The use of parables (Mk 4:2-4:2)

“Jesus began

To teach them

Many things

In parables.

This is what

He said to them

In his teaching,”

 

καὶ ἐδίδασκεν αὐτοὺς ἐν παραβολαῖς πολλά, καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ

 

A similar statement can be found in Matthew, chapter 13:3, and Luke 8:4.  This is the beginning of the parable section in Mark.  Jesus taught them many things in parables (καὶ ἐδίδασκεν αὐτοὺς ἐν παραβολαῖς πολλά).  This is how Jesus delivered most of his teachings (καὶ ἔλεγεν αὐτοῖς ἐν τῇ διδαχῇ αὐτοῦ).  Parables were one of the many literary forms in the biblical literature.  These parables of Jesus can be found in all the synoptic gospels, since they represent about 1/3 of Jesus’ teachings.  These simple and memorable stories conveyed important messages, central to the teachings of Jesus.  Many of Jesus’s parables refer to simple everyday events.  The word “parable” can also refer to a riddle, as it was used in the Old Testament.  The use of parables was a natural teaching method that fit into the tradition of the time of Jesus.  Matthew has 23 parables of which 11 are unique.  There are 2 unique parables in Mark and 18 unique parables in LukeMatthew and Luke share 4 parables, while Matthew, Mark and Luke share 6 parables.  Many of these parables have been subjects of art and literature, especially during the Middle Ages.

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Yahweh explains the allegory (Ezek 17:11-17:14)

“Then the word of Yahweh

Came to me.

‘Say now

To the rebellious house!

Do you not know

What these things mean?

Tell them!

The king of Babylon

Came to Jerusalem.

He took its king.

He took its officials.

He brought them

Back with him

To Babylon.

He took

One of the royal offspring.

He made a covenant

With him.

He put him

Under oath.

He had taken away

The chief men

Of the land.

Thus the kingdom

Might be humble.

The kingdom might not

Lift itself up.

By keeping

His covenant,

It might stand.’’’

Ezekiel had another oracle from Yahweh that explained the first eagle allegory or riddle. Obviously the rebellious house of Judah did not understand it. Thus Yahweh, via Ezekiel, was going to explain it to them. The first eagle was the king of Babylon who came to Jerusalem. He took its king and officials back with him to Babylon. Then he took one of the Judean royal offspring and made an agreement with him. This new king swore an oath of allegiance to the King of Babylon. The first king that was uprooted was King Jehoiakim (609-598 BCE), while the new king was King Zedekiah (598-587). Thus the kingdom of Judah would be humbled and not be able to lift itself up. It would be allowed to exist, if it kept the agreement with the King of Babylon.

The broken twig (Ezek 17:4-17:4)

“The eagle broke off

The topmost shoot.

He carried it

To a land of trade.

He set it

In a city of merchants.”

In this riddle, Yahweh said that the eagle broke off a top shoot. He then carried it to a land of traders. He put this twig in a city of merchants. Is this an indication of King Jehoiakim (609-598 BCE) being deported to Babylon?

The leech (Prov 30:15-30:16)

“The leech has two daughters.

They cry.

‘Give!

Give!’

Three things are never satisfied.

Four never say.

‘Enough.’

They are Sheol,

The barren womb,

The earth ever thirsty for water,

And the fire.

They never say.

‘Enough.’”

Now we have the various proverbs with numbers in them. They are a lot like a riddle or a prophetic saying. These riddles may have had non-Israelite roots, like much of the wisdom literature. This first proverb is about 2 daughters of a blood sucking leech. There are 4 things that are never satisfied so that they never say enough, just like the leech. These 4 things are 1) Sheol, the shadowy underground afterlife, 2) the barren womb of a woman, 3) the earth that always takes more water, and finally, 4) a fire that is ever expanding. These things never say, ‘enough.’ They are never satisfied.

The questions (Prov 30:4-30:4)

“Who has ascended to heaven and come down?

Who has gathered the wind in the hollow of his hand?

Who has wrapped up the waters in a garment?

Who has established all the ends of the earth?

What is the person’s name?

What is the name of the person’s child?

Surely you know!”

Then Agur asks a serious of penetrating questions. This is something like a riddle. Some Christians have interpreted these questions to be an allusion to Jesus. However, this seems to be an allusion to a creative God. This God came down and went back to heaven. He gathered the wind in his hand and the waters in his garments. He established all the ends of the earth. Then there is that intriguing question. What is his name? What is the name of the son or child of that person? Then in a sarcastic tone, he admonishes all that surely everyone should know who he is and his name.