Thoughts for Saturday 25th July 2020

Psalm 105:1-11, 45b; Genesis 29:31-30:24; Matthew 12:38-42

Saturday 25 July

I do like it when in our Bible readings we get contemporary cultural references. One of these is the mention of mandrakes in Genesis 29. Most of us these days, on hearing of mandrakes, will think of that scene in the film version of ‘Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets’ featuring Margot Margolyes as Professor Sprout. There are other early sources – and ones of folklore – that J K Rowling will undoubtedly have drawn on in this episode, but I do hope she wasn’t unaware of the two instances we have of mandrakes in Scripture. From a Hebrew word literally meaning ‘love plant’, these can be found at Song of Songs 7:13 (The Woman: You can smell the scent of mandrakes, and all the pleasant fruits are near our door. Darling, I have kept for you the old delights and the new.) as well as here in the first book of the Bible.

With its anthropomorphic roots and psychoactive properties, it does seem strange that, regarded in ancient times as an aphrodisiac that aids conception and fertility, Leah went on to have 3 children before mandrakes had any effect on Rachel, if at all.

The other connection between, this time our New Testament passage, and modern life is in the title we find in Matthew (and at Luke 11:31) for the Queen of Sheba i.e. Queen of the South. I’d love to know how long ago it was that this became a term of endearment for Dumfries.

Back to Genesis, though, and I’m wondering if anyone else is a little sceptical at Jacob’s partners having so many sons, and so few daughters. Also, why is it that in the GNT there are notes telling us what all the boys’ names mean (I have a niece called Asher, which I always think: it must be lovely to be called ‘Happy’. And she is), but not Dinah? Dinah is actually the female equivalent of Dan, which we know means ‘vindicated’, but why do the notes not tell us that?

There are, of course, some names that Jacob’s children would probably have preferred to have than others. Gad, for example, meaning ‘Good Fortune’, is quite good; but looking at the list I’m reminded of something I used to do in Busby Primary School the first time I visited P1. It was a way I had of learning everyone’s name. I would ask them what it was, and then tell them what it meant. This was very popular until I came across a boy called Cameron and had to tell him – much to his embarrassment, I’m afraid – that Cameron means ‘bent nose’. That was the last time I ever did that. Now I just ask them their name.

Let us pray:

‘The way, the truth, the life, the light,
The shepherd, and the bread;
The resurrection, vine, and gate,
I am all these,’ Christ said.

‘I am the bread of life,’ He said.
‘I give you all you need.
I am the vine, you are a branch,
Be joined to what is good.’

‘I am the light of the whole world,
I came that you might see.
I am the way, the truth, the life,
Believe and follow me.’

‘I am the shepherd of the sheep,
I do not rule but serve.
I am the gate for all of you,
Come in by me and live.’

‘The resurrection and the life
I am to each and all;
Both in this world and in the next,
I offer life that’s full.’


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