Exegeting the Salt Covenant


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Jan Paron, PhD | July 26, 2021

Though Scripture cites the word salt 31 times in the Old Testament, it mentions salt covenant three (Lv 2:13; Nm 18:19; 2 Chr 13:5). The Ancients considered salt a precious commodity because of its scarcity. (1) In terms of an agreement initiated by God, salt symbolized preservation of covenant with Him against corruption. The Bible links salt with the making of agreements or contracts. This essay exegetes the textual meaning of the salt covenant under the microscope of person, event, symbols, places, and prophecy looking at three occurrences in the Old Testament. It seeks to uncover its meaning and application 

Photo by Castorly Stock on Pexels.com

The notion of a salt covenant appears in Nm 18:19-32 as one of the three covenant methods for confirmation (cf. blood covenant, Gn 15:7-17; shoe covenant, Ru 4:7-9). This instance of the salt covenant contextually relates to the Aaronic call to the priesthood of the tabernacle (Nm 17). Aaron’s rod had budded, blossomed, and brought forth almonds signaling the Lord’s approval for him and his descendants’ rights to the tabernacle priesthood. In chapter 18, the Lord recounts to Aaron alone, the priesthood service rewards providing him and his descendant Aaronides a continual allotment from the Israelite offerings and sealing the provisions with “an everlasting covenant of salt”(18:19a KJV). Ancient Israelites always added salt to sacrificial offerings to the Lord as a preserving agent. 

“You shall season every grain offering with salt so that the salt (preservation) of the covenant of your God will not be missing from your grain offering. You shall offer salt with all your offerings (Lv 2:13 AMP). Salt in in Lv 2:13, stands for that which preserves against corruption, an essential ingredient in offerings made to God. It conveys the image of permanence and God’s eternal covenant with Israel. On the other hand, leaven symbolized the spread of sin and honey likewise fermentation of it. The mineral’s ability not only to ward off decay but also to preserve made it an excellent symbol to represent the perpetual agreement between God and his people.

In 2 Chr 13:5, Scripture shows a second instance of the salt covenant: “Ought ye not to know that the Lord God of Israel gave the kingdom over Israel to David for ever, even to him and to his sons by a covenant of salt?” Similar to Lv 2:13, a covenant of salt conveys a descriptive image of a permanency because salt preserves. Since the Bible links salt to the making of agreements or contracts, it showed itself an ancient symbol of unbreakable friendships and enduring alliances.

In like manner, the salt covenant in Nm 18:19 has characteristics of indissolubility indicating permanency and irreversibility. The allotment consisted of the holy gifts to the Lord, which He in turn gave to Aaron and His descendants as a God-commanded portion—His gift to them. Since the Aaronides had no property, they depended on God alone for their portion through His provisions. 

“Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men” (Mt 5:13). Refrigeration as a means of preserving large quantities of food did not begin to grow until the latter part of the 19th century. One of the most common ways of preserving food before this time (including the period of the Old Testament) was to use salt. This property of physical preservation led to this mineral being used in terms to symbolically represent preservation in general. 

Taken together, a ‘covenant of salt’ means an agreement or contract between parties that endures regardless of the circumstances. Such agreements form a solid, unbreakable and everlasting bond.


(1) Bullinger, 1999, p 207.

Cultural Landscape Mapping in Ministry


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Jan Paron, PhD | July 17, 2021

Cultural Iceberg Model

When an iceberg floats on water, ten percent rises above the surface visible to the naked eye while the remaining ninety percent hides submerged below sea level. Without sonar equipment, the seafarer cannot realize the iceberg’s girth or understand its nature. Culture resembles an iceberg in appearance, dimension, and attributes. Edward Hall in his seminal work Beyond Culture (1976)[1] likened a society’s culture to an iceberg with some aspects visible above the water and larger hidden beneath the surface. He called the external aspects of the cultural iceberg as surface culture and the internal as hidden culture (Figure 1.1). Based on the premises of Hall’s surface and hidden cultures, a cultural landscape map of a given population guides the ministry practitioner across the wide-ranging effects of the two composite cultures.

Figure 1.1

Hall’s Cultural Landscape Model

External: Surface Culture

The external or surface part of culture lies at the iceberg tip. When first engaging with a particular culture, one experiences only the surface ten percent of a given culture. These characteristics demonstrate the surface level behaviors a culture exhibits—the see, hear, and touch behaviors and rules group membership teach and reinforce in their culture. A given culture may change expectations for behavior over time, i.e., generation to generation. Further, a person may culture surf adapting to the culture at hand.)

One acquires cultural behaviors and rules through explicit[2] learning. Members of a given people group consciously learn rules and customs within the culture through experiences from others within the group. Surface-level behaviors consist of habitual patterns that manifest in a group’s daily culture (Kraft, 2008). Regardless of the societal culture, a person gains knowledge of surface culture consciously and purposely. 

People often misjudge a culture, whether an individual or collective, by making assumptions the visible ten percent defines the totality of a culture. However, the sum of a culture’s parts equals a more developed framework. To grasp a culture in totality, one also must investigate its hidden dimensions. Culture does not remain static nonetheless since individuals and people groups change, thereby culture continually fluxes. When cultures and societies interact, each mutually influences the other. Cultures leave their distinct flavor in a population, changing its overall dynamics. Thus, while a person gains a more holistic understanding by learning cultural surface and hidden dimensions, one constantly must interpret it through the lens of change.

Internal: Hidden Culture (Also Called Deep)

The internal culture (hidden or deep culture) lies below the surface of a society comprising ninety percent of culture. It undergirds external behaviors. These encompass norms for rituals, language, roles, ideologies, philosophies, values, tastes, attitudes, desires, assumptions, and myths. The most hidden dimension of culture comprises one’s worldview. Kraft (2008) defines worldview as “the totality of the culturally structured images and assumptions in terms of which a people both perceive and respond to reality.”[3] Most important, worldview structures culture’s deepest level with presuppositions and mental images upon which people base their lives. Since cultural worldview remains hidden, one cannot observe it. Hidden dimensions of culture occur through implicit learning. Worldview forms unwritten, usually invisible norms for behavior that guide appropriate or inappropriate behaviors expected for that culture.

Schein (2008) defined the mechanics of culture as the “shared basic assumptions learned by a group as it solved its problems of external adaptations and internal integration…to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think and feel in relation to those problems.”[4] While cultures explicitly teach rules for engaging life, an individual’s personal hidden dimensions of culture determines how one integrates external adaptations with internal integration. The aggregate emotional components of hidden dimensions drive how one responds to a culture’s dos and don’ts. Internal culture found below the surface runs unconsciously on subjective knowledge.

Cultural Landscape Mapping

Cultural landscape mapping provides a neutral analysis of an intended population’s ethos (worldview, values, and external practices) by gathering cultural data for supporting discipleship across cultures. The map helps a ministry leader respond to culture based on the biblical disciple model adapted to human needs applying principles of grace-filled leadership.

The process of cultural landscape mapping displays cultural patterns from both surface and hidden cultures of an individual as well as the collective body. It gives a working portrait of what motivates surface (external) and hidden (internal) of behaviors, feelings, judgments, and mental constructs from cultural learning and interactions with various group memberships. The leader must understand one’s own and team culture in comparison to the aggregate and individual cultures of ministry participants. 

As you approach cultural landscape mapping, keep in mind a few key thoughts from anthropological, missiological, and theological perspectives. Each carries a distinct focus, yet all converge to provide a comprehensive body of knowledge when approaching cultural landscape mapping. Anthropologists study culture from seen and unseen cultural patterns and experiences apparent in human culture; missiologists view culture from its interaction between God’s mission and humankind’s nature; and theologians look at culture through biblical lenses emphasizing ethics. Ministry heads combine all three perspectives as practitioners in grace-filled leadership with the goal of discipling across cultures. 

Three Levels of Cultural Landscape Mapping

The cultural landscape map includes three levels of culture: level one culture (external practices), level two culture (unspoken rules), and level three culture (unconscious rules). The levels increase in complexity from external practices, to unspoken rules, and ending with unconscious rules associated with worldview. Although every level stands independent of the other, in turn, each also affects it (See Figure 1.2). One’s experiences and encounters with culture shape worldview in the level three culture of unconscious rules, which in turn, influences level two unspoken rules that comprise values and then drives level one culture visible in external practices.[5] (Figure 1.3) 

Figure 1.2

Cultural Landscape Mapping Level Influences

(Based on Morris Opler, 1945)

Level One Culture (External Practices: See, Hear, and Touch Behaviors)

This level orders a specific society through visible external practices of historical patterns, values, societal arrangements, manners, ideas, and ways of living. Members of a given culture know the rules that guide their external culture. Surface culture may include language, food, music, art, power distance, dance, dress/clothing, greetings, esthetics, etc.

Level one culture has a relatively low emotional load. Therefore, if the source culturally miscommunicates a message or action with the receiver, one can correct it without extensive damage. For example, ministry leaders at the Lighthouse Church of All Nations, a multicultural church in the Chicago metro area, consistently greet newcomers with the love of Christ. Showing love through words (Praise the Lord!), gestures (handshake/hug), and other actions govern leadership behaviors that encompass the external or surface church culture at the church. If a leader gives a hearty welcome to a visitor unaccustomed to it, the gesture may make the person uncomfortable. With quick adjustments on the leader’s part with a different greeting, more than likely, one can turn around the cultural differences. Again, the emotional load carries low baggage.

To create a cultural landscape map of the level one external practices requires careful observation and research of an aggregate people group to determine their cultural patterns. Do remember that people may code switch to adapt to various subcultures. For example, a person might converse with an informal vernacular among friends, but change to one more formal when interacting with colleagues in a work culture. So, what the observer sees in a given people’s encounter with a particular environment changes with another. Further, bear in mind visible external practices and invisible worldview assumptions connect. One’s underlying worldview often manifests itself in external practices. Thus, patterns in visible actions provide clues as to the way people think. Communication, in particular, helps one understand how people perceive life. Hiebert related the interrelationship between language and worldview “opens the door into the way people think because words are one of the primary ways in which people communicate their inner thoughts.”[6] In other words, external practices demonstrate cultural signs of the deepest held beliefs about life contained in worldview. 

  • Language (Oral and written). The cultural influence on linguistics includes what you can hear or read such as dialect, speech patterns, jargon, tone of voice, pitch, silence, rate of speech, accent, pronunciation, punctuation, vocabulary, grammar, style, facial expressions, academic vocabulary, vocational vocabulary, religious vocabulary, family vocabulary, speech impediments, generational differences, text, E-mail, social media, cell, face-to-face, memory loss, phrases, first language, second language, prayer language (or no prayer), etc. To note, the United States does not have an official language, while 28 states named English as their designated languages including Hawaii identifying English and Hawaiian as its official.[7]
  • Food. By observing the comprehensive aspects of food, one learns about culture reflected in different facets of life. Though taken for granted as a daily necessity, consider food’s multiple dimensions. Examples: time spent eating, dine in or out, eat with others or alone, dining times, food tastes, food preparation, diet, food to express emotions or celebrations, food determined by wealth, prestige foods, ethnic foods, clean/unclean rules, organizational food (church, family, business, etc.), healthy vs. unhealthy, hot vs. cold foods (Asian and Mediterranean), food cures for disease, prepared food vs. fresh food, availability of food, etc. 
  • Dress. External culture also encompasses dress, a personal expression of self or group identity or utilitarian fashion. Examples: style, generational differences, organizational affiliation, national culture, covered/covered, class, blend in/stand out, tattoos, formal/informal, color for men/color for women, color in general, work; etc. 
  • Music. What role does music play in culture? Humankind incorporates music into the fabric of life from mile markers to worship to entertainment. Examples: Taste, selections, church/secular, music as part of storytelling, extent played, leisure-time pursuit, way of life, lifestyle, worship, music as language; weddings and funerals; graduation; war; sports; dinner etc.
  • Visual Arts. (Drama, fine art, and dance) Visual arts influence society throughout the ages such as chronicling history, illustrating social change, providing political commentaries, and communicating creative expression. Examples: color palette; podcasts, YouTube; storytelling through drama, mystery, or comedy; political cartoons; drawings in the bathroom, doodles on a napkin; religious art forms; praise dance; sermon illustrations; theater; house decorations; magazines, digital art; poetry, proverbs, etc.
  • Literature. Literature serves different purposes in various cultures. Examples: types of literature read (Bible vs. Science), tracks/pamphlets, propaganda, literary level, oral storytelling vs. written narrative, folklore, reading in multiple languages, literary genres, literary vs non-literary text, social media, business languages, role of literature, and symbols associated with text, etc. 
  • Games. Entire scholarly journal exists exploring games and culture, most notably the social, economic and political aspects of their mutual interaction. Examples: interactive media, military games, cards, video games, sports, or toys (across generations)
  • Celebrations or Rites. Cultural celebrations reflect rituals that contain specific meaning and sustain culture. Examples: birthday parties, Bar or Bat Mitzvah, Christmas, weddings, death rituals, cleansing, fasting, goal targets (Weight Watchers), family reunion, marks on a wall marking a child’s growth, etc.

Level Two Culture (Unspoken Rules: Values)

The second level of culture comprises unspoken rules directly below the visible level of culture’s surface. This level has a higher emotional load than the previous focusing on values. While first level features the see, hear, and touch external practices, the second level encompasses values. Pludeddemann described values as “cultural ideals link abstract philosophy to concrete practices.”[8] He furthers explained that values are subconscious assumptions about how people address power, time, personal space, individualism, and status.[9] Values also include conversational patterns, rules of conduct, nonverbal communication, patterns of handling emotions, eye contact, concept of beauty, courtship practices, and notions of leadership. Misunderstandings in addressing culture at this level carry a high weight because it has a high emotional load. Thus, it can cause mix-ups and tensions. 

Actions include:

  • Power Distance: Small Power vs. Large Power Distance. Hofstede defined power distance as “the extent to which the less powerful members of institutes and organizations within a country expect and accept power is distributed unequally.”[10] People from cultures which function in small power distance relate to one another as equals regardless of position, have decision-making responsibilities, contribute and critique decision making of those in power, participate in consultative or democratic power relations, like rewards, and value a flat organizational culture.[11] Those from cultures with a dominant large power distance show centralized authority, paternalistic management style, institutionalized inequalities, highly structured vertical organization, power and authority, and status and rank (Hofstede, 2005; 2013). Examples: (Large Power Distance) people who function well in a traditionally organized academic setting, prisons structure, factory settings as opposed to (Small Power Distance) technology industry, open classroom, collaborative communities, etc. 
  • Personal space (Proxemics) Personal space involves a group’s rule on use of space and its effects on behavior, communication, and social interaction.[12] It includes subcategories of haptics (touch), kinesics (body movement), vocalics (paralanguage), and chronemics (structure of time). Hall emphasized the interrelationship between space and communication in culture.[13] Examples: Preference of distance between people; working space; office size; living; social order; public spac; personal space; confinement; space location; geographical locale; space in moral, formal, and informal situations; sacred space; post modern view as fragmented, chaotic and disorder; modernity as ordered and structured; unity between people vs. separation; etc.
  • High vs. Low Masculinity. According to Hofstede,[14] a High Masculinity culture is more competitive. It measures the dimension’s extent to (1) ego-driven social norms, in which work and material needs take precedence (2) conflict resolution by force, (3) high regard for religion, (4) male dominated leadership roles in which women have a lesser presence, (5) failure not optional, and (6) gender traditional roles and expectations like men don’t cry,[15]  Low Masculinity indicates a preference for cooperation, modesty, caring for the weak, and quality of life.[16] People from this culture work to live with a preference for working less hours, elevatating quality of live and placing people over work. It measures the dimension’s relational capacity with respect to (1) relationship-driven social norms, (2) work to live with people and quality of life important (3) conflict resolution by negotiation, (4) lesser emphasis on religion, (5) both genders serve as leaders, with more women in leadership roles, (6) failure not critical, (7) nontraditional gender roles and expectations.[17]Examples: Concept of pain, self identity, male/female roles in society, parenting, paternal/maternal households, gender pay, long work hours vs. quality of life, (status) servant of the Lord, etc. 
  • High Individualism vs. Low Individualism. Hofstede noted individualists from High Individualistic societies have loose ties with individuals and expect everyone to look after themselves and their immediate family. Their allegiance forms to the self than group, looking at the individual as the most unit in any setting. They stress independence rather than interdependence, and reward individual achievement. People tend to belong to many groups, and change membership as it suits them.[18] Low Individualism measures preference towards the we dimension of culture. It reflects a central focus on (1) reliance and support for an in-group, (2) emphasize on views, needs, and goals of the group rather than one’s own, (3) support for an in-group in exchange for their loyalty, (4) trust on a group’s decision over the self, and (5) group harmony over individual competition.[19] Examples: attitudes towards elders, prefer independence or shared experiences, rewards, concept of self (we vs. I), patterns of decision making (group vs. individual), nature of friendships, social interaction rate, etc. 
  • Time Ordering (Polychronic vs. Monochronic). People orient themselves around time. Polychronic Time holds characteristics of multiplicity and flexibility. People have various activities taking place at one time, without a fixed schedule. They are flexible with time, and easily can do multitask. Also, people move slower in decision making. Monochronic Time typically emphasizes doing one thing at a time during a specified time-period, working on a single task until it is complete. Further, monochronic people are inflexible, seeing time as divided into fixed elements and sequential blocks that can be organized, quantified, and scheduled. They change tasks after one task is completed and are uncomfortable moving to another.[20] Examples: nursing homes keep structured schedules to give participants a sense of time. 
  • High/Low Context. In Low Context cultures, people value clear meaning, high verbal interaction, and explicit codes.[21] (People communicate with one single meaning, give very specific detail, stress written or spoken message over nonverbal cues, and emphasize the verbal codes because it contains meaning.)[22] With High Context cultures, people leave many things unsaid using fewer words and nonverbal codes to communicate.[23] They interact with each other knowing the preferred meaning beforehand; communicate information with different meanings according to context; already understand the context of the current situation; place a large emphasis on nonverbal codes; and one party assumes the other understands the shared meaning.[24]Examples: (High Context) high non-verbal methods to relay meaning, non-verbal more important than words, and develop relationship before business transactions¾(Low Context) meaning in words, straightforward communication, and rules spelled out.

Level Three Culture (Unconscious Rules–Worldview) 

Deeply hidden and invisible to the eye, level three holds unconscious rules associated with worldview. It has an intense emotional load. Worldview relates to “beliefs about the deepest meaning of life and assumptions about the nature of reality”[25] In this level, worldview helps people make order of their lives through foundational cognitive, affective, and evaluative rules (or assumptions).[26] Worldview informs internal values and external practices. Ministry leaders seek to determine and sift out cultural worldviews not in alignment with the Gospel with whom they disciple. 

Worldview comprises:

  • Myths. Myths display the overarching narrative believed to be true based on the interpretation of history and stories of human lives and memory of a community. Myths define moral boundaries to its members.[27] The Hebrews’ exodus from Egypt forms the basis of God’s deliverance of the Israelites. It orders how people view time, sin, and redemption.[28] Examples of myth possibly include biblical narrative of redemption, Jesus’ divine healing and miracles, Jesus’ messiahship, witchcraft dependency on the occult; etc.
  • Ideology. This dimension deals with ideas about how things are or how they ought to be. Examples: capitalism with equal opportunity, communism with distrust of established government, Marxism with humans in an idyllic world of equality, socialism with an element of state distribution of wealth, Darwinism, mercantilism, classical liberalism, kinship, definition of obscenity, attitudes toward dependents, definition of insanity, and mutual care. Ideology also may address systemic rules about generational poverty, caste systems, class, roles related to age, gender, ethnicity, concept of beauty, and notions of cleanliness and smell, etc.
  • Teleology. Teleology comes from the Greek telos (end) and logos (reason). It defines a final destiny in terms of the purpose phenomena serves rather than the cause by which it arises. It seeks to answer three questions: “(1) Does the universe have a purpose?…(2) If the universe has a purpose, whose purpose is it?…(3) What is the purpose of the universe?”[29] Examples: Concept of past and future, God as Elohim, Who created something from nothing with a divine design in mind (Everything that has a beginning has a cause. The universe has a beginning, and therefore, one can posit the universe has a causer-a creator. The creator of the universe created with design and purpose. God fine-tuned and designed the universe for the existence of life, just for us);[30] scientific big bang theory; and mythology about god/goddesses in the creation of the earth/universe.
  • Epistemology. Epistemology pertains to how people distinguish justified beliefs from opinions. It relates to what you believe about knowledge and affects what you accept as valid evidence and particulars. This cultural value dimension asks the question, “What is the basis for knowledge?”[31] It affects the relative significance you ascribe to authority, empirical evidence, reason, intuition, and revelation. It affects how certain you can be about any knowledge and therefore what risks you will take in acting on that knowledge.Examples: modernity (sought order and fulfillment in the world, scientific knowledge mirrors reality and gives access to the external world); post modernity (sees reality as unordered and unknowable, no one truth rather constructs of individuals and groups); and spiritual (based on a scriptural viewpoint and one biblical truth of redemption).[32]

Cultural Landscape Mapping Considerations

Humans behave according to cultural orientation resulting from their interactions with worldview, values, and external social practices from various group memberships. Combined, the three elements represent individual or group ethos. Culture encompasses a wide range of people groups with each representing their own complex ethos. A person shares ethos with multiple groups and has one’s own set. Thus, one’s culture does not remain fixed, rather changes as a person’s interacts with new cultures. Consider the many facets of cultural landscape mapping.

First, an observer cannot see a person’s culture directly on display, although it may become evident through what people say or do. Nevertheless, a leader must decipher and understand surface and hidden cultural patterns to respond to them appropriately. 

Second, culture strictly informs human behavior insofar as patterns and structures people follow. However, people make choices that govern their actions. While they behave according to surface-level cultural patterns, they unconsciously look to hidden, below level culture to structure and interpret their actions. 

Third, while people learn above surface cultural patterns and draw from hidden culture to structure their actions, they make choices regarding how they behave. Culture reflects the script people follow. People think, feel, and evaluate culture resulting in revisions to worldview as people make readjustments and new interpretations to unconscious assumptions. Thus, the script remains in a fluid state and changes.

Figure 1.3

Cultural Landscape Mapping Level Influences

(Based on Morris Opler, 1945)

Steps in Cultural Landscape Mapping

The process of cultural landscape mapping requires mindfulness to analyze a ministry’s intended population and understand the three levels of cultures (external practices, values, and worldviews). Creating a cultural landscape map of a ministry population requires the observer to do more than spend one hour to complete a chart. Rather, it necessitates taking on new roles as a missiologist, anthropologist, and theologian with the approach of mindfulness: a developed awareness of culture through mindful listening, mindful seeing, mindful thinking, and mindful discerning. The practice of mindfulness while engaging culture enables one to detect surface and hidden dimensions of culture. The practice of mindfulness includes the following steps when cultural landscape mapping.

  • Be a learner of culture.
  • Realize the observer’s cultural landscape map differs from a given ministry population since one holds a distinct formation of surface culture, unspoken rules, and unconscious rules. At the same time, the observer, ministry population, and individuals within it share common cultural norms. Seek to understand. 
  • Review the sample maps from prison and elder care ministries your teacher will distribute in class. These provide starting examples to assist in developing a new cultural landscape map. 
  • Research the cultural value dimensions of the given population. Review online authoritative and reliable articles, journals, and books; talk to people in the assigned ministry including its leaders and members (with permission from the ministry head) and read available material from your assigned ministry.
  • Fill in the cultural value dimensions for each of the three levels of the aggregate ministry participants. The lower the culture level lies below the surface culture, the more challenging to detect. Level one behaviors give clues to probable level three.
  • Level three unconscious rules drive external behaviors. Sift worldviews that do not align with Scripture, but contextualize the Gospel to communicate truth. A leader must appreciate the diversity of God’s creation, while at the same time supporting transformation for Christian spiritual formation. 


[1] Hall, Beyond Culture.

[2] Explicit learning rests on concrete, observable knowledge. Luzbetak describe explicit culture as the “who, what, how, when, what kind, and where” that make up a specific people group’s norms ( Luzbetak, L. (1996). The Church and Cultures: New Perspectives in Missiological Anthropology. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

[3] Charles Kraft, Anthropology for Christian Witness (10th ed.) (Maryknoll: Orbis, 2010).

[4] Edward Schein, Organizational Culture and Leadership (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 2010), 18.

[5] Adapted from Morris Opler “Themes as Dynamic Forces in Culture,” American Journal of Sociology, 51 (3), 198–206.

[6] Hiebert, Transforming Worldviews, 91. 

[7] Dine Racoma, “What is the Official Language of the US” [cited 18 May 2012]. Online: http://www.thelanguagejournal.com/2012/05/what-is-official-language-of-united.html.

[8] Plueddemann, James E. (2009). Leading across cultures: Effective ministry and mission in the global church. Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, p. 69.

[9] Plueddemann, Leading Across, 69.

[10] Hofstede, Cultures and Organizations, 46.

[11] Paron, Communication Across. Please read pages six through eight in the Communication Across Cultures Reader 2 for additional information. 

[12] Nina Moore, Nonverbal Communication: Studies and Applications. New York: Oxford University Press. 2010.

[13]Edward T. Hall (1963). “A System for the Notation of Proxemic Behaviour,” American Anthropologist. 65 (5): 1003–1026. doi:10.1525/aa.1963.65.5.02a00020. 

[14] Hofstede, G. “Dimensions,” The Hofstede Centre. Online: http://geert-hofstede.com/dimensions.html

[15] Hofstede, G. “Dimensions.”

[16] Hofstede, G. “Dimensions.” 

[17] Hofstede, G. “Dimensions.”

[18] Hofstede, Culture’s Consequences, 76.

[19] Hofstede, Culture’s Consequences.

[20] Hall, Beyond Culture and Dance of Life: Other dimension of Time (Garden City: Anchor. 1984); Paron, Communication Across. 

[21] Samovar, L., Porter, R., & McDaniel, E. (2010). Communication between cultures (7th ed.). Boston, MD: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.p. 254.

[22] Hall, 1981; 1984

[23] Samovar, L., Porter, R., & McDaniel, E. (2010). Communication between cultures (7th ed.). Boston, MD: Wadsworth, Cengage Learning.pp. 110-1

[24] Hall, 1981; 1984

[25] Plueddemann, James E. (2009). Leading across cultures: Effective ministry and mission in the global church. Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, p. 69.

[26] Hiebert, P. (2008). Transforming worldviews: An anthropological understanding of how people change. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

[27] Hiebert, Transforming worldviews, 27 

[28] Hiebert, Transforming worldviews, 60

[29] Ken Funk, K. What is worldview? (21 March 2001) Online: http://web.engr.oregonstate.edu/~funkk/Personal/worldview.html.

[30] Ana Harbin, “Apologetics: Arguments,” Walking Through the Word 2, Session 6. Alsip, All Nations Leadership Institute, 2012.

[31] Funk, What is worldview?

[32] Hiebert, Transforming Worldviews, 216-17

From: Paron, Jan. “Discipling Across Cultures as a Grace-Filled Leader.” In Leading in a Diverse Church Two, Reader One: 2019, 9-20. Alsip, IL: All Nations Leadership Institute Press, 2019.


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Hall, E. T. (1991). Beyond culture. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books.

Hall, E. T. (1984). Dance of life: The other dimension of time. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books.

Hall, E. T. (1969). Hidden dimension: An anthropologist examines man’s use of space in public and in private. Garden City, NY: Doubleday Anchor Books.

Hall, E. T. (1959). Silent language. New York, NY: Doubleday Dell Publishing Groups.

Hall, E. T. & Hall, M. (1990). Understanding cultural patterns: Germans, French and Americans. Boston, MA: Intercultural Press.

Hauerwas, S. and Willimon, W. (1989). Resident aliens : life in the Christian colony. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.

Hesselgrave, D. (1991). Communicating Christ cross-culturally (2nd ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.      

Hiebert, P. (1983). Cultural anthropology. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Hiebert, P. (2008). Transforming worldviews: An anthropological understanding of how people change. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic.

Hibbert, E. (2016). Training missionaries: Principles and possibilities. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library.

Hofstede, G. (2010). Cultures and organizations: Software of the mind (3rd ed.). New York, NY: McGrlllaw-Hill. 

Hofstede, G. (2001). Culture’s consequences: Comparing values, behaviors, institutions and organizations across nations. Thousand Oakes: CA: Sage Publications.

Kirby, A. (2009). Digimodernism: How new technologies dismantle the postmodern and reconfigure our culture. New York, NY: Continuum. 

Kraft, C. (2010). Anthropology for Christian witness (10th ed.). Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books. 

Kraft, C. (1992). Christianity and culture (10th ed). Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books.

Kraft, C. (1974). Ideological factors in intercultural communication. Missiology. 2, 295-312. doi: 10.1177/009182967400200304

Kraft, C. (2016). Issues in contextualization. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library.

Kroeber, A. L. (1952). The nature of culture. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Lane, P. (2002). Beginner’s guide to crossing culture. Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press. 

Lingenfelter, S. (1996). Age of transformation: A guide for effective cross-cultural ministry. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Lustig, M. & Koester, J. (2005). Intercultural competence (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson. 

Luzbetak, L. (1996).  Church and cultures: New Perspectives in missiological anthropology. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books. 

Menuge, J. L. (n.d.). Niebuhr’s Christ and culture reexamined from Christ and culture in dialogue. Management Technique Incorporated. Cited on October 22, 2013 from http://www.mtio.com/articles/bissar26.htm 

Moore, Nina (2010). Nonverbal communication: Studies and applications. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

Newbigin, L. (1983).The other side of 1984: Questions for the churches. Geneva: World Council of Churches.

Newell, Martin, J. (2016). Crossing cultures in Scripture: Biblical principles for mission practice. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

Nida, E. (1954). Customs and cultures. Joanna Culter Books.

Nida, E. (1960). Message and meaning: The communication of the Christian faith. New York, NY: Harper & Row.

Niebuhr, H. R. (2001). Christ and culture, expanded edition. New York, NY: HarperCollins, Publishing.

O’Keefe, D. J. (1990). Social judgment theory. In Persuasion: Theory and Research. Newbury Park, CA: Sage.

Opler, Morris E. (1945). Themes as dynamic forces in culture. American Journal of Sociology. 51 (3), 198–206.

Paron, J. (2014). Communication across cultures reader two. Alsip, IL: All Nations Leadership Institute Press.

Pashman, M.P. (2018, February 22). “Evangelist to the Masses.” Chicago Tribune

Plueddemann, James E. (2009). Leading across cultures: Effective ministry and mission in the global church. Downer’s Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press.

Schein, E. (2010). Organizational culture and leadership. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Smith, D. (1992). Creating understanding: A handbook of Christian communication across cultural landscapes. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Smith, R. A. (2007). Worldview and culture: Interacting with Charles Kraft, N. T. Wright and Scripture. Global Missiology English

Terry, John. (2015). Missiology: An Introduction to the foundations, history, and strategies of Missions. B & H Publishing.

Van Engen, C., Whiteman, D. & Woodberry, D. (Eds.). (2008). Paradigm shifts in Christian witness. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books. 

VanGelder, C. (2000). The essence of the Church: A community created by the Spirit. Grand Rapids: MI: Baker Academic.

Van Rheenan, G. (1996). Missions. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1996.

Wan, E. (2004). A critique of Charles Kraft’s use/misuse of communication and social sciences in biblical interpretation and missiological formulation. Global Missiology, Research Methodology.

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Wright, N. T. (1992). The New Testament and the people of God. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

Jonah and Schein’s Three Levels of Culture



Jan Paron, PhD | June 27, 2021

The book of Jonah opens with the messenger formula “The word of the Lord came to Jonah” to cry out against Nineveh (Jon 1:1).[1] Though the passage does not name Jonah as a prophet, the formula verifies God’s appointment for him to prophesy to Nineveh (1:2). Second Kings also affirms his status referring to Jonah as a prophet to King Jeroboam II (14:25). Despite the word of the Lord, Jonah fled to Tarshish (Jon 1:3) seeking to escape his call. Later, Jonah submitted to God’s call, and He returned him to Nineveh to carry out the mission (3:3). Jonah prophesied to them, “forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” (3:4 New American Standard Version).[2] The Ninevites repented, and thus God spared the city (vv. 6-10). However, God’s extension of mercy to Nineveh angered Jonah, and the prophet asked to die (4:1, 3). Jonah could not accept His action with the pagans; nonetheless, God justified His decision because of His concern for the more than 120,000 Ninevites (v. 11).[3]


Perhaps, Jonah reacted negatively towards Nineveh repenting because he did not want to see its pagan inhabitants turn from their sin, a city that would eventually destroy the Northern Kingdom. Since the author structured the book as a biographical sketch of Jonah,[4] it allows for a cultural analysis of the prophet’s artifacts, values, and assumptions to provide insight into the whys behind his external behaviors. In particular, his actions gave rise to several queries to answer. How did Jonah’s contextually embedded factors[5] affect his attitude towards Nineveh and readiness to accept their repentance? Further, how did Jonah’s roots grounded in a Hebraic social identity play a role in his outlook? This essay seeks to prove how Jonah’s worldview assumptions set within Israel’s broader cultural nationalism influence his attitude toward Nineveh and drive his resistance to change. In doing so, it uncovers Jonah’s internal values, beliefs, and underlying assumptions behind three of his external artifacts: disobedience, selfishness, and self-exile.

Accordingly, this writing examines Jonah through Schein’s organizational culture theory to explain how Jonah’s cultural context affected his worldview about Nineveh and attitude toward change. The Schein model analyzes three categorical levels of culture: artifacts, espoused beliefs and values, and basic underlying assumptions.[6] While the Schein three-tier model uncovers culture insofar as group dynamics to support strategies for organizational change, even called the onion model for that purpose,[7] the framework adapts well to exposing layers of an individual’s culture within a larger people group’s context. Thus, it blueprints Jonah’s surface and hidden cultures that undergird his architectural framework. In turn, the blueprint provides an anthropological lens through which to view his macro and micro cultural layers allowing for a peeled-back glimpse into the inner workings of Jonah’s conflict and change that drove his responses to the prophecy for Nineveh (Jon 1:3). Thus, its macro culture represents Jonah’s intrinsically formed, nationalist views inherent to and embedded in pre-exilic Israel during the eighth century BC—Yahweh’s disobedient and impetuous wife breaking the covenant marriage vow to her desires and will. At the same time, the micro reflects his beliefs, values, norms, thought patterns, and myths that interact with yet remain separate from the macro.[8]

In considering Jonah’s culture in the context of Israel, the date of which the Nineveh setting takes place holds significance as culture changes over time. Since Israel’s pre-exilic period has a wide date range, its social location and identity contribute to its worldview formation. The tensions and conflict surrounding Israel, including foreign interactions, even may create multiple worldviews.[9] To understand Jonah’s motives, one must peel away the outer layers to expose the inner assumptions. It requires analyzing Jonah in the context of Israel with the proper social location. Thus, dating the narrative takes on significance. Having said this, the book of Second Kings gives a clue as to the time frame that provides at least a window within which to date Jonah insofar as his prophecy to Jeroboam II during the eighth century BC, before the Northern Kingdom fell to the Assyrian Empire. Stuart lists other factors that support eighth century BC dating, such as Aramaisms in language, motifs from Jeremiah, verbs from Joel, and Nineveh as a possible alternate capital of the Assyrian Empire during the first half of the century.[10] Matthews believes it occurred from 850–605 BC with the book’s composition during the post-exilic period, after 500.[11] Richter projects the first half of the eighth century (800-745BC) when the Jeroboam-Uzziah alliance gave rise to wealth and influence, and Tiglath-pileser III ruled Assyria.[12] For the sake of this essay, it will focus on pre-exilic Israel within approximately the 850-605 BC period, even though it encompasses a broad period.

Disobedient Anti-Prophet

Jonah’s disobedient approach to his prophetic commission to cry out against Nineveh surfaced immediately in the narrative’s onset (Jon 1:2-3), demonstrating one of Jonah’s first of the three critical external artifacts (disobedience, selfishness, and self-exile). Further, it previews actions to come fueled by the prophet’s beliefs, values, and assumptions related to the Ninevites.[13] While the text does not describe Jonah as a prophet, Yahweh’s commission to Nineveh suggests it. Second Kings 14:25 confirms Jonah’s call as a prophet concerning his prophecy to King Jeroboam II. Jonah stands among the Twelve in the Old Testament, though not a standard prophet.[14]

To understand the depth of Jonah’s disobedience, one must examine it in light of a prophet’s role. Prophets acted as spokespersons for God’s divine message to the people in Ancient Israel, though not exclusive to Israelites. They received and announced God’s divine will, intentions, purposes, or future from a prophetic utterance.[15]. Disobedience to the call could result in death such as the man of God in Bethel (1 Kgs 13:26). Despite the responsibilities of the office, Jonah chose not to follow the Lord’s three commands: (1) ‘Arise,’ (2) ‘Go at once to Nineveh,’ and  (3) ‘cry out against it’ (Jon 1:3). Instead, he acted contrarily with three, self-determined directions: he (1) ‘got up to flee to Tarshish’ (1:2), (2) ‘went down to Joppa,’ and (3 ‘found a ship that was going to Tarshish’ (v. 3). Although the narrative sets the scene for what follows, it does not establish why Jonah did not carry out the Lord’s message. However, the text immediately portrays him as disobedient to the word of the Lord in his prophetic office. To note, as Jonah followed his personal agenda with the initial decision not to confront Nineveh about its wickedness, in essence, he questioned the Lord’s authority over His creation.

Schellenberg fittingly describes Jonah as an anti-prophet[16] pointing out his atypical stance as a prophet and its complexities in that role. Jonah almost shows a combination between open disobedience and subtle disengagement with Yahweh. For instance, the narrative opens with Jonah fleeing to Tarshish by boat (v. 3). Once on the ship, the Lord sent Jonah so great a wind threatened to destroy the boat making the sailors each cry out to their god, instead, Jonah went below and fell sound asleep (vv. 3-5). He did not call on God (v. 6); but asked the shipmen to throw him overboard to calm the seas (v. 12). Immediately, a great fish God had prepared swallowed up Jonah (v. 17). Once encompassed in its belly for three days, Jonah prayed to God without any apparent remorse for his actions seemingly with a victim mentality (2:3). Another occasion of a posture antithesis to a prophet occurred after Jonah prophesied to Nineveh. While its inhabitants covered themselves with sackcloth and cried for God’s mercy in repentance; in contrast, Jonah sat sullenly withdrawn to the east of the city (3:8-10; 4:5). He showed avoidance and an inappropriate approach to his call. His anti-prophet behavior and responses run throughout the story in different variations.

The question remains as to what beliefs and values behind his disobedience caused a reaction so adverse to Nineveh that he would risk separation and subsequent punishment from God? The Lord commanded Jonah to go to city and cry out against it because of its wickedness (1:2). Matthews describes the Lord’s call as so strong that a prophet ultimately must address it, including preaching judgment as the Lord commanded Jonah. The prophet could try to flee from God and his commission but could not escape it. He could hide but not run.[17] Jonah realized he had to fulfill the command to the Assyrian city of Nineveh (vv. 13–17).

Given the prophet’s strong call to duty, why did Jonah not fulfill the Lord’s command immediately? It was not until a large fish swallowed him up that he understood his duty would not go away (2:1-9). Further, how did Jonah rationalize running from it? Tarshish (modern-day Spain) In his mind, the city may have represented the farthest point to flee, the ultimate hiding place. Physical distance resulting from his sin of disobedience suggests alienation from the presence of the Lord. The ideology from humanity’s sinful nature historically results in separation from God. Metaphorically speaking, it brought Jonah east of Eden like Adam and Eve (Gn 3:23–24) and Cain (4:16),[18] instead hurled to the sea and then into the belly of a large fish appointed by the Lord (Jon 1:15-17). At this juncture, the text did not indicate why Jonah so aggressively avoided Nineveh but does show the effects of decisions that run contrary to God. 

Quite possibly, it may have had to do with the Northern Kingdom’s liminality upon entering a period of prosperity. In other words, Jonah looked out for Israel. In his eyes, he may have wanted to see continued prosperity. Isaiah (Is 7:17—8:28) and Hosea (Hos 9:3; 10:6; 11:5) both prophesied the Assyrian invasion of Israel. God told Jehu his sons would rule Israel for four generations, meaning until Jeroboam II (2 Kgs 10:30). During the era of Israel’s kings, Jeroboam ruled the Northern Kingdom while Uzziah reigned over Judah.[19] King Jeroboam II had restored Israel’s boundaries to those under David by reconquering the Transjordan in 760 BC (14:23-29, Am 6:14). His reign from 786-746 BC reflected peace and expansion for Israel.[20] Further, the annexation of Gilead, Lo-debar, and Karnaim enabled Israel to gain control over the major trade route connecting the Tigris-Euphrates to Egypt through the King’s Highway. Sole control over the trade route gave rise to Israel’s newfound wealth. Israel and Judah regarded Nineveh as its greatest enemy. Estelle added that Israel’s collective conscience could not view Assyria with neutrality because of recent memories associated with it.[21] Did Jonah think he could stop the Assyrian invasion if he allowed God to destroy Nineveh?

Selfish Prophet

In addition to being a prophet, albeit disobedient, 2 Kgs 14:25 describes Jonah as a servant of the Lord, the God of Israel. Servants serve, yet scripture shows another artifact of Jonah as selfish. Named as a servant of the Lord, he stood in the company of Old Testament patriarchs, prophets, kings, and the faithful of Israel.[22] The Old Testament first mentions servant of the Lord in Gn 26:24b, referring to Abraham in the possessive form, “my servant.” They serve God and His desires for the kingdom, not the world nor its influences (Gn 24:2). Paron emphasizes that a servant of the Lord carried out God’s requests “based on faith in God’s covenantal promises for Israel, generation to generation.”[23] Thus, they fulfill God’s heart assignments for His people. Nevertheless, God gave His servants a choice to obey his commands, decrees, and instructions (49:15). While scripture calls Jonah a servant in Second Kings, he elected not to follow the Lord’s instructions in the case of Nineveh. So, why did it refer to him as a servant of the Lord, the God of Israel (2 Kgs 14:25)? Jonah showed himself as selfish rather than selfless, running in opposition to God’s directions. If Jonah had fled from his hometown Gath Hepher (14:25) to Tarshish, he would have traveled 3,000 miles to the westernmost point away from Nineveh to distance himself from God. In addition to a disobedient nature in his office of prophet, the text reveals him as selfish.[24] Jonah did not consider his duty to serve in a prophetically forth-telling capacity to Nineveh as God’s messenger.

Nineveh’s wickedness may lend an understanding of Jonah’s beliefs leading to his disdain for Nineveh and subsequent decisions (Jon 1:2). Even though the book did not elaborate on wickedness, Jonah may have understood it without explanation. Nahum remarked about Nineveh’s endless cruelty after Jonah: “Who has ever escaped your endless cruelty” (Na 3:19 New Revised Standard Version). The passage suggests Israel knew of Nineveh’s oppressive severity. Unconsciously, Jonah may have had an ingrained belief that the Ninevites did not deserve a second chance from God. 

Grant-Henderson brings up the point related to Israel’s post-exilic view of outsiders as nations exclusive to God’s mercy. She posits a strong statement relative apropos to Jonah: “If a foreigner can repent so quickly and receive the compassion of God, then surely the Israelite nation that is God’s chosen one will be able to receive the same care no matter how far they strayed.”[25] She tied this assertion to Israel’s self-centered view that the God of Israel only bestows grace to His people, from a collectivist perspective only to insiders, not outsiders. Judah may have viewed God granting mercy to a foreign nation as injustice when Israel itself experienced pain and hardship. An Exodus 32 redux?  Though the Northern Kingdom prospered during the reign of Jeroboam II, the political engine distributed kingdom wealth disproportionately to the connected. Most people lived in poverty, not luxury.[26] Judah did not fare as well as its northern neighbor. Therefore, the self-centered Israelite mindset that permeated their values propagated the underlying assumptions of forgetting God as sovereign. Even though Jonah referenced God as “gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abundant in mercy” (Jon 4:2b), he may well have directed it only towards Israel, as the “Lord my God” (2:6), literally meaning the Lord God who belongs to Israel.

Self-Exiled Prophet 

Nineveh’s willingness to repent presents an ironic contrast to Israel and Judah’s reluctance to do so the same.[27]Upon Jonah’s recommissioning to Nineveh (3:1), he walked to the city from where the fish spit him out. Then, he cried out and said, “Forty more days, and Nineveh will be overthrown” (v. 4). From the least to the greatest, the Ninevites believed the word of the Lord. The king issued an edict that everyone must turn from their evil ways (v. 8). Jeremiah virtually preached this same message to Israel (Jer 25:5).

Their repentance angered Jonah; thus, he placed himself in exile outside the city. Jonah figuratively went east of Eden away from the presence of God in self-imposed isolation out of anger when left to go east of Nineveh. “So now, Lord, please take my life from me, for death is better to me than life” (Jon 4:3). Once again, Jonah physically placed himself out of the Lord’s presence, demonstrating the antithesis of a prophet’s expected behavior, and experienced another punishment as God appointed a scorching east wind against him and heat of the sun beat down on him (4:8). 

While Nineveh hoped that God would change His mind and not destroy them, Jonah feared a gracious and merciful God (v. 2). He knew God’s character.[28] The same mercy God showed Jonah throughout the story, He also would demonstrate to Nineveh. Just as Israel repeatedly operated in the mindset of covenant breakers with Yahweh, Jonah approached God much the same way when he placed himself in exile and pouted. The allusion to Israel’s exile bookends the story, beginning in his flight west to Tarshish and ending east outside Nineveh. Did Jonah, who rudely argued with God over sparing Nineveh forget God rescued him from the belly of the fish even though he did not repent of his disobedience? (v.9). As a type for Israel, Jonah likewise foreshadows the mercy God gave His chosen upon restoration from exilic Israel and again to eschatological Israel (Rom 9-11).

Conclusion: Change and Conflict in Nineveh

Poole and Van de Ven view organizational change as occurring in cycles driven by four forces of change related to goal implementation in an entity.[29] The forces include life cycle, dialectical, teleological, and evolutionary. Each force, in turn, affects the implementation of the organizational mission. Of the four forces, teleological change comes to mind in the case of Jonah because God implemented part of His predetermined plan for redemption in Nineveh. He needed the city as part of Assyria to later invade the Northern Kingdom

Teleological change involves intentional and purposeful goal implementation to drive change, dependent upon constituents working together for its fruition. However, like any change, it can provoke conflict. Indeed, Jonah having had to prophesy to Nineveh gave rise to conflict for him. The tension stemmed from the collective Hebrew community, which in turn influenced his social identity. Their broader social sphere included the political, economic, cultural, and religious mores of Israel’s society, of which Jonah had a membership.[30] Therefore, he functioned as a prophet guided by espoused beliefs and ethical rules from his ethnic roots that formed boundaries for his behavior. God’s desire for Nineveh to repent triggered Jonah’s resistant behaviors that manifested in disobedience and selfishness to Yahweh and isolation from His presence. 

God’s nature does not change, remaining immutable: “For I, the Lord, do not change (Mal 3:6a; e.g., Num 23:19; Isa 46: 9-11; Jas 1:13).[31] Rather, how He deals with people does. He bestowed mercy upon Nineveh and later destroyed them because of their continued wickedness. However, God also demands change from His people. He challenged Jonah’s existing social standards. As the Creator of humankind and a sovereign God, He alone determines mercy. In this case, it pertained to exclusion versus inclusion of grace for a foreign nation. 

Believers in Christ can learn from Jonah’s mistakes of disobedience, selfishness, and self-isolation that interfere with spiritual growth and call to mission. Yahweh desires intimacy with His children to shape and form them that only comes from remaining in His presence in covenant and walking in His Spirit. In its absence, the flesh gives sin a place to dwell. Sin cannot reside where restoration should take place as His tabernacle abides within His image-bearers. 

Perhaps, the most significant point to remember comes with one’s high calling from God. Jesus commanded His disciples to take the Gospel to the nations (Mt 28:19) without exclusion showing unconditional love (Mk 12:31; Jn 13:34). Like Jonah, God makes His followers messengers of His grace and mercy. In a divided society permeated with judgment fueled by hate, much like Israel and Gentiles cultures, the Body of Christ must reflect on the past and self-evaluate whether it sits east of Nineveh pouting. Does it self-determine who stands worthy of the Gospel? The Church must rise up and actively become coyotes crossing into alien territory, bringing the message of hope of salvation in mission—Become border crossers for the kingdom! 

[1] The book narrates Jonah’s experiences surrounding his call by God to prophecy repentance to Nineveh, an urban center of Assyria. Jonah hailed from Gath Hepher, a border town in ancient Israel, a village near Nazareth in Israel (2 Kgs 14:25) in the northern kingdom, in the area known as the district of the Gentiles (Is 9:1). Dates vary on the event’s time of occurrence and the book’s writing. 

[2] Unless otherwise specified, this writing will quote scripture from the New American Standard Version.

[3]  Daniel J. Hays and Tremper Longman III, The Message of the Prophets: A Survey of the Prophetic and Apocalyptic Books of the Old Testament (Downers Grove, Zondervan, 2010), Kindle. Though Nineveh repented, it soon returned to its former evil state. Assyria rose in power to dominate the Ancient Near East (ANE). The Lord used the empire to judge the Northern Kingdom. Nahum prophesied Nineveh’s destruction after Jonah.

[4] Douglas Stuart, Hosea-Jonah, vol. 31, Word Biblical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, ) 537.

[5] Communication occurs in context, which affects how a person decodes any given verbal or nonverbal message. Existing factors such as cultural (learned values, beliefs, and behaviors), historical (expectations and motivation), psychological (emotions, intentions, mood, power/authority, and judgment), occasion (place, event, situation, and relationship), environmental (locale, space, setting, time, and spiral of silence) and number of people (individual, group, or multitude) all play a role in establishing context. (Noelle-Neumann, 1984; O’Keefe, 1990; Rogers and Steinfatt, 1999; Samovar, Porter and McDaniel, 2010).

[6] Edgar H. Schein, Organizational Culture and Leadership (San Francisco: Wiley, 2010), 22-23. See also Hall’s theory of culture:  Edward T. Hall, Beyond Culture (Garden City: Anchor, 1981), 16. Hall devised a similar framework to describe innate cultural characteristics, interrelated cultural factors, and common boundaries in a person or people group.

[7] Gamze Yilmaz, (2014) “Let’s Peel the Onion Together: An Application of Schein’s Model of Organizational Culture” Communication Teacher, 28:4, 224-228, (July 2014), 224. DOI: 10.1080/17404622.2014.939674.

[8] Schein, Organizational Culture and Leadership, 55. He states “To fully understand what goes on inside the organization, it is necessary to understand both the organization’s macro context, because much of what you observe inside simply reflects the national, and the interplay of subcultures because they often reflect the primary occupational cultures of the organization members. 

[9] David Naugle, Jr., Worldview: The History of a Concept (Grand Rapids, William B. Eerdmans Publisher, 2002. Naugle contends a person has more than one worldview, a multiplicity, meaning they evolve dependent upon their impermanent nature due to the intermingling of life experience, sentiments, and ideas against historical periods and context.

[10] Douglas Stuart, “Jonah,” in Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets, eds. Daniel Reid and Allison Rieck (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 2012), 457, 460-461. Stuart provides other datings to support the eight century BC period. The term king of Nineveh may connote a somewhat generic label in the book’s context suggesting an Assyrian king may be present in nineveh early in the eighth century BC where or not Nineveh was the capital of the Assyrian Empire. 

[11] Victor H. Matthews, The Hebrew Prophets and Their Social World (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012), 26.

[12] Sandra Richer, “Eighth-Century Issues: The World of Jeroboam II, the Fall of Samaria, and the Reign of Hezekiah,” in Ancient Israel’s History: An Introduction to Issues and Sources, eds. Bill T. Arnold and Richard Hess (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014), 320.

[13] Dennis Tucker, Jr., Jonah: Baylor Handbook on the Hebrew Bible (Waco: Baylor University, 2006. The discourse marker ‘and’ translated in the interlinear (wayyiqtol form) from Hebrew provides the reader with a signal. It precedes in the first of sequential events to describe how “the word of the Lord came to Jonah” (v.1). References to a word of the Lord coming to a prophet include 1 Kgs 13:20, 16:7: Jehu; 1 Kgs 19:19: Elijah; Jer 33:1, 39:15: Jeremiah; Hos 1:1: Hosea; Mic 1:1: Micah; and Zeph 1:1, 7:12: Zephaniah. Second Chronicle 11:3 in the case of Samuel says “according to the word of the Lord by Samuel” 

[14] Matthews, The Hebrew Prophets and Their Social World. Standard prophets include Ezekiel, Hosea, Joel, Amos, Micah, Habakkuk, and Zephaniah. During the destruction and exile of Judah. Their prophetic themes included (1) Israel must repent, (2) without repentance judgment will follow, and (3) hope lies beyond judgment for a restored future for both Israel/Judah and the nations.

[15] Daniel G. Reid and Allison Rieck, eds., Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets (Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 2012), 587.

[16] Schellenberg, “An Anti-Prophet among the Prophets? On the Relationship of Jonah to Prophecy,” 355. 

[17] Matthews, The Hebrew Prophets and Their Social World, 201. 

[18] Constantin Oancea, “Imagery and Religious Conversion: The Symbolic Function of Jonah 1:13.” Religions 9 (3): 1–9. doi:10.3390/rel9030073.

[19] Bruce E. Willougby, Amos, The Anchor Bible Dictionary, vol A-C (New York: Doubleday), 205. King Jeroboam II ruled from 786-746 BC, while Uzziah from 783-742 BC. Both held lengthy reigns resulting in peace and expansion for both the northern and southern kingdoms. 

[20] Willougby, Amos, 205-206. 

[21] Bryan Estelle, Salvation Through Judgment and Mercy: The Gospel According to Jonah (Phillipsburg: P & R Publishers, 2005), Kindle.

[22] According to Paron in “Uncovering the Servant of the Lord” in some of the Old Testament servants of the Lord included “Abraham (Gn 26:24), Moses (Ex 14:31; Dt 34:5; Josh 1:2, 13), Joshua (Jo 24:29; Jgs 2:8), Hezekiah (2 Chr 32:16), Isaiah (Is 20:3), Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon (Jer 25:9), Zerubbabel (Hg 2:23), prophets as a group (2 Kgs 17:13; Am 3:7; Jer 7:25; 26:5), and the faithful ones of Israel (Is 49:1-6).”

[23] Jan Paron, “Uncovering the Meaning of Servant of the Lord,” Perspectives 12 (blog), August 19, 2014. https://specs12.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/uncovering-the-meaning-of-servant-of-the-lord/.

[24] Removing oneself from the presence of the Lord in disobedience can bring judgment. Adam and Eve hid themselves from God’s presence among the trees of the Garden of Eden after eating from the forbidden tree of knowledge (Gn 2:17; 3:8). For breaking His command not to eat of the tree, He removed them from the garden. 

[25] Anna Grant-Henderson, Inclusive Voices in Post Exilic Judah (Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 2002), 103.

[26] Douglas Stuart, Hosea-Jonah, vol. 31, Word Biblical Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 1988), 516.

[27] Jan L. Paron, Study of Selected Cultural Value Dimensions from Edward T. Hall and Geert Hofstede for Bridging Communication in an Urban, Multiethnic Church (Marrion: Wesley Seminary, 2014).Paron points out that “Culture reflects the elements of worldview (beliefs or thinking), values (feeling), and external practices (behaviors) each people group teaches and reinforces to its members. 

[28] Bryan D. Estelle, Salvation Through Judgment and Mercy: The Gospel According to Jonah, Kindle.

[29] Marshall Poole and Andrew Van de Ven, eds., Handbook of Organizational Change and Innovation, 1st ed., New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, Kindle.

[30] Schein, Organizational Culture and Leadership, 26-27.

[31] Jan Paron, “Doctrine of Immutability,” Perspectives 12 (blog), November 13, 2017. https://specs12.wordpress.com//?s=doctrine+of+immutability&search=Go.


Allen, Leslie C. The Books of Joel, Obadiah, Jonah, and Micah. Grand Rapids, William B. Eerdmans, 1976.

Andrews, Michael W. 2018. “The Sign of Jonah: Jesus in the Heart of the Earth.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 61 (1): 105–19. 

Arnold, Bill and Richard Hess. Ancient Israel’s History. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014.

Brett, Mark, G. ed. Ethnicity and the Bible. Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2002.

Bright, John. A History of Israel. 4th ed. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2000. 

Boeckel, Peter B. “The Polyvalence of Atonement in the Old Testament: A Wesleyan Reflection on Leviticus and Jonah.” Wesleyan Theological Journal 50 (1): 116–33. 

Chicago Manual of Style: The Essential Guide for Writers, Editors, and Publishers. 17th ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017.

De la Torre, Miguel. Reading the Bible from the Margins. Maryknoll, Orbis Books, 2002.

Ellis, Robert R. 2016. “A Word about … the Sign of Jonah for Our Culture.” Review & Expositor 113 (4): 443–46. doi:10.1177/0034637316665181.

Estelle, Bryan. Salvation Through Judgment and Mercy. Phillipsburg: R & R Publishers, 2005.

Freedman, David, N., Gary A. Herion, David F. Graf, and John D. Pleins. eds. The Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol A-C. New York: Doubleday, 1992.

Fuhr, Richard A. and Gary E. Yates. Hearing the Voice of the Minor Prophets: Message of the Twelve. Nashville: B&H Academic, 2016.

Grant-Henderson, Anna. Inclusive Voices in Post Exilic Judah. Collegeville: The Liturgical Press, 2002.

Hays, J. Daniel and Tremper Longman III. The Message of the Prophets A Survey of the Prophetic and Apocalyptic Books of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2010.

Hall, Edward T. Beyond Culture. Garden City: Anchor, 1981.

Hiebert, Paul, G. Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2008.

Joseph, Abson Prédestin. “Shaping Prophetic Voices for the Public Sphere.” Christian Scholars Review 49, no. 4 (July 15, 2020): https://christianscholars.com/shaping-prophetic-


Kaplan, Jonathan. “Jonah and Moral Agency.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 43, no. 2 (2018): 146–62. doi:10.1177/0309089217725258.

Kelsey, Marian. 2020. “The Book of Jonah and the Theme of Exile.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 45 (1): 128–40. doi:10.1177/0309089219864607.

LaCocque, Andre and Pierre-Emmanuel Lacocque. Jonah: A Psycho-Religious Approach to the Prophet. Columbia: University of South Carolina, 1990.

———. Jonah: The Jonah Complex. Atlanta: John Knox, 1981.

Mann, Steven T. “Performative Prayers of a Prophet: Investigating the Prayers of Jonah as Speech Acts.” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 79, no. 1 (January 2017): 20–40.

Matthews, Victor H. The Hebrew Prophets and Their Social World. 2nd ed. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2012.

Meredith, Christopher. 2014. “The Conundrum of Ḥtr in Jonah 1:13.” Vetus Testamentum 64 (1): 147–52. doi:10.1163/15685330-12301143.

Miller, Maxwell J. and John H. Hayes. A History of Ancient Israel and Judah. 2nd ed. Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 2006.

Naugle, Jr., David. Worldview: The History of a Concept. Grand Rapids, William B. Eerdmans Publisher, 2002.

Noelle-Neumann, E. The Spiral of Silence: Public Opinion — Our Social Skin. Chicago: University of Chicago, 1984.

Oancea, Constantin. 2018. “Imagery and Religious Conversion: The Symbolic Function of Jonah 1:13.” Religions 9 (3): 1–9. doi:10.3390/rel9030073.

O’Hanlon, G. F. The Immutability of God in the Theology of Hans Urs Von Balthasar. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1990.

O’Keefe, D. J. Social judgment theory. Persuasion: Theory and research. Newbury Park: Sage, 1990.

Oxley, Simon. “Certainties Transformed: Jonah and Acts 10:9-35.” The Ecumenical Review 56, no. 3 (July 2004): 322–26. 

Paron, Jan. Discipling Across Cultures as a Grace-Filled Leader, Reader 1. Alsip: All Nations Leadership Press, 2019.

———. “Doctrine of Immutability.” Perspectives 12 (blog). November 13, 2017. https://specs12.wordpress.com/2017/11/13/doctrine-of-immutability/.

———. “Reconciliation in Corinth, Pt. 2: Biblical History & Forces of Change.” Perspectives 12 (blog). August 10, 2012. https://specs12.wordpress.com/2012/08/10/corinth-biblical-history-forces-of-change/

———. “Uncovering the Meaning of Servant of the Lord.” Perspectives 12 (blog). August 19, 2014. https://specs12.wordpress.com/2014/08/19/uncovering-the-meaning-of-servant-of-the-lord/

Poole, Marshall and Andrew Van de Ven, eds. Handbook of Organizational Change and Innovation. 1st ed. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Reid, Daniel G. and Allison Rieck, eds. Dictionary of the Old Testament Prophets. Downers Grove, InterVarsity Press, 2012.

Richer, Sandra. “Eighth-Century Issues: The World of Jeroboam II, the Fall of Samaria, and the Reign of Hezekiah.” In Ancient Israel’s History: An Introduction to Issues and Sources, edited by Bill T. Arnold and Richard Hess, 319-349. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2014.

Rogers, Everett M. and Thomas M. Steinfatt. Intercultural Communication. Long Grove: Waveland Press, 1999.

Ryu, Chesung Justin. 2009. “Silence as Resistance: A Postcolonial Reading of the Silence of Jonah in Jonah 4.1-11.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 34 (2): 195–218. doi:10.1177/0309089209356410.

Samovar, Larry A., Richard E. Porter, and Edwin R. McDaniel. Communicating Between Cultures. 9th ed. Boston: Cengage Learning, 2017.

Sasson, Jack N. The Anchor Yale Bible: Jonah. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990

Schein, Edgar H. Organizational Culture and Leadership. San Francisco: Wiley, 2010.

Schellenberg, Annette. “An Anti-Prophet among the Prophets? On the Relationship of Jonah to Prophecy.” Journal for the Study of the Old Testament 39, no. 3 (March 2015): 353–71. doi:10.1177/0309089215577593.

Shepherd, Michael B. A Commentary of the Book of the Twelve: The Minor Prophets. Grand Rapids: Kregel Academic, 2018.

Slade, Carol, William G. Campbell, and Stephen V. Ballou. Form and Style: Research Papers, Reports, Theses. 9th ed. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1994.

Smith-Christopher, Daniel L. A Biblical Theology of Exile. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2002.

———. Jonah, Jesus, and Other Good Coyotes: Speaking Peace to Power in the Bible. Nashville: Abingdon, 2007.

Stuart, Douglas. Hosea-Jonah, vol. 31. Word Biblical Commentary. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Academic, 1988.

Timmer, Daniel C. A Gracious and Compassionate God: Mission, Salvation, and Spirituality in the Book of Jonah.Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2011.

Tucker Jr., Dennis.  Jonah: Baylor Handbook on the Hebrew Bible. Waco: Baylor University, 2006).

VanGemeren, William A. Interpreting the Prophetic Word: An Introduction to the Prophetic Literature of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2002.

Wendland, Ernst R. 2018. “A Discourse Structural Overview of the Prophecy of Micah.” The Bible Translator 69 (2): 277–93. doi:10.1177/2051677018785213.

Whitesel, Bob. Preparing for Change Reaction: How to Introduce Change in Your Church. Indianapolis: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2007.

Wolff, Hans Walter. “Jonah: The Messenger Who Obeyed.” Currents in Theology and Mission 3, no. 2 (April 1976): 86–97.

Wrogemann, Henning. Intercultural Theology, Volume One. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2016.

Yates, Gary E. 2016. “The ‘Weeping Prophet’ and ‘Pouting Prophet’ in Dialogue: Intertextual Connections between Jeremiah and Jonah.” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 59 (2): 223–39. 

How to Title a Passage: Learning to See Biblical Text (James 1:2-4)


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Jan Paron, PhD|June 22, 2021

2My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; 3Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. 4But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.

Jas 1:2-4


  • Carefully read and observe the passage.
  • Next, jot down your thoughts about what the title requires.
  • Then, narrow down your thoughts to the most critical.
  • Finally, narrow the most critical to one thought that applies to your passage title.

(1) What did the text mean to the biblical audience?

This title asks the reader to determine what the passage meant to the biblical audience according to culture, language, circumstances, period, or covenant.

Possible titles: (1) Command to respond to trials of faith with joy or (2) Command to let patience have her perfect work

(2) What theological principal does the text hold?

For this title, determine what the author intended the passage to mean.

Possible title: (1) God tries faith in Christ to perfect it with patience and completeness

(3) What does the text say about general-to-specific?

With this title, you focus on a passage that features text from general to specific. Thus, an author will introduce an idea, and then explain it with specific details.

Possible title: Patience in trials of faith produces Christian maturity

(4) What does the text say about its purpose statement?

You can title a passage that includes a purpose statement. Generally, a purpose statement follows a conditional clause (begins with if, when, whenever, since, because, and in order to). The words that, in order that, or so that introduce a purpose statement.

Possible title: That you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing

(5) What means does the text tell about accomplishing something?

In this manner of titling, you write the means brought about by the purpose, result, or action.

Possible title: God accomplishes His purposes through our trials

(6) What does the text reveal about the actions of people or God in the passage?

When titling for actions focus on the actions of people or God in the passage. Keep the actions of people separate from God.

Possible titles: God maturing His children in Him and growing them into His likeness or Believers must practice spiritual toughness in troubled times

Adapted from Duvall, J. S. and J. D. Hays, J. D. Grasping God’s Word. Grand Rapids: MI, 2005.

Contextual Study: Exegetical Method


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Jan Paron, PhD|June 15, 2021 

Hermeneutics deals with the field of biblical study. One of its fundamental tenets includes the context principle. Context connects thoughts running through a portion or whole of Scripture to reveal the original intent of God’s truth. One interprets a word or verse keeping in mind the surrounding content, historical, and cultural contexts of the passage, book, testament, and Bible. The God-inspired text speaks for itself in context, rather than the reader injecting ideas into it.

Exegesis Chart

Contextual Principle: Exegetical Method 

Step 1 (Read and Reread)

Read and reread the passage both silently and aloud. Take time to hear it. Remember, the Bible’s early audience utilized the text as spoken word. Take caution when listening, however, not to inject contemporary meaning into the ancient text. The current social location and cultural identity differ from the original audience.

Do not rush the process. Pray for understanding and meditate on the Word. Allow the Holy Spirit to illuminate its meaning. Remember, a quality study takes time. 

Step 2 (Ask Questions)

A context study should make the reader ask questions and extend thinking about the text. While reading, write down open-ended questions about the verse and words. Begin by formulating who, what, when, where, why, how, and for what reason questions with an open-ended nature. An open-ended question suggests more than a yes or no response; rather, it requires digging for the answer. Look at Jas 1:2. The author in this verse remarks, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;” (KJV). James conjugated the word ‘count’ as a command. What events transpired that necessitated James to command the readers to ‘count it all joy’? How do we understand ‘divers temptations’ in the context of the early church? What might Jesus say to His followers today through this passage?

Step 3 (Research Behind the Text)

Find out what occurs behind the text for its situational contexts. When studying the passage behind the text, investigate the passage and the book. Learn about the overall book, passage, and surrounding verses to the passage/s of study. Find out such information as the book’s author, audience, dating, purpose, themes. To understand the background of the scattered, the reader must trace the historical events from the book of Acts that led to scattering the church. What religious, political, economic, social, and ethnic factors created a tension that resulted in their scattering? Where did the diaspora settle? How did living in a different locale away from the synagogue, family, and community affect their spiritual walk?

James, the brother of Jesus and head of the Jerusalem church, wrote the book in the form of a letter. He addressed it to “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (Jas 1:1). The expression ‘twelve tribes’ applied to Jewish Christians. After Stephen’s death, believers from the early Jerusalem church scattered as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Syrian Antioch due to persecution (see Acts 8:1; 11:19). As the leader of the Jerusalem church, James wrote as their pastor to instruct and encourage his dispersed people in the face of their difficulties as aliens in a foreign land. The nature of displacement accounts for James’s references to trials and oppression, his intimate knowledge of the readers, and the authoritative nature of the letter in providing moral direction. 

Step 4 (Investigate Within the Text)

Go within the text and determine its literary features. Look for context clues to help define a word. Begin by reflecting upon how the passage connects to other verses in the chapter, book, and testaments. Notice the surrounding words in the sentence and paragraph and how they affect word meaning. 

Parts of speech additionally shine a light on meaning. Does the word appear as a noun, adjective, verb, adverb, conjunction, etc? Consider ‘divers temptations’ in Jas 1:1. The plural adjective divers modifies and describes the plural noun temptations. When defining temptations, describe it by including the meaning of divers. Also, look for the verbs in a passage, especially commands. Unique to James, the author ordered 59 imperatives out of 108 verses and followed the commands with a purpose statement. Imperative verbs in James 1:2-4 include count (v. 2) and let (v. 4). 

Step 5 (Continuing Within the Text: Expository Dictionary and Cross Referencing)

Look up the word in a Bible expository dictionary, either online or hard copy. Do not use a contemporary dictionary. Find what the word means according to authorial intent in the passage. First, determine the gloss meaning, a basic definition of one to three words in length. Note, the gloss must match the context of the verse. Then, find the full definition. Read it in more than one expository dictionary (BLB.org, BibleHub.com, and Vine’s Online). Again, make sure the full definition matches the intent and context of the sentence containing the word. Do not assume the same definition applies to two identical words in a sentence or paragraph. The context of a word changes its meaning.

Cross-referencing also develops meaning. Locate the cross-reference verses to unwrap a word. Do not just cite it; explain how it describes the word and adds to its meaning. Select the cross-references with like meaning.

Step 6 (Organize Behind and Within the Text Information and Write a Summary Definition)

Combine within and behind-the-text information and then write a final, four-sentence definition. Thoroughly check the findings to eliminate word fallacies. Look at the draft information below. While lengthy, it unwraps the word temptations showing both behind and within the text meanings. It culminates with a summary definition taking all the research into account.

Step 7 (Application)

Respond to questions about how the word or verse applies to the body of believers today. What is your takeaway from the study? Based on the study, how does God work in the lives of His people? Answer in three to four sentences.

Contextual Study: Jas 1:2 (Temptation)

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience” (Jas 1:2-3 KJV).

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (NKJV).

Behind the Text

What temptations (or trials) did the scattered experience? The word ‘divers’ (Jas 1:2) describes temptations. As part of a triple alliteration (peripesēte, poikilos, peirasmos), the author perhaps sought to emphasize divers temptations to the listeners when read orally and highlight every kind of trying (or testing). Further, the ‘when’ before divers temptations gives a clue that a person does not invite the temptations. The assembly of believers suffered many trials. James lists them in the letter. For example,

  • dispersed to a land not their own (1:1)
  • marginalized widows and orphans (1:26-27)
  • oppression (2:5-7)
  • poverty (2:16)

Within the Text 

Upon first review, Blue Letter Bible notes a gloss meaning for temptation as “trial of man’s fidelity.” Vine’s Dictionary breaks out temptations further noting, “trials divinely permitted or sent” (Luke 22:28; Acts 20:19; Jas 1:2 ; 1 Pet 1:6 ; 4:12; StudyLight). The Key Word Dictionary adds “a state of trial in which God brings His people through adversity and affliction in order to encourage and prove their faith and confidence in Him” (p. 2215; cf. 1 Cor 10:13; 1 Pet 1:6-7; 2 Pet 2:9).

Jas 1:2-4 and 1:12-15 parallel each other. While 1:2 shows how temptations (trials or testing) perfect one in their current life, verses 12-15 show temptations bring an eschatological reward of the crown of life. 

Since God uses temptations, it serves as a holy trial. God has control over trials in His sovereignty. A holy temptation leads to God perfecting the believer in growth for godliness. However, the believer must depend on God to endure the temptation (1 Cor 10:13).

Cross References

Acts 5:41. In Acts 5:41, worthy means deserving as if to do a favor for them (Strongs). They rejoiced because God considered them worthy to go through a trial for His name “And they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for his name” (Acts 5:41).

Gen 22. Genesis 22 tells the reader that God tested Abraham to give his only son as an offering. “And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt Abraham, and said unto him, Abraham: and he said, Behold, here I am. 2 And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.”

1 Pet 1:6. In 1 Peter 1:6, it says, “you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials.” The phrase “You may have had to” translates as “it may have become necessary” for you to suffer trials. The verse discloses that God has a design and purpose behind a trial.

Rom 8:28. God has sovereignty over temptations. “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good” (Rom 8:28). As James stated temptation in the plural form, a person may encounter one or multiple trials. The community James addresses had experienced hurt and poverty at an extreme level.

Summary Definition

Write a four-sentence definition that summarizes temptation’s definition using information from the investigation.

  1. Temptation entails a trial of man’s fidelity, a divinely inspired trial of adversity and affliction that God divinely sends or allows to prove one’s faith and confidence in Him.”
  2. Considered a holy trial over which God has sovereignty (Rom 8:28), it perfects the believer through strengthening by enduring afflictions in Christ (Jas 1:1; 1 Cor 10:13).
  3. Rather than viewing the temptation (trial) as punishment, one rejoices from being counted as worthy to suffer for His name (Acts 5:41).
  4. God will not tempt the believer to sin during temptation (1:13); instead, He tests to build up and perfect (1 Per 1:6; Heb 1:13), ultimately providing an eschatological reward of the crown of life to those who endure temptation (Jas 1:12). 

All Nations Leadership Institute, All Right Reserved, 2021

For information about All Nations Leadership Institute classes see http://www.allnationsleadershipinstitute.com

Cultural Reading of Dinah: Gn 34:1-31


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Jan Paron, PhD|June 9, 2021

Set in Shalem, a city of Shechem in Canaan, the Gn 34:1-31 pericope describes in third person the defilement of Jacob’s daughter Dinah and subsequent events. A Hivite named Shechem, defiled Dinah when she visited area women (34:2). Upon Shechem’s request to marry her, his father Hamor approached Jacob with a proposition of land, wives, and trade (vv. 3-4, 6, 9-10). However, Jacob’s sons requested all the city’s men first undergo circumcision (vv. 14-15), which Hamor and his son found favorable (v. 18). The sons did so deceitfully, though, since Shechem defiled Dinah (v. 13). Ultimately, two of Jacob’s sons slew all the city males weakened from circumcision, took Dinah, spoiled the town, and seized the city’s wealth along with the murdered men’s wives and children (vv. 25-29). As the passage unfolds, it weaves in themes of gender, unspoken voice, and honor to the story events and actors.

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Redemption at the Gate: Ruth 4:1-12



Jan Paron, PhD|June 3, 2021

The book of Ruth, a historical work of the narrative genre, occurred during the era of Judges (Ru 1:1). It opened in Moab, where Naomi sojourned from Bethlehem due to famine. She and her two Moabite daughters-in-law survived the death of their husbands while there (1:5). Upon hearing the Lord visited His people and gave them bread, Naomi decided to return to Bethlehem (vv. 6-7). While the one daughter-in-law Orpah left for her mother’s house to find rest and a husband upon Naomi’s advice, Ruth cleaved to her mother-in-law and made Elohim her God (Gn 1:1, Ru 1:16-17). Naomi arrived in Bethlehem with Ruth but felt the Lord dealt bitterly with her, bringing her home empty without a husband and sons (1:20-21). However, subsequent events demonstrated the Lord’s redemption, making Naomi full again through Boaz.


Jan Paron, 2021


In what one might call the story’s peak, Ru 4:1-12 opened with Boaz at the city gate, seeking Naomi’s nearer relative to rescue her from the shame of loss. The discourse announced Boaz’s entrance with the word then, signaling a transition from the previous chapter: “for the man will not be in rest, until he have finished the thing this day” (3:18b KJV). The discourse focused on Boaz, the central character, regarding what he said (4:1-5, 9) and did (vv. 1-2, 4-5, 9-10) to redeem Naomi and Ruth’s future. Here, Boaz would seek the elders as witnesses to the kinsman-redeemer covenanted for Naomi’s inheritance.

In ancient Israel and Judah, the city gate played a critical function in settling community affairs. Its process reflected a vertical social order governed by a patriarchal societal norm. Thus, males played the dominant role, frequently determining a woman’s fate. Occasionally, a bloody outcome resulted in surrounding events such as in Gn 34:20-25, the first mention of a gate matter involving female honor and shame. While Boaz’s business concerned a more peaceful outcome for Naomi and Ruth, they could not control the decision from their social location. The women had much at stake, impoverished from the loss of their husbands and without an heir.


For Boaz to take on the role of kinsman redeemer (3:13), it required community witness. Characteristic to a collectivist culture, he settled the matter among the people. Boaz initiated the act at the gate (v.1) and assembled ten elders and the nearer kinsman. Since the nearer would not accept the land with the provision to marry Ruth the Moabite as well, he signified his intentions by removing his shoe similar to levirate marriage tradition (Deut 25:5-10). Instead, Boaz took up the role. His redemption of Naomi and Ruth concluded with “all the people that were in the gate” (v.11) serving as witnesses. The text highlighted Boaz naming all the people and elders present as witnesses (v. 10), and they, in turn, repeating “We are witnesses” (v.11a).

The focal point occurred when Boaz announced he bought all that belonged to Elimelech, Chilion, and Mahlon from Naomi (4:9), redeeming the land. Further, he acquired Ruth the Moabitess as his wife (v.10b). Boaz’s climactic statement reminds the reader of God’s providential hand resolving Naomi and Ruth’s need for redemption, as well as echoes the types therein that shadow salvation for humankind. As if to draw attention to the redemptive act, the discourse repeated the word redeem eight times in Ru 4:4-6.

Just as Boaz restored Naomi and Ruth in covenant at the gate, Jesus’ death on the cross brought a greater redemption to fallen humanity outside the gate (Heb 13:12) in the new covenant. The gate decision resulted in a royal heir descending from the lineage of Boaz starting from Pharez (Mt 1:1-25, cf. 1 Chron 2:4-13, Ru 4:11-12). The lineage also demonstrated a transformative progression from Rahab as redeemed and her life transformed to Ruth also transformed as a virtuous woman elevated in status (3:12).

Conclusion: God’s Grace and Mercy

The story supports Judges in which “everyone did what was right in his own eyes” because Israel had no king (Judg 17:6; 18:1; 19:1). The Deuteronomic Code lay central to God’s covenant with Israel, the governing law upon living in the land of promise. Naomi’s husband, Elimelech, sojourned to Moab either temporarily or permanently. Further, his two sons married Moabite women. Deuteronomy 7:1-3 prohibited Israel from mingling with or marrying Canaanites. God’s consequences for breaking covenant historically resulted in judgment. It signaled a lack of faith in Yahweh providing for His people in the land of milk and honey by dwelling in a country that oppressed Israel.

Nevertheless, God lifted the famine from Bethlehem, which drew Naomi back to the Promised Land. There, He showed grace and mercy to Naomi and her Gentile daughter-in-law, restoring what Naomi lost and giving her provisions and an heir. Naomi found her redeemer at the gate (4:14-15). The people at the gate saw a seed the Lord would give to build the house of Israel (vv. 11-12). Through redemption at the gate came the lineage that would birth King David (v. 22) and in time fulfill the begetting of the Redeemer for all creation.

Tohu Wabohu


Jan Paron, PhD|May 25, 2021

The human story reflects a contrast between what the Creator intended from the promise of His presence versus humanity’s violation of His will and purpose. This contrast presents itself as a clash between the righteousness of God and corruption of humankind found in the books of Genesis to Revelation.–Thus, an earth without form and void (Gn 1:2a) or tohu wabohu (Hebrew).

To apply the concept of tohu wabohu to contemporary Christianity first necessitates tracing its significance in the Old Testament context. Tohu Wabohu occurs twice in the Old Testament in a combined form after Gn 1:1: Jer 4:23 and Is 34:11. Without form (Heb: tohu) signifies wasteness—that which is wasted, laid waste, formless, a worthless thing, or empty place; while void (Heb: bohu) indicates an undistinguishable ruin, voidness, or desolate—something void and empty. The ancient Israelites viewed the opposite of the created order as something much worse than wasteness and emptiness. To them, tohu wabohu had the characteristics of an active, malevolent force (Jer 4:23; Is 34:11)—chaos signifying God’s judgment culminating in the Battle of Armageddon.  

Tohu Wabohu: Transformation From Wasteness and Emptiness (Gn 1:1)

“In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth. And the earth was without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Gn 1:1-2). When God brought the heaven and the earth into existence from nothing, the earth appeared tohu wabohu–without form and void, in other words, wasteness (tohu) and emptiness (bohu). The earth in its initial state could not sustain life. Elohim had created it as a forerunner for His inhabitants to commune with Him, their covenant God Yahweh. He transformed the earth by His own word from tohu wabohu to order and fullness, a place where He could dwell intimately in the midst of His people and they would come to know Him in relationship. Adam and Eve’s sin in the Garden of Eden opposed Elohim’s actions of creation for intimacy and fellowship. The Lord God banished them from paradise to the hardship of a land filled with disorder and chaos “to till the ground from whence he was taken”(3:23). 

Tohu Wabohu: Primeval Chaos (Jer 4:23)

Scripture mentions another instance of tohu wabohu. Jeremiah 4:23 describes a land destroyed to the extent of primeval chaos as tofu wabohu. “I beheld the earth, and, lo, it was without form, and void; and the heavens, and they had no light.” Just as God created the earth without form and void to order and fullness, His signaled a return to tohu wabohu (barren waste, GNB) from the promised, plentiful land. 

While God remained the faithful husband, Israel (the northern kingdom) rejected Him as the spiritually adulterous wife with false gods, likened to a harlot (2:20). They committed two evils in His sight, “They have abandoned me–the fountain of living water. And they have dug for themselves cracked cisterns that can hold no water at all!” (2:13 NIV) Israel refused to repent. Because of their infidelity and lack of repentance, Israel lost her freedom (3:1-5). Judah did not remain loyal as well, lukewarm wanting both God and Baal (3:11). Judah forsake the Lord and and turned to idolatry. The people no longer knew Him. Thus, God allowed the invading Babylonians army to decimate their land until it became a barren waste of complete destruction (tofu wabahu). Even the birds flew away. However, the Spirit of God remained. God promised the Messiah Who foreshadowed a restored land with the fullness of the Godhead.

Tohu Wabohu: God’s Judgment of the Nations (Is 34:11)

“But the pelican and the porcupine shall possess it, Also the owl and the raven shall dwell in it. And He shall stretch out over it, the line of confusion and the stones of emptiness.” Isaiah described the day of the Lord’s vengeance against all nations (Is 34:8 KJV). The prophet predicted God’s apocalyptic judgment resulting in tohu wabohu against the Edomites for helping the Babylonians destroy Jerusalem and then occupying the southern tip of Judah (Ps 137:1; Lam 4:21-22; Ez 25:12-14; 35:3; 15; Jl 3:19; Mal 1:2-5) The line of confusion symbolizes the Lord’s judgment (cf. 2 Kgs 21:13). Obadiah also warned of no survivor left in the house of Esau because they prevented refugees from leaving and handed them over to the enemy (Ob 11-14). The Lord made Edom a burnt offering (Isa 24:21) and marked the ruins of Bozzrah, its capital, for confusion and chaos (34:11). Only wildcats and goat demons would inhabit it (34:14). This judgment affects all the nations in cataclysmic destruction of humanity ushering in the new heavens and new earth (65:17). God returns the earth to Himself in a perfect, eternal state.

Knowing God or Living in an Empty Place

“To whom hast thou uttered words? and whose spirit came from thee?” (Jb 26:4). Job responded with a true knowledge of God’s accomplishments to Bilhad’s misguided attacks. Then, Job illustrated the Lord’s divine grandeur, “He stretcheth out the north over the empty place, and hangeth the earth upon nothing” (Jb 26:7). Job refers to without form as an empty place (tohu), which was chaotic and suspended on nothing but His will and purpose. However, God created earth for His inhabitation (Is 45:18d). To believers in Christ tohu wabohu may represent life in an empty place separated from knowing God, a metaphoric subsequent condition resulting from leaving their First Love. But, abiding in Him, fills that void with His presence.


Custance, A. C. (2008). Without form and void. Retrieved from http://www.custance.org/Library/WFANDV/index.html#TableofContent

Emmanuel Among the People: Laying Out the Tent’s Foundation


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Jan Paron, PhD|May 14, 2021

And there followed him great multitudes of people from Galilee, and from Decapolis, and from Jerusalem, and from Judaea, and from beyond Jordan (Mt 4:25).

The covenant God Yahweh incarnated Himself in Jesus—“Yahweh breaking into the human realm to bring salvation” (Mt 1:21).1 Thus, God manifested Himself as Jesus, who came to rule His kingdom and bring redemption. For this very purpose, God dwelt among His people (Is 7:14) and set up His tent as their heavenly dwelling place on earth. In particular, He did so amidst a diverse segment of a Mediterranean populace from the ruling Jewish class to Gentiles. Jesus spread His tent far and wide from Galilee. Consequently, not only Jews heard about the kingdom of heaven, but also Gentiles.

A well-structured tent involves many preparatory steps to maintain its sturdiness among the elements. One of the initial steps for setting up a tent requires a foundational barrier to protect it from the ground. That barrier should cover an area large enough to support the tent itself. By stationing His ministry in Galilee, Jesus had a locational launchpad giving Him access to the regions encircling it, in turn, expanding His reach to a broad-based demographic for all those who would seek Him where He dwelt. As a result, a diverse multitude of people heard Jesus’ word and witness from within and outside Galilee’s borders.

While the authority of Jesus’ redemptive, divine presence threatened the existing Jewish power structure, the expanse of His dwelling place enlarged out from Galilee, affecting both Jews and Gentiles. Great crowds followed Him from Galilee to the east from Decapolis, south from Jerusalem and surrounding Judean areas, and beyond Jordan (Mt 4:25). In essence, His divinity reached across the masses in His humanity as the Light of life (Jn 8:12). His foundation covered a wide area of which to give access to the gathered into His tent. The better and more perfect tent came in Jesus’ own body in the flesh, a house not made with hands, as God incarnated. Later on the Cross, He would offer it up with His own blood. The expansion of His tent from Galilee’s borders to the surrounding regions gathered those who would hear His teachings on the sermon on the mount (Mt 5).2 3


Bible History.com


Beginning at Galilee to the nations (cf. Mt 28:19), Jesus–Yahweh is salvation–taught in the synagogues and preached the Gospel of the kingdom (Mt 4:23). Preached (Greek: kēryssō) in the context of 4:23 means to proclaim the Gospel of the kingdom openly and matters related to it. In doing so, Jesus also established His credentials as its Messiah among the lost sheep of the house of Israel.4 The gospels mention He taught in the synagogues on ten occasions. Synagogue in Greek means assembly. It formed a key locale for Jews to come together for communal life central to their identity.5 Moreover, Jews held prayer, Torah study, and Scripture readings there. Jesus mingled with the people and brought the presence of the manifested kingdom (12:28) and His eternal rule over His creation. From the synagogue vicinity, He later birthed His new community of believers on the Day of Pentecost. 

Jesus relocated from Nazareth to Galilee in Capernaum, thus fulfilling Emmanuel as the promised light dawning on the territories of the tribes of Zebulun and Nephtali from spiritual darkness.—They who “sat in darkness saw a great light” (Mt 4:16a; Jn 8:12; IS 8:23-9:6). During the time of the prophet Isaiah, the Assyrians conquered the two territories and the whole of the Northern Kingdom. Other invaders occupied it during Neo-Assyrian, Persian, Hellenist, and Roman periods. Isaiah prophesied the light, Emmanuel–God with us, would deliver them from their oppression. Many Galileans received Jesus during His ministry there. Galilee included the cities of Capernaum, Magdala, and Chorazin. Though Jewish in ethos and population, the Romans controlled Galilee and left a Hellenist influence.6 Roman officials resided in Capernaum, even though a Jewish town.7 They also populated Tiberias, just south of Capernaum. However, Tiberias differed culturally from Tiberias since Romans had recently built the city. During Jesus’ ministry, 204 towns and villages spread across Galilee populated primarily by agrarian and fishing communities.9 Due to Roman rule by Herod Antipas, Gentiles also lived in lower Galilee in growing, urbanized city centers. Hence, its residents reflected a culturally and economically mixed demographic. From this rich mix of people, Jesus extended His tent outward from Galilee. The gathered included the multitudes who would hear His teachings on the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5).


Galilee and Decapolis combined comprised the northern area of Jesus’ ministry. Greek settler-soldiers from the Ptolemaic and Seleucid kingdoms originally founded Decapolis–known as the ten cities–after the death of Alexander the Great.10 Thus, Decapolis’ demographics primarily comprised a Hellenist population.11 Further, the founders’ cultural origins left a strong influence from Greek worldviews and subsequent practices in the region. Later, Romans ruled Decapolis as one of its provinces. The Roman legate from Syria ruled the inhabitants of Decapolis’ cities. 

Jesus visited the region twice, restoring a demon-possessed man (Mk 5:20) and healing a deaf and mute (7:31). Upon learning of His mercy, it amazed the inhabitants (5:20c; 7:37). While the Pharisees considered the area’s Hellenist practices morally offensive and off-limits due to herds of pigs (5:11), Jesus met its populace on their grounds and confronted darkness. Many from the area followed Him into Galilee, His merciful nature and authority preceding Him. 


In contrast to Galilee, Jerusalem represented what Ernst Renan described as obstinate Judaism, founded by Pharisees and fixed by the Talmud.12 John the Baptist called the Pharisees and Sadducees a generation of vipers (Mt 3:7)–children from the seed of the serpent following after the lusts of their father the devil (Jn 8:44).  Jesus also likened them to vipers who would try to evade the flames, but the fires would consume them (Mt 23:33). Their corrupt and evil works would not allow them to escape the condemnation of hell.

Both the crowds and the ruling Jews sought after Jesus but for different reasons. Matthew 4:24 points out Jesus’ “fame went throughout all Syria.” The multitudes brought Him their sick, tormented, possessed, lunatick, and palsy for healing. Large crowds continually followed Jesus. His fame also caught the attention of the Pharisees and Sadducees, enraging them. While the crowds anxiously sought out Jesus, the Pharisees and Sadducees plotted His demise. After Jesus healed the lame man in Bethesda on the Sabbath and substantiated His authority by referring to God as His Father, the Jews sought to kill Him (Jn 5:18-47). Ultimately, Jesus died there crucified on the Cross, giving the ultimate sacrifice atoning for humanity’s sin.  


Matthew 4:25 separates the multitudes that followed Jesus of Judea from Jerusalem even though the region contained the city. Judea, a province of Rome, lay south of Galilee. It included the former territories of the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, Dan, Simeon, and part of Ephraim. Considered an upper hill country, it extended from the north to Bethel, south to Beth Zur, west to Emmaus, and east to the Jordan River. Economically, Judeans considered themselves more sophisticated Jews open to Hellenistic influences than their southern, Galilean neighbors (Jn 1:46).14Also, Galileans spoke a different form of Aramaic (Mk 14:7; Jn 7:52; Acts 2:7), which the Judeans looked upon as crude.  

While Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea (Mt 2:1, 5, 6; cf. Mi 5:2), the book of Matthew only features His baptism there before chapter four. Yet, the event marks a pivotal moment in redemptive history. In the Judean wilderness, God publicly announced Jesus as His beloved Son and anointed Him as the Messiah (Mt 3:16-17). Later, Jesus ministered in Judea (Mk 10:1; Jn 4:3). Also, Judeans did hear Jesus’ teachings and witness His miracles (Lk 5:17). Later, however, Jesus experienced persecution there (Jn 4:1-3). 

And from beyond Jordan

Known as Peraea, the area pertains to the territory east of the Jordan River. The territory bounded Decapolis to the north and east with Samaria and Judea to the west. The Jews did not esteem the region east of Jordan since only the land of Canaan (or Israel) symbolized a holier than all lands–the land flowing with milk and honey.15

When the Hebrews had conquered and made ready for settlement the land east of Jordan, the children of Reuben and Gad claimed the lands known as Jazer and Gilead as their inheritance because of its suitability to graze their livestock there (Nm 32:1-5). However, their choice left them vulnerable to attack. Second Kings 15:29 tells that the King of Assyria placed them in captivity there as the first in exile of the tribes from the Northern Kingdom of Israel.

Jesus’ Perean ministry began with His departure from Galilee (Mt 19:1; Mk 10:1) and ended with Mary anointing Him in Bethany (Mt 26:6) and His journey towards Jerusalem commencing (Mk 10:32). Mathew previously mentioned the people from that region in the account of John for the baptism of repentance in the Jordan River: that all the areas around it went out to Him (Matt 3:5 NKJV). 

Scope of Jesus’ Tent

As Jesus unfolded the range of His tent’s groundsheet, He ministered to Jews and Gentiles as well. Beginning in Mt 2:12 with the pagan magi and spreading to all Syria and Decapolis, non-Jews experienced the kingdom of heaven, too. Jesus saw no class or ethnic distinctions among people. In contrast, the Pharisees created a dichotomy labeling people as insiders or outsiders, with outsiders considered unworthy sinners (i.e., Lk 7:37). He offered salvation to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles. He also did not esteem one nation over the other, as did the Jews with Israel.

Further, the Messiah did not distinguish between statuses of personages; instead, He brought forth all who came to Him into a new community of believers as one. Paul described this unity in Gal 3:28: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.” He freed the oppressed, the afflicted, and the wounded, preaching the gospel to the poor, healing the brokenhearted, bringing deliverance to the captives, and recovering the sight to the blind to free the bruised (Luke 4:18). The foundation for His tent set initially in Galilee extended across the world, offering rest in Him to all humanity.


David K. Bernard, Glory of God in the Face of Jesus Christ: Deification of Jesus in Early Christian Discourse (Deo Publishing, 2016), 87.

E. Masterman, “Galilee in the Time of Christ,” The Biblical World 32, no. 6 (1908): pp. 405-416, https://doi.org/10.1086/474135.

3 According to Ex 33:7-11, this tent was for communion with Yahweh, to receive oracles and to understand the divine will.

4 G.K. Beale and D.A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, 2007) 21.

5 Ray Vander Laan, “He Went to the Synagogue,” That the World May Know, accessed May 13, 2021, https://www.thattheworldmayknow.com/He-went-to-synagogue.

6 Randall Niles, “Galilee at the time of Jesus,” Drive Through History, accessed May 11, 2021 https://drivethruhistory.com/galilee-at-the-time-of-jesus/.

7 R. T. France, The Gospel of Matthew (Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2007), chap. 2, Kindle.

8 France, The Gospel of Matthew, chap. 2.

9 Selah Merrill, Galilee in the Time of Christ (Elibron Books, 2006), chap. 2,  Kindle.

10 Ray Vander Laan, “He Went to the Synagogue.”

11 Ray Vander Laan, ”A Far Country Decapolis,” That the World May Know, accessed May 10, 2011, https://www.thattheworldmayknow.com/a-far-country-decapolis.

12 E. Renan, The Life of Jesus (trans. C.E. Wilbour; New York, 1991) 56f.

13 “What Is the Significance of Judea?” Got Questions?, accessed May 12, 2021, https://www.gotquestions.org/Judea-in-the-Bible.html

14 Justin Taylor “7 Differences Between Galilee and Judea in the Time of Jesus,” Gospel Coalition, accessed May 9, 2021, https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justin-taylor/7-differences-between-galilee-and-judea-in-the-time-of-jesus/.

15 “Mishnah Kelim 1:6,” Sefaria.org, accessed May 9, 2021, https://www.sefaria.org/English_Explanation_of_Mishnah_Kelim.1.6?lang=bi

Jehovah-Jireh (The LORD Provides in His Provision)


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Jehovah signifies the covenant name God revealed to the people of Israel. When Moses asked God who sent him, He replied, “Thou shalt say to the people of Israel, Jehovah sent me unto you; this is My name forever” (Exod 3:15 KJV). The name makes known the Coming One and His action of redemption for the Israelites. The Messiah will come for the final crushing of the serpent’s head and provide salvation for His people (Gen 3:15).

Jehovah’s name remains immutable. “I am Jehovah, I change not, therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Mal 3:6.) When coupled with another descriptor in a compound name, it explains other roles and natures of who He is and what He will do. The incarnate God in Jesus continues in these roles to supply all our needs “according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:19). This writing explores the first expression of His redemptive title and nature, Jehovah-jireh. Barry Liesch in People in the Presence of God said, “God by His very character, loves to bless His people” (1988, p. 22). The incarnate God in Jesus’ divine and human character blesses His people as Jehovah-jireh illustrating its fullness by four redemptive provisions[1] and three redemptive roles.[2]      

Rembrandt van Rijn, Abraham’s Sacrifice. Etching and drypoint on paper, 1655. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam.

(Image: Rembrandt van Rijn, Abraham’s Sacrifice, 1655) 

Four Provisions of Jehovah-jireh     

Jehovah-jireh means the LORD that provides (Gen 22:14; cf. John 1:29; Heb 11:17-19). The Lord revealed His first redemptive name in a place up yonder on Mt. Moriah (Gen 22) when He tested and proved Abraham’s faith with the command to sacrifice his only son Isaac as a burnt offering. Upon examination of Gen 22, Scripture uncovers four aspects of Jehovah-jireh’s provision:

  1. Blessings from one’s faithful response to testing (22:1-2; 16-18) 
  2. Opportunity to worship through sacrifice (vv. 5-10)
  3. God’s presence during tests (vv. 11-13)
  4. Promise of redemption through a Seed Messiah (vv. 16-18)

Provision 1: Blessing From One’s Faithful Response to Testing (22:1-2; 16-18) 

Jesus embodies the one, true God with the character, quality, and personality of the express image of God’s own substance (2 Cor 4:4; Col 1:15; 1 Tim 3:16; Titus 2:13; Heb 1:3; and 2 Pet 1:1). All the names and titles of the Deity apply to Jesus including Jehovah-jireh. Thus, Jehovah first revealed His unchangeable nature as Jehovah-jireh at a place called yonder or Jehovahjireh (Gen 22:13-14) with the provision of a blessing:

And said, By myself have I sworn, saith the Lord, for because thou hast done this thing, and hast not withheld thy son, thine only son: 17 That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; 18 And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice (22:16-18).

Testing means temptation. Before the provisions of covenant, God tested Abraham’s faith on Mt. Moriah by asking him to sacrifice his son, his only son Isaac, “whom though lovest” (21:5; 22:2). He tempted Abraham to act in faithful obedience. Faith appropriates His provisions as Jehovah-jireh. God already had pre-established with Abraham that through Isaac He would establish His covenant “for an everlasting covenant and his seed after him” (17:19). God identified Isaac by name as the legal heir to the promise years prior to Mt. Moriah.

The promise of Isaac as the legal seed to the inheritance required Abraham to stand in faith on what God ordained. James 2:14-26 teaches faith comes alive with active obedience by response, commitment, and action (Bernard, Message of Romans, 2010). Abraham responded yielded to God’s command without objection or hesitation. One does not read of Abraham negotiating otherwise with the Lord, rather Scripture tells he rose early the following morning to take the three-day journey to Moriah. He showed commitment by ascending the mountain with Isaac carrying wood, fire, and knife. Abraham’s action of declaration to his son Isaac that God will provide a lamb for a burnt offering displayed steadfast faith (22:7). 

By Abraham’s obedience to heed the Lord’s command, Jehovah supplied a ram to sacrifice instead of Isaac to insure the future seed for provisions of the messianic promise “in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Gen 22:13, 18; Heb 11:17). Because of Abraham’s obedience, God would fulfill the everlasting covenant through the sacrificial Lamb of God (Gen 17:7; John 1:29). Abraham’s obedience by faith provided not only for him in the immediate context, but also to generations to come. As the father of those who walk in the righteousness of faith, Abraham exemplifies provisions coming from God’s grace (Rom 4:1-16).

Provision 2: Worship Through Sacrifice (vv. 5-10)

In the Old Testament, the Israelites considered rendering sacrificial offerings as a means to worship their God (Kurtz, 2004). A true sacrifice for worship must be what God wants and by faith. The Lord respected Abel’s offering of the firstborn of his flock by faith because he followed5 according the instructions; however, God rejected Cain’s of the fruit from the ground since he gave what he desired (Gen 4:3-5). One presented acceptable worship and the other unacceptable. 

The first mention of worship in connection with worship occurred with Abraham (Gen 22:4), back dropping the essence of Jehovah-jireh in covenant. Abraham presented a blood sacrifice of his own son acting out his faith and obedience. God stated the test in emotional descriptors depicting Isaac as if to emphasize the gravity and magnitude of the command: “Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest” (22:2a). Worship requires complete reliance on God when releasing sacrifice in worship. On the third day of their journey, Abraham lifted up his eyes and saw the place yonder of which the Lord would tell him. He went up yonder with Isaac who carried his own wood of the burnt offering for sacrifice. Abraham then drew near to Yahweh’s presence standing on the everlasting covenant between God, himself, and his seed through worship. When Abraham bound Isaac covenant on the firewood and raised the sacrificial knife, the father of many nations demonstrated the full reliance and uncompromising trust in relationship Yahweh, the covenant God of Israel, to whom he relinquished his son, the heir to the covenantal promise.  

Worship gives God glory, fueled by faith. Generations gain understanding of God’s desire for true sacrificial worship in Abraham offering Isaac; and at the same time, see Abraham “against hope believed in hope in an unchanging God (Rom 4:18a). Abraham “staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able to perform” (4:20-21). God honors true sacrifice in worship with His provisions.

Provision 3: God’s Presence During Trials (vv. 11-13)

             Just as Abraham readied to slay his beloved son Issac with hand outstretched (22:10, a voice from heaven identified as the angel of the Lord called out to Abraham:

Abraham, Abraham: and he said, Here am I.12And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me (Gen 22:11b-12).

The angel of the Lord commanded Abraham to release Isaac, render another sacrifice, and promised his descendants will be “numerous as the stars of heaven” (22:22b). Biblical interpreters vary as to whether the angel of the Lord juxtaposed as Yahweh with the two names interchangeable or the term exclusively refers to the angel of the Lord as His messenger. Internal) textual evidence of the Gen 22:11-12 (cf. 15-18) narrative suggests the former. The speaker called Abraham by name with divine authority in the first person. He ordered two commands and made a promise to Abraham. Most notably, the angel of Yahweh talked to Abraham as the Lord Himself (22:12, 17-18). The manner and content in which He spoke suggests a theophany, a manifestation of God. 

Consequently, God did not leave Abraham during the testing, rather walked alongside him and then honored his yielding to Him. As a result, the covenant-keeping God not only supplied a substitutionary blood sacrifice with a ram in the bush, but also reiterated the regeneration of the Abramaic lineage through the fulfillment of the Seed Messiah. In the midst of a dark trial, Yahweh confirmed the promised Light—the sacrificial Lamb who would redeem Israel. 

Provision 4: Redemption Through a Seed Messiah (vv. 16-18)

Abraham’s story teaches that God’s blessings come by faith, not works. Faith saved Abraham. Without faith, Abraham would not have realized the promised seed. 

Three Redemptive Roles of Jehovah-jireh

Jesus is Jehovah Jireh, the place called yonder, for “On the mountain of the Lord it will be seen and provided” (Gen 22:14b AMP). Some archeological evidence suggests Golgotha as one of the hills on Mt. Moriah. God clothed in flesh sacrificed His only Begotten Son as the sacrificial sin offering for humankind on the hill of Golgotha at Calvary. Thus, this same name Jehovah-jireh embodies God incarnated in Jesus to complete the fullness of this title with three redemptive roles fulfilled as the son of Abraham, Saving-Seed Messiah (Matt 1:1; Luke 19:9; John 8:58; Rom 9-11; Gal 3:16; Heb 11:8); Only Begotten Son, Word made flesh; and Son of God, Servant Son.

Jehovah-Jireh: Son of Abraham, Saving-Seed Messiah

Jesus fulfilled Yahweh’s child of promise, as the ultimate substitutionary sacrifice who would atone for the sins of humanity. Jehovah-jireh, revealed Himself as the Saving Seed to both Jews and Gentiles, found in the Son of Abraham in the Matthean genealogy (Matt 1:1). The evangelist Matthew showed Abraham’s seed as the Lord God of Israel in flesh (Cox, Reader, p. 13; Matt 1:22-23). 

Abraham fathered Ishmael by Hagar a slave women, and Isaac through Sarah a free woman. Isaac exclusively holds the claim of Abraham’s son of promise and legal heir. Therefore, Isaac typed Jesus, who fulfilled the Saving Seed called the Messiah (Matt 1:16). God required only Abraham and Isaac to go up to the place called yonder where they would receive the provision, which the Lord revealed as Jehovahjireh. Jesus descended 42 generations after Abraham (Matt 1: 1-13) through Isaac the son of promise to fulfill the ultimate provision with the sin sacrifice as the Son of Abraham and Saving-Seed Messiah. Therefore, Jesus is the place called Yonder, the Jehovah-jireh. In Jesus’ First Coming He established the messianic promise “in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” for the Lord’s provision of a substitutionary sacrifice.

Jehovah-Jireh: Only Begotten Son, Word Made Flesh

In the messianic genealogies in the gospels, both Luke and Matthew in their infancy narratives explain the Lord God of Israel in flesh, beget through Jesus’ Sonship as the Son of God. When the Spirit came upon the virgin, the power of the Most High overshadowed her and conceived the begotten Son uniting flesh with divinity in the incarnate Jesus who would “save his people from their sins” (Matt 1:18, 20-21; Luke 1:35). 

The only son offering (Isaac) in the Genesis narrative (22:2) typed a greater Son (Jesus) offering profiled in the Gospel of John prologue (1:14, 18; 3:16) the Only Begotten Son, the Word made flesh. The Begotten Son fulfilled “God will provide himself a lamb for a burnt offering” or God will provide a Lamb for Himself (22:8a; Bernard, 2014). God made flesh in Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb (John 1:29). John in his Gospel supported the manifestation of divinity in humanity in the begotten Son as well: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14; cf. 1:18). This divine procreation in Mary’s womb begetting the Son of God provides a continual redemption for humanity, completed in Jesus’ second coming (cf. Isa 7:14). Through the Word made flesh humanity received their provision, Jehovah-jireh.

In another Gospel exposition, the Book of Matthew, God publically announced Jesus as His beloved Son with His anointing symbolically represented with the descent of the dove upon Jesus (Matt 3:17). The Holy Spirit did not baptize Jesus for the beloved Son already had the fullness of God in Him at conception. 

Jehovah Jireh: Son of God, Servant Son

Mark’s Gospel also reveals this same Saving-Seed Messiah and Word Made Flesh through God’s manifestation in Jesus as the Servant Son (1:1-11). He would serve humanity by sacrificing Himself on the Cross as a sin offering.

God incarnated Himself in Jesus as the Son of God assuming the likeness of humanity but without sin when the Spirit came upon the virgin. In sonship, Jehovah-jireh assumes the role of Jesus as the Servant Lord manifested in the form and nature of a bondservant, a slave–Jesus the Servant Son (Luke, 1:35; Phil 2:6-8).  This sinless Son of Man, the Servant Son, gave His life as the substitutionary sin sacrifice on the Cross to serve humanity as a sin offering.

“And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Matt 20:27- 28). The evangelist Matthew speaks of a servant in this verse meaning bondservant (Grk: doulos; cf. Phil 2:7a). As the Servant Son, a bondservant, Jesus gave up His self-interests and will in His humanity to advance God’s mission as a slave. By definition, a bondservant approaches enslavement with joy, devotion, obedience, yielding, and sacrifice (Paron, 2013). “Sitting down, Jesus called the Twelve and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must be the very last, and the servant of all’” (Mark 9:35). He served all of humankind fulfilling the Saving-Seed Messiah from the lineage of Abraham as Jehovah Jireh, the Son of God and Servant Son.


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Conner, K. J. and Malmin, K. (1983). Interpreting the Scriptures: A textbook on how to interpret the Bible. Bible Publishing. 

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Kaiser, W. C. (1995).The Messiah in the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, MO: Zondervan Publishing House. 

Kurtz, J. H. (2004). The sacrificial worship of the Old Testament. Edinburgh, GB: T & T Clark. 

Liesch, B. (1988). People in the presence of God: Models and directions for worship. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House. 

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Reeves, K. V. (1984). The supreme Godhead, book 2. Hazelwood, MO: Word Aflame Press.

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White, S. L. (1999). Angel of The Lord: Messenger or euphemism? https://legacy.tyndalehouse.com/tynbul/Library/TynBull_1999_50_2_10_White_AngelofLord.pdf

Jan Paron, PhD


Excerpt from The Redemptive Names of Jehovah

See also The Doctrine of Immutability and God’s Immutable Purpose: The Revealed Redemptive Jehovah Titles in the Incarnate Jesus

[1] The four redemptive provisions include (1) blessings from one’s faithful response to testing (22:1-2; 16-18), (2) opportunity to worship through sacrifice (vv. 5-10), (3) God’s presence during tests (vv. 11-13), and (4) promise of redemption through a Seed Messiah (vv. 16-18).

[2]The redemptive roles uncover Jehovah-Jireh: Son of Abraham, Saving-Seed Messiah; Only Begotten Son, Word Made Flesh; and Son of God, Servant Son.