. David and his merry men have been camping without permission on privately owned land. David sends word to the owner, Nabal (whose name means foolish, by the way), and asks for anything Nabal might be able to spare for David and his guys. It turns out David and his rebels have been protecting Nabal's shepherds from bandits …