Tuesday, May 2, 2023

A Thorny Situation

So what could I have possibly learned from watching Naked and Afraid that would change the way that I understand the Bible?

How thorny the acacia tree is. 

On many episodes, I watch as these survivalists trek through the density of whatever locale they've been dropped in, and they are often trying to navigate difficult terrain made even more difficult by all of the thorns and briars that exist in these wild places. And many a time, it's the acacia tree that is their greatest foe. 

Now, if you live in America like me and I say the word "thorn," you likely think of a small little barb on a rose bush. A prick of a little thing that gives you very little space to put your hands in between. But that would not be an accurate visual representation of the acacia tree. On a wild acacia tree, the "thorns" are as long as needles, poking inches out in every direction and from nearly every pore on the tree. These things are more needles than they are bark, it seems, and while it might be difficult to find a place to touch a rose stem, it is impossible to find a place to touch an acacia tree. You have to chop that thing down from a distance and then hack those "thorns" off before you can even get anywhere near the wood.

How does this change the way I understand the Bible? 

Simple. One of the most commonly-used woods in Scripture is...acacia wood. 

It was readily available in the areas in which our biblical characters lived. It was a good wood for building - strong, yet still workable. 

So many things in our Bible were made out of acacia wood. Most famously, the Ark of the Covenant was. In fact, most of the stuff that was made for the Tabernacle while Israel was wandering in the wilderness, the very first house of God among His people, was made of acacia wood. If it called for wood, it was acacia. 

There are some translations that indicate that parts, if not all, of Noah's Ark was made of acacia wood. (Other translations say gopherwood. Some scholars believe those might be the same, or very similar, woods. Some do not. It's complicated.) But if it's acacia, can you imagine stripping off enough thorns to make the Ark

Some scholars have even speculated that it was on an acacia tree that Jesus was crucified. The wood, they said, would have been good for it. The thorns, I suppose, an added bonus to the excruciating nature of the practice. (I think "excruciating" comes from the same root as "crucified." Bonus fun.) 

It's not like there weren't other trees around. It's not like there wasn't other vegetation. (And certainly, we must add, there were no hardware stores; whatever wood God's people needed to use, they had to harvest and handle themselves.) But God keeps using acacia wood. 

God keeps calling His people to the thorniest, toughest, most skin-pricking wood to build things for Him - an Ark, perhaps two, and perhaps even a Cross, where the thorns that should have been on the tree were instead wrapped around His brow. 

This says something, doesn't it? This deepens our understanding of God, doesn't it? It feels important. It feels like it changes things.  

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