A Perfect Example of Context Really Mattering

If you know me, you will know that I often preach to people how important context is in interpreting a biblical text. If we remove context from our study of a passage, we will miss, often badly, the meaning of the text. And if you think that this is not the case, I want you to read the following words with no context. They are Scripture. What would happen if all you heard was that these are the words of God?

“attack ‘the lame and the blind,’ who are hated by David’s soul.”

Now, if those words are left to themselves, if they were seen as Scriptural commands, what would you become? It would be a real problem. And I did not do anything to those words. They appear above as they appear in Scripture. But, look at the context, and see how the meaning becomes clear.

2 Samuel 5:6-8 – 6 And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who said to David, “You will not come in here, but the blind and the lame will ward you off”—thinking, “David cannot come in here.” 7 Nevertheless, David took the stronghold of Zion, that is, the city of David. 8 And David said on that day, “Whoever would strike the Jebusites, let him get up the water shaft to attack ‘the lame and the blind,’ who are hated by David’s soul.” Therefore it is said, “The blind and the lame shall not come into the house.”

When David was planning to take the city of Jerusalem, the Jebusites said that David was so weak that the blind and the lame could ward him off. So, when David sent men to take the city, he sarcastically used the words of the arrogant Jebusites as part of his command. David does not hate blind and lame people. God does not command us to attack the disabled. Instead, we see here that David threw the boasts of the arrogant back into their teeth.

Friends, when you read the Bible, please, for the love of God (literally), handle the text in its context. Do not take a verse alone as a unit of thought. Ask what the verse is saying in the light of the paragraph, the unit of thought around it. Ask what book the verse is in and what that book is trying to communicate. Ask what timely and social constructs influence how that verse would have been understood by those who read it. Remember, context really matters.

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