Reading Words Carefully

Reading Words Carefully

Written by: Sammy Wichman

As we read through the Bible this year, let’s remember to be cautious with our assumptions. As an example, let’s look into the term “mighty men," which pops up several times in the early chapters of Genesis. This Hebrew word “Gibborim” is used about 150 times in the Old Testament, and is often applied to lions, hunters, soldiers, and leaders.

Here are two specific instances you should’ve just encountered, if you're following the reading plan with us:

In Genesis 6:4, we are introduced to a group described as mighty men: “these were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.”

In Genesis 10:8, we are introduced to a man named Nimrod, and the text tells us this: “Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first on earth to be a mighty man. He was a mighty hunter before the Lord. Therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before the Lord.’”

In order to read the Bible in a year, you have to read several chapters a day, which is a task that makes skimming (or listening with only one ear open) rather attractive.

As a person living in 2021, if you skimmed Genesis 6 and 10 and read the phrase “mighty men” without giving it much thought, you’d probably assume that the men were good guys, because (in 2021) being “mighty” is an admirable quality to have. It's also an admirable quality that we don't hand out very readily: very few people are described as "mighty" nowadays.

Being mighty is positive from our perspective, but we can’t assume that if someone has one particular positive attribute, that they are also righteous, or God-fearing, or worth emulating.

Someone can be physically strong, or physically skilled, and still be out of relationship with God.

The mighty men described in Genesis 6 are wiped out in the flood. They are included in the group about which Scripture says “The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.” (Gen. 6:5-6) These men were physically mighty, they were manly men, but Scripture tells us that they were also spiritually corrupt.

Nimrod, in Genesis 10, is called mighty because of his skill as a hunter. The text also tells us, however, that he probably led the group that built the tower of Babel, which was a plan out of line with God’s will.

It’s a common mistake to assume that if someone is mentioned in the Bible, or if a particular action is mentioned in the Bible, that it must be good  or morally okay in some way. Can you see the trouble this causes here? It’s so easy to skim Genesis 6 and 10, read the term “mighty men,” couple it with the assumption that the Bible is a hall-of-fame record, and end up with the assumption that these guys are good in God’s eyes.

As we continue on in our reading of God’s Word in 2021, let us commit to reading Scripture carefully, and remembering that the Bible is first and foremost about God.

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