Why I Love the King James Version part 4 (Psalm 102:7)

“I watch and am as a sparrow alone upon the house top.” (Psalm 102:7)

Anyone who’s ever felt lonely, isolated, wandering or wondering should find solace and comfort in this verse. The preceding verse says: “I am like a pelican of the wilderness: I am like an owl of the desert.” I don’t know for a certainty that it was David who penned this psalm. And while I do know that David spent time in the desert (as did many biblical figures), I also know that the psalmist in question, whomever it may be, knows what they’re talking about. Whenever you go through the particular struggle, something happens to the credibility of your words when, afterwards (afterwords?) you talk about it.

“And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then would I fly away, and be at rest.” (Psalm 55:6)

The same sentiment expressed in the above verse is the same as the one with the sparrow. I think there’s a reason the writer used the image of the sparrow in that one. Whereas many other translations simply word it “small bird” or some such synonym, the sparrow connotes a sort of nervous, if anxious, energy. Granted, many birds are like that and the smaller they get, the more erratic they seem to act. To where you have the hummingbird who must feed every five minutes to maintain its metabolic rate. With the sparrow, however, we often see them hopping around in groups, socializing, talking, generally acting like an ornithological “social butterfly”. The Hebrew word translated “sparrow” is tsippor. As an aside, Moses’ wife Zipporah‘s name is the feminine version of that word. It might give some insight into her temperament. I suppose you’d have to be full of energy to keep up with him. So the sparrow is “alone upon the housetop”. Notice when Jesus speaks in Matthew’s Gospel of the same. He says “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? and one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father.” (10:29) The psalmist certainly thought that they were alone. But Jesus seems to sow up this little loose thread from the Psalms by stating that we’re not alone. And indeed “of more value” to God “than many sparrows.” (10:31)

The entirety of Psalm 102 is a plea for help, understanding and restoration. It’s punctuated throughout with such keywords as consumed, withered, bones, dust, wrath, destitute and death. There is however, quiet, meditative beauty in these words. But it’s understandable why the psalmist would want to fly away.

Now take a deep breath and brush all that aside. Look again at the word for sparrow. “Tsippor”. It’s translated as sparrow, as I mentioned earlier, because of the hopping connotation. There are other reasons to be “alone upon the housetop”. Spiritual persecution happens at times because you might be the only person who sees something. The only person to whom God has entrusted a secret. Who knows? “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He will shew them His covenant.” (Psalm 25:14) God has secrets. Secrets that He wants to share. And if it so happens that He lets you in on a corner of wisdom that the rest of the world has yet to see and appropriate, it’s understandable how you’d be hopping around, alone, with excitement. Keep it to yourself until God gives the word. Then, as it says again in Matthew (10:27; Matthew 10:27/Psalm 102:7, interesting) “What I tell you in darkness, that speak ye in light: and what ye hear in the ear, that preach ye…” Where? “…upon the housetops.”

“Every word of God is pure…” (Proverbs 30:5) One reason I like the King James above all others is that it stands up to deep, detailed biblical exegesis, and shines with a beauty that other translations have yet to reveal–in my opinion. That being said, the Bible is the Bible. Whatever version you feel most blessed to read is most certainly the version you’re meant to ingest. Oh, every five minutes or so.

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Why I Love the King James Version part 3 (Proverbs 30:28)

“The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings’ palaces.” (Proverbs 30:28) Simple as that.

I actually like spiders. If you don’t, I understand. Would it make you feel better if I told you that most versions translate “spider” as “lizard”? That is what the Hebrew word is. A lizard. There, that’s not so bad. But then other versions go on to translate the rest of the verse away, saying something to the effect: “You can catch a lizard with your hands, and it’s in king’s palaces.” That…really doesn’t make any sense to me. I suppose if I looked up the actual word. Let’s see here. Ah. Okay, the Hebrew word meaning “lizard”, translated as “spider” in the King James, is semamith. That word has its root and connotation in such descriptors as stun, devastate, stupefy, destroy, etc. All of which lend themselves to the poisonousness of spiders, or (some) lizards (like a Gila monster whose saliva actually is poisonous or a monitor lizard whose mouth is so full of bacteria it may as well be…?). It makes me wonder if the translators of the King James Version decided to use the word spider to help with the understanding of what the verse is actually saying. Because translating it along the lines of lizard, doesn’t really do the verse, or the idea expressed therein, justice. At least not in the western hemisphere. Not to me.

What do you think of when you think of spiders? I’m sure the usual symbols come to mind. A web. A trap. Deceit. Poison. “Oh what a tangled web we weave when first we practice to deceive.” says Sir Walter Scott. Imagine some gruesome multi-appendaged thing hiding in a dark corner with its eight eyes tracking your every move. Ready to strike from the shadows, “[take] hold with her hands”, wrap you in its silken thread (stronger than titanium, really), inject its venom into you, then imbibe your liquefied innards. I don’t know why it pronouns* it as “her”. Plenty of male “spiders” out there.

Now imagine a human with these negative qualities living and working under the King in his palace. If said individual were to ever be found out, he’d be sentenced to death. Immediately. Palace intrigue! And when Agur, the writer of the Proverb speaks of the lizard, or spider, it’s in the list of “exceeding wise” (verse 24) animals. He speaks of the ants’ industriousness (verse 25), the “conies”, or rock badgers, and their homes in the craggy cliffside (verse 26). He talks of the locusts who operate as one, in spite of having no leadership (verse 27). And then there’s the spider/lizard and its audacity and deceit in that supercharged atmosphere.

I suppose it’s the same “wise”-ness that Jesus speaks of in Matthew (10:16). “Be ye therefore wise as serpents…”. He doesn’t stop there, “…and harmless as doves.” Without that “harmless” part, we are apt to fall under the shadow of Psalm 10:2, which says: “The wicked in his pride doth persecute the poor: let them be taken in the devices that they have imagined.” (emphasis mine) See, honor and integrity meant so much more back then than they do now. We can change this.

“All the king’s servants, and the people of the king’s provinces do know, that whosoever, whether man or woman, shall come unto the king into the inner court, who is not called, there is one law of his to put him to death, except such to whom the king shall hold out the golden sceptre, that he may live…” (Esther 4:11) This is referring to King Ahasuerus in the book of Esther. Esther was his wife, and the same rule applied to her (5:2). If this custom was common among the kingdoms of the Ancient Middle East, then it’s understandable why Agur would express such astonishment at the lowly spider and its palace hijinks, to put it politely.

And in God’s kingdom, those qualities are not tolerated, either.

In the book of Acts (5:3-5), the fledgling church dealt with maintaining its purity in spite of deceivers in its midst: “But Peter said, Ananias, why hath satan filled thine heart to lie to the Holy Ghost, and to keep back part of the price of the land? Whiles it remained, was it not thine own? and after it was sold, was it not in thine own power? why hast thou conceived this thing in thine heart? thou hast not lied unto men, but unto God.” What happens next is eye-opening and scary. “And Ananias hearing these words fell down, and gave up the ghost: and great fear came on all them that heard these things.” It would seem that Ananias had no intention of seeking forgiveness for weaving that tangled web.

*not an actual verb

Why I Love the King James Version part 2 (Psalm 126:6)

This is one of my all-time favorite verses of scripture. It’s one of the densest and richest standalone scriptures in the entire Bible. It sums up the suffering process in a few simple lines and beautifully renders our situation hopeful in light of God’s promises as expressed by the Psalmist.

“He (or she) that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.” (Psalm 126:6)

I’m going to break this down piece by piece and squeeze everything I can out of the richness of the translation. I will start by saying that the King James, much like its version of Proverbs 18:1, renders this verse in a way that supersedes other translations by far.

He (or she, anyone) that goeth forth…

This shows that you’re moving. You’re on your feet and you’re going forward. Paul said that he “press[ed] toward the mark” (Philippians 3:14). Don’t let anything keep you down. If circumstances conspire to prevent you from doing what you know God wants you to do, ask Him for help and press on. One moment, one day at a time. And where are you coming from? Is it a place of undesirableness? Someplace that God has called you out of? You wouldn’t be “going forth” if you weren’t convinced that you weren’t going to find what you’re looking for where you were. So you go forth. More power to you. Keep this in mind as we continue.

…and weepeth…

There will come a time when God will wipe away “all tears from their eyes” (Revelation 21:4). This is talking about Heaven, but God will do it here, too. Though, for a time, if need be, there are bound to be tears. Let them flow. Keep moving.

…bearing precious seed…

There are many types of seed spoken of in the Bible. Jesus says that “the seed is the word of God.” (Luke 8:11). Any promise you need God to perform for you is found in His word. Bring it! Don’t leave it behind. Speak it out, think about it, meditate upon it. “Write them upon the table of thine heart” (Proverbs 7:3). Whatever you do, don’t let it go. It’s your lifeline through the desert.

…shall doubtless come again…

What if God had you go back to where you came from but this time something was different? Yes, a lot has changed between parts 3 and 4. My how you’ve grown! Full of joy and thanksgiving and purpose. What have you got to lose? Why would you want to come again to wherever it was God brought you out of? Granted, some situations are so bad as to never be revisited in memory or in person. But what about the people still trapped where you once were? If you decide to go back, know that you’ll be equipped to bring them out. To rescue them. It’s what Jesus does: God, “who comforteth us in all our tribulation, that we may be able to comfort them which are in any trouble, by the comfort wherewith we ourselves are comforted of God.” (2 Corinthians 1:4)

…with rejoicing…

Sure God, I’d be happy to… (it’s the supernatural order of things)

…bringing his (and her) sheaves with [them].

And this is what God gives you for your trouble. Really, it’s whatever you need to fulfill His call on your life. It’s the harvest that was promised to you for obeying God through the time of trial and “going forth” that was so, so unpleasant starting out. See, God “hath made every thing beautiful in His time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). This includes your life. If it doesn’t look that way now, keep pressing forward, planting your precious seeds wherever you go. And don’t forget to rejoice. There are beautiful days ahead!

This verse makes me think of John Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed. I wonder if he ever thought of this scripture when he was planting apples throughout antebellum America. Food for thought!

Mmm… Apple cider? Press on! God bless you.

Why I Love the King James Version part 1 (Proverbs 18:1)

“Through desire a man, having separated himself, seeketh and intermeddleth with all wisdom.” (Proverbs 18:1)

The King James Version of the Holy Bible was published around 400 years ago in 1611. It remains the bestselling book of all time. Its  poetic cadence and rich density of meaning have inspired countless individuals and societies to pursue both God and their own literary arts.

I’m going to elucidate the above verse as recorded in the King James Version and explain just what I think it means for the spiritual seeker.

With reference to other versions, the first verse of the eighteenth chapter of Proverbs is nearly always translated in the negative. And I’m not trying to be argumentative but I see the verse as positive, especially with the overarching attitudes of secular humanism, scientific materialism and scientific reductionism that we see in the world today–all three of which say that the physical world is all there is.

You’ve probably heard the phrase “God-shaped hole” at some point in your life. It’s referring to the fact that, because of sin, everyone has an internal void that only God can fill. When Solomon–the author of (most of) the Proverbs—-talks about someone “having separated himself”, he opens with the words through desire. If someone doesn’t believe in God or angels or anything supernatural, then they’re not going to have any desire for any of that stuff. They’re fine with whatever they see and have no need for anything else spiritual or…higher. God can work with the person who’s humble enough to admit they don’t know everything. Jesus says “seek and ye shall find” (Luke 11:9). In the book of Jeremiah (29:13), God says “and ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart”.

In the Proverbs verse, the man has separated himself. This means that he sees the inherent hypocrisy and futility of the system of the world and has distanced–separated–himself from its influence. This takes guts. Think of the lone student walking through his high school halls, the jeers of the jocks and the cool kids following behind him. He cares less and less for it everyday. He’s the one that Jesus goes after. He’s the one who will change the world. He’s the one, as Solomon says, will seek and intermeddle with all wisdom. And that’s where the other translations of the Bible view this as a negative thing (the Hebrew word translated “intermeddleth” connotes obstinacy, after all).

In the spiritual domain, things are black or white. We are not a self-possessed, self-contained entity. We either have Jesus and as John says, “[have] life” (1 John), or not. I, for one, am very guarded about where I get my “wisdom”. As John says elsewhere in his letter, “every spirit that does not confess Jesus (1 John 4:3 my translation) is not of God.” Again, I don’t want to be argumentative but I would like to make a case for receiving spiritual wisdom from God alone and not from any other source that leads away from Jesus.

The other wisdom, the practical, pragmatic and hard-won type stuff. The things that you read about in biographies and personal testimonies and hear about in songs, these bits of wisdom are highly valuable and worth listening to. If they help you serve God better and see things in a different light, then by all means intermeddle!