“A pessimist, they say, sees a glass of water as being half empty; an optimist sees the same glass as half full. But a giving person sees a glass of water and starts looking for someone who might be thirsty.” – G.Thomas Gale
Having finished working through Genesis, my Translation work is now tooling through Exodus. Every so often I like to reformulate what I’ve spent the day micro-analyzing, to look at the forest instead of the trees. This is from chapter 14.
Live bait. That’s what God said his people were. And there they were, a million plus, caught between the desert and the deep blue sea, red sea, reed sea. Pharaoh anticipated a straight mop-up operation. The Israelites figured themselves so much dead meat. God said, “Be quiet. I will fight for you. You will never see this enemy again.”
Then he walked them out of an impossible situation by a solution no one else even contemplated. He still specializes in those things. I believe.
The Magpie is an inveterate listener to pod-casts and sometimes he drops a verbal shiny. Yesterday he contributed this one, culled from a discussion of “Trust and the Banking Business.”
A mother, a strong believer in the sanctity of marriage, went to visit her son. While there she was introduced to his “flat-mate,” the lovely Rosalind. Quite simply, a flat-mate, of the most platonic variety, he assured her.
Over supper she observed the two, the knowing glances they cast, their manner of interaction. She drew her own conclusions but kept her own counsel.
Not long after her return home she received a letter from her son,
Dear Mother, I’m not saying you took it, and I’m not saying you didn’t- but after your visit to our flat, Rosalind’s prized heirloom candlestick seems to have gone missing.
She promptly wrote back,
Dear Son, I’m not saying you are sleeping with her, and I’m not saying you are not- but if Rosalind were sleeping in her own bed, she would have found the candlestick.
Sometimes the collateral benefits outweigh the intended one.
Every weekday evening for a month this summer, Ankamah and I sat for two hours and tested the book of Genesis in Nkonya.
Ankamah is in his twenties, and soon heading off to study accounting.
He’s a fluent reader so we used a different testing style than I’ve used previously. He read the passage once through then read it again and back-translated it into English. As we worked he volunteered comments on where it could be improved or where he didn’t understand the text. I typed in his back-translation and comments, and asked additional comprehension questions.
Up to this point in time the Nkonya Translation Team has marked high spoken tone with an accent mark in all written work. However we’ve talked more and more about writing Nkonya without tone marks.
Every so often as he read, Ankamah would make a comment about having difficulty with the tones. One evening he missed the difference between a future and past tense verb – getting it immediately when I reread it according to marked tone. “Missing the one significant tone because of the crowd,” I thought.
For the next day I stripped all the tones except for the high tone marking future tense out of the passage, saying nothing to Ankamah. We worked through together.
I said nothing about the changes. He said nothing.
Finally, half-way through I asked, “ Is this easy to read?”
“Oh yes,” he replied”
“Do you notice any difference,” I asked?
He looked closely at the text for a few moments before he recognized the sparsity of tone marks.
In fact, it had made no difference at all to him. He was so used to ignoring the multiple accent marks that he didn’t even notice their absence.
A couple of days later I accidently gave him a chapter with every tone removed. When I was about to add in the initial tone on future tense he stopped me. “Let’s just see how it goes without it,” he said. No glitches in that passage.
Ankamah has started writing a novel in Nkonya. Up to now he was afraid that if he didn’t get the tones right people wouldn’t understand his writing. No longer.
I thought of this yesterday as I was reviewing Hebrew grammar and vocabulary. Writing the consonants in Hebrew isn’t difficult – putting the vowel marks in, is. I had just made a mental note to myself that at this stage in life I would never master the zillion minute rules and exceptions that govern vowels (or worry about not being able to do so), when I started thinking about Nkonya tone. After all, in Israel no one but language students, little grade ones and weighty scholars, write vowels. I’m thinking that marking tone in Nkonya is a very similar case.
“Your Identity is in me
and I am your Home.”
-God’s assurance to Jose de Dios
What did Jesus write in the sand, the day they brought a woman caught in adultery to him?
Did he write the names Judah and Tamar?
Was the woman a supposed widow, retching with morning sickness, or just beginning to “show?”
“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”.
Did they remember Judah’s words- “She is more righteous than I.”?
And what a story it is, sitting cozily in Genesis 34.
Again, it is an account told without commentary.
Women’s rights campaigners will not be happy. Dinah, the rape victim has no voice at all. Was she just at the wrong place at the wrong time? Did her “friends” set her up? Was she perhaps successfully wooed by the Hivite chief’s popular and persuasive son? What happened to her afterward? How did she feel about the carnage carried out on her behalf? What did she say to her former girlfriends, now captives and slaves to her family? We are given no hint.
And her Father, Jacob, now Israel. He doesn’t precisely step up to the plate to his only daughter’s defense. He dumps the responsibility on her brothers. After the fact, and in his death-bed curse, he castigates Simeon and Levi for their violence, but where was his leadership at the time. Why didn’t he at least say, “No”?
And then there is the be-smitten Shechem. Possession by rape, and then protestations of love. “Get me this woman for my wife.” “No bride-price is too high.”
And his pitch to the greedy towns folks- “Just be circumcised, and all that is theirs will be ours as we absorb them into our culture.” “Why not?” Religious significance – nope, a thought for the God of the Hebrews – nope, just profit motive.
And of course we have, the Knights-in-Tarnished Armor- Dinah’s brothers, proving for sure that the most effective lie is one strengthened by a healthy truth. But how dare they use the sign of their covenant with God to work an unholy scheme?
And then there is the outcome. The Hivite men lie dead. Their wives, children and all they have fall to the Hebrews- and in fact the two groups get merged, but not as the Hivites envisioned. Dinah is restored to the bosom of her family.
In the final act Jacob cleans out all the foreign idols, including, presumably, the new ones acquired at Shechem. He takes his family back to the House of God, and the true worship, and is given divine protection against attack as he moves his people out. . The covenant promises are renewed.
Should our sister be treated as a prostitute? Apparently not.
It does make the eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth of the Mosaic Law, seem most restrained and reasonable, in its meting out of just desserts, though.
Do I have a handle on this story? I’m looking for one. After all, all scripture is inspired by God and is profitable . . .