Monthly Archives: September 2013

Egypt was a broken staff of reed

Last week, in preparation for a lesson I was presenting, I studied Ezekiel’s proclamation against Egypt. He says that Egypt has been a “staff of reed” to the house of Israel. Notice these verses from chapter 29.

Then all the inhabitants of Egypt shall know that I am the LORD. “Because you have been a staff of reed to the house of Israel,  when they grasped you with the hand, you broke and tore all their shoulders; and when they leaned on you, you broke and made all their loins to shake.  (Ezekiel 29:6-7 ESV)

The prophet Isaiah spoke directly to Israel with the same lesson.

Behold, you are trusting in Egypt, that broken reed of a staff, which will pierce the hand of any man who leans on it. Such is Pharaoh king of Egypt to all who trust in him. (Isaiah 36:6 ESV)

Reeds are common along the banks of the Nile and the canals that take water to the fields needing it. The photo below shows a broken reed.

A broken reed does not make a good walking stick. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

A broken reed does not make a good walking stick. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

There is a great lesson in this for each of us to avoid leaning on promises and systems of thought that will not hold us up in time of need.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  (Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV)

The Persian horned viper (serpent)

In the previous post we wrote about the serpents in the wilderness. Our photo today shows a Persian horned viper that we saw at the Hai Bar Reserve north of Eilat.

The Persian horned viper at Hai Bar Reserve. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

The Persian horned viper at the Hai Bar Reserve. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Persian Horned Viper (Pseudocerastes persicus)

This venomous snake of the viper family has a thick and clumsy body that can reach a maximum length of 90 cm. A ground-dweller, it prefers sandy areas, especially in desert wadies in a rocky landscape. The Persian horned viper is mainly nocturnal. Above each eye is a small protrusion in the form of a horn, made of scales.

This snake feeds on rodents, birds, and even animal carcasses. The young feed on lizards. It emits a warning sound by blowing through its mouth.

Distribution in Israel: in the Negev, between Dimona, Sede Boker and Yotvata. it is common in Makhtesh Ramon and its nearby wadies.

Global distribution: from the deserts of Pakisan to Sinai. It is interesting that the snake has a pit at the opening of its nostril. it is not known whether the pit is part of a valve system to protect the nostril from dust or whether it conceals a special sensory organ.

In Jacob’s last words describing his sons, he speaks of Dan:

Dan shall be a serpent in the way, a viper by the path, that bites the horse’s heels so that his rider falls backward. (Genesis 49:17 ESV)

The Hebrew lexicon by Holladay says the word viper in this verse means a “horned snake.” BDB and TWOT likewise. The NAU version is the only popular one that I check regularly that includes the word horned.

For information about the Palestinian Viper (Vipera palestinae) see here.

Serpents in the wilderness

Tel Arad is located in the Negev about 20 miles east of Beersheba, and five miles west of the town of Arad.

The biblical account informs us that the king of Arad fought against Israel and took some as captives.

When the Canaanite, the king of Arad, who lived in the Negeb, heard that Israel was coming by the way of Atharim, he fought against Israel, and took some of them captive. (Numbers 21:1).

There is a little park on the west side of modern Arad decorated with wooden sculptures. I assume that the creatures depicted may be typical of the desert region.

Sculptures in the park at Arad, Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Sculptures in the park at Arad, Israel. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

When I see the sculpture of the serpent on the pole I think of the incident in the wilderness when the Israelites spoke against God and against Moses,

Then the LORD sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. (Numbers 21:6 ESV)

The LORD provided a remedy for those who repented of their sin.

7 And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the LORD and against you. Pray to the LORD, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. 8 And the LORD said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” 9 So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. (Numbers 21:7-9 ESV)

On taking yourself too seriously

On the way from Luxor to the Valley of the Kings on the West Bank of the Nile one passes two huge statues known as the Colossi of Memnon. The statues are nearly 60 feet tall, and once stood at the entrance to the funerary temple of Amenhotep III (also known as Amenophis III). With their crowns, each statue would have been about 66 feet tall. Amenhotep III ruled Egypt during the 18th Dynasty (14th century B.C.).

During the time of the Roman Empire the statues were mistakenly associated with “Memnon, son of Eos and Tithonus, who was killed by Achilles during the Trojan War” (Baedeker’s Egypt).

The last time I was in the Valley of the Kings I noticed the head and chest of the statue had become a resting place for birds. Just an interesting picture, I thought.

Statue of Amenhotet III (or Amenophis III) on West Bank of Nile at Thebes (Luxor). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Statue of Amenhotep III (or Amenophis III) on West Bank of Nile at Thebes (Luxor). Photo by Ferrell Jenkins.

Whether covered by sand or birds, this illustrates how the “mighty” are esteemed by many who follow. Don’t take yourself too seriously!

Paul: For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. (Romans 12:3 ESV)

The Catacombs of Rome have an apologetic value

The catacombs of Rome are the main sources of art by Christians in the 2nd and 3rd centuries A.D.

Markers often carry the image of a shepherd, lamb, anchor, fish, or some other symbol. The fish or the word fish was used to indicate a Christian or a place where Christians met in those days. The Greek word for fish is Ichthus. When used as an acrostic with each letter standing for a word or phrase the word means, Jesus Christ, God’s Son, the Savior.

It is estimated that as many as one hundred thousand inscriptions were carved on the walls of the catacombs. About 15,000 have been discovered. The pictures often combine a biblical theme with a heathen figure. The late R. C. Foster comments on this phenomenon :

But the very fact that the catacomb pictures are filled with heathen figures and conceptions intermingled with the Christian, shows that the simple faith had already begun to be corrupted, and that too much weight can not be attached to pictures which combine the Good Shepherd with flying genii, heads of the seasons, doves, peacocks, vases, fruits, and flowers.

Marker in one of the catacombs. Note symbols of anchor and fish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1973.

Marker in one of the catacombs. Note symbols of an anchor and fish. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1973. Digitized from a slide.

Foster shows that there is an apologetic value to the catacomb inscriptions.

Although their faith, as witnessed on the walls of the catacombs, was imperfect, and at times confused, the modernists will have to chisel off these pathetic and challenging inscriptions before they can ever convince the world that Jesus of Nazareth is a myth (R. C. Foster, Introduction and Early Ministry, 29-32).

Fish, anchor, and Chi Ro symbols. Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1975.

Anchor, fish, and Chi Rho symbols. Slide Photo by Ferrell Jenkins, 1975.