Thoughts for Saturday 19th September, 2020

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45; Exodus 16:22-30; Matthew 19:23-30


Saturday 19 September


I remember, as a boy aged 9 years old, travelling to Canada to visit an aunt, and a conversation I had there with someone about money. I was trying to explain pounds, shillings, and pence, and the harder I tried, the more confused this person became. From farthings to florins, it all seemed far too complicated.


Decimalisation of course, has made it less so, but that’s not to say that there wasn’t a charm about a system of weights and measures such that I could never remember whether it was 14 or 16 ounces in a pound; or was it 14 or 16 pounds in a stone? Many of us, filling cars up with petrol or diesel these days, still thinking in terms of gallons rather than litres.


Our New Testament reading today is about money, and our psalm mentions silver and gold, but have a look at different versions of the opening verse of our Old Testament reading, and you’ll see that, while the King James Version has, ‘two omers’, the Good News Translation, for example, has,’ ‘four quarts’. What some of the later translators have done then is to try to, if not decimalise, to try to simplify Biblical measurements for a more modern readership – who, can no longer fathom how or why a guinea, for example, was (and probably still is) a pound and a shilling (or £1.05p!


The problem with this is that we’re not absolutely sure what an omer was, but since the books of the Old Testament are also the Hebrew Scriptures, Talmudic scholars have been helpful to us in this respect. And so, the best ‘guess’ we have is that an omer is actually the space in which (i.e. the volume) we are able to contain 43.2 medium-sized eggs without breaking any of them. It’s a tenth of an ephah, which is the equivalent of 72 logs, each log equalling just 6 eggs! Confused?


Well, let me press on, and say (just in case you ever come across these measurements as you’re reading the Bible as well) that when it comes to length rather than volume, an etzba (or digit) = 7 barleycorns laid side by side; a palm = 4 digits; a span = 4 palms; a cubit = 2 spans; a mil = 2,000 cubits, and a parasa = 4 mils.


And that, when it comes to money, as we learn from our New Testament reading today, if we have too many shekels, or too many minas (1 mina = 60 shekels), or especially too many talents (1 talent = 60 minas), it can make it hard for us to enter the kingdom heaven.


Let us pray:


God, may our neighbours respect us,

Trouble neglect us,

The angels protect us,

And heaven accept us, Amen (Irish)


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