Posted on January 21, 2021
Is your leadership (work, home, neighborhood, other) known for ‘straight shooting’? Do your words match your actions? Or, are you known to cut corners, do whatever it takes?
Today we read the (true) Bible story of Jacob and Laban (Genesis 29, particularly :25). It is said that Laban “deceived” his nephew Jacob by promising one daughter to be Jacob’s wife and switching at the last moment. The word used reminded me of another word. Bear with me as I explain.
The earliest Hebrew speakers like Abraham and Jacob carried in their language two words from hunting: (1) yarah, to shoot (straight), and (2) ramah, to shoot or hurl (wildly / astray).
Yarah came to form the basis for one of their most important words, torah, to instruct (rightly, or ‘shoot straight’). Torah is the Hebrew word ‘commandment’ in English, as in the Ten Commandments / Instructions. In the Hebrew-covenantal understanding, torah is God’s instructions on right living within the context of the covenant-love relationship, for example, parents instructing their children.
Ramah on the other hand was shooting wildly. It later acquired the connotation of ‘shooting off at the mouth’, wild accusations and deceiving. In the ancient Hebrew understanding, one either shot straight (normal), or shot wildly (abnormal, since their survival depended on hitting something).
The connoted use of ramah, to shoot wildly or carelessly here in the story of Jacob and Laban was something like we might say today, “just throw it out there and see if anything sticks.” It was deception by design and/or in practice. Laban said one thing, but did another. We all do it.
Over a thousand years later Jesus points out that it is easier to see the splinter in someone else’s eye than the stick in our own. “Lord, enable me to ‘shoot straight’ and not cast wild aspersions or deceive.” The Lord’s 9th ‘Instruction’ / Commandment: “You shall not bear false witness [hurl wild accusations or otherwise practice deception] against your neighbor (Exodus 20:16).