Letter from our Interim Moderator

From the Manse,                                                                             Kirkcudbright, September 2021

Songs in the Night

The story of Jonah begins with Jonah going aboard a ship which is subsequently caught up in a storm so great that, according to the NIV translation of the bible, the ship ‘threatened to break up’. The original story, however, was written in Hebrew and in the original Hebrew it was the ship that thought it was going to break up. It is an example how in biblical Hebrew human emotion or thought could be put into an inanimate object such as a wooden ship. Today we would call this ‘poetic license’.

Modern translations of the bible often lose some of the sense and emotion of the original words such as the ‘the deepest darkness’ instead of ‘valley of the shadow of death’ or ‘catch men’ instead of ‘fishers of men’ which is the phrase Jesus actually used.

Another example of this is in the book of Job where modern translations describe God as giving people ‘hope in their darkest hours’. The original Hebrew says that God ‘provides songs in the night’.

The imagery is simple - in the night, when there is no sleep because of worry or regret, shame or grief, those who turn to God will find a comfort that will enable them to sing. The songs may be laments for that which is departed or  songs of gladness but they are still songs of the night - songs that come out of the night.

Under great oppression people cry out;
They call for help…
But none says “Where is God, my Maker,
Who provides songs in the night,
Who teaches us by the beasts of the earth,
And makes us wise by the birds of heaven?”
(Job 35 : 9 - 11)

As always, Jesus was more direct when he promised:
‘Happy are those who mourn; God will comfort them.’.

James Gatherer