John T. Willis

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Son(s) of . . .

Another fundamental reason why one preparing to teach and preach the Bible is the simple term "sos(s) of . . ." throughout the Bible.

Many times in the Bible, "son(s) of . . ." DOES mean the male child of his father, like: Genesis 21:3: "Abraham gave the name Isaac to his SON;" or Leviticus
10:1: "Now Aaron's SONS, Nadab and Abihu, took his censer." In texts like this, "son of . . ." means the male child of the father.

However, OFTEN in the Bible, "son(s) of . . ." is an idiom, denoting the idea that the individual or group EXCELS in some way or IS DESIGNATED in a certain manner. Here, let us note SEVEN brief examples.

1. The Bible repeatedly uses the expression "the SONS of Israel." One example appears in Joshua 5:6: "For the SONS of Israel traveled forty years in the wilderness." We all know the story of the wilderness wanderings of the Israelites from the Red Sea to the Jordan River. Modern English translations "hide" this biblical idiom, and read "the Israelites." In my opinion, this is a good English translation. BUT, the Hebrew text says: "the sons of Israel." Other biblical texts use similar expressions like: "the sons of Ammon" (Deuteronomy 2:19)=the Ammonites; "the sons of Assyria"=the Assyrians; "the sons of Babylon"=the Babylonians (Jeremiah 23:23); etc. Just a moment reflect indicates that "sons of
. . ." in these cases does not mean MALES, but MALES and FEMALES. Men and women of Israel experienced the wilderness wanderings, etc. One needs to be VERY CAREFUL to avoid MODERN terms which are not biblical.

2. The expression "sons of the prophets" (see 1 Kings 20:35; 2 Kings 2:1; Amos 7:14) does not means MALES whose physical fathers are prophets. Rather, this term means groups of prophets designated by God to proclaim God's message. This may be male or women. Hence, the Bible frequently refers to women as prophets--see Exodus 15:20-21; Judges 4:4; 2 Kings 22:14; etc.

3. "Son of man" (see Psalm 8:4) is an idiom meaning simply "man." Again, this is not male specific, but refers to all human beings--male and female. The synonymous parallelism in Psalm 8:4 demonstrates that "man" [humanity] is equivalent to "son of man" [humanity]=all mortals, male and female.

4. "Sons of God" (see Job 1:6; 2:1; Psalm 29:1) are not male children of God, hence, gods, but this is an idiom meaning heavenly beings, angels.

5. "Sons of thunder" (Mark 3:17) are not male children of a man named Thunder. This is an idiom, referring to the fearsome way that James and John, the physical sons of a man named Zebedee, preached God's message.

6. "Son of encouragement" (Acts 4:36) is not a male child of a male father named Encouragement. This is an idiom, indicating that Joseph, a Levite of Cyprus, excelled in encouraging other people, so Christians called him "Barnabas," the Aramaic term meaning literally "son of encouragement."

7. The expression: "Listen, sons, to a father's instruction" in Proverbs 4:1 are not male children of a male father. This is an idiom, referring to "students" [male and female] who listen attentively to their teacher [male or female]. Note texts like Proverbs 4:3; 6:20; etc., bring out this meaning in context.

Yes, this is very brief. And there is much more to say. But, hopefully, each of us will stop and think about the meaning of these terms. Simple terms are often not what they might appear at first.

How are YOU doing? Is an "academic" like this helpful to you--or worthless? Let me hear from YOU. Have a great day.

John Willis


Post a Comment

<< Home