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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Why did Jesus use "dry places" when He was speaking of an evil spirit?

The World English Bible renders Luke 11:24 thus: The unclean spirit, when he has gone out of the man, passes through dry places, seeking rest, and finding none, he says, ‘I will turn back to my house from which I came out.’ (All Bible quotations are from the World English Bible, which is public domain. Matthew 12:43 is similar.)

Why did Jesus use the word "dry" there? The simple answer is that I don't know. However, I'll guess.

Here's Psalm 63:1 God, you are my God.
    I will earnestly seek you.
My soul thirsts for you.
    My flesh longs for you,
    in a dry and weary land, where there is no water.

We may see here the idea that a person who does not have God's presence is like one in a dry area. It should be remembered, though, that the text also has a heading for this Psalm: "A Psalm by David, when he was in the desert of Judah." David may have literally been in the desert when he wrote this.

There's Psalm 68:6 God sets the lonely in families.
He brings out the prisoners with singing,
    but the rebellious dwell in a sun-scorched land. (Some versions use "dry," rather than "sun-scorched.")

Isaiah 44:3 says: For I will pour water on him who is thirsty,
    and streams on the dry ground.
I will pour my Spirit on your seed,
    and my blessing on your offspring:

Ezekiel 30:12 and Hosea 2:3 speak about God abandoning Israel to the desert.

The Greek word translated as "wilderness" in some versions of Matthew 4 (and Mark 1 and Luke 4) is also translated as "desert" in other places. Probably Jesus met Satan in a dry place. The Blueletter Bible gives all of these occurrences, here.

So there are positive associations, related to God's presence, with being watered, in the Bible. And there are negative associations connected with being in a dry land. Probably that's why Jesus used the words He did in this case. But that's just a maybe.

Thanks for reading!


Anonymous said...

Dry places and deserts in Scriptures? Now that's some seriously wonderful musings. Thanks for exploring that for us.

Martin LaBar said...

Thank you, superrustyfly. A musing, only. I don't have any firm conclusions.

atlibertytosay said...

This is a fascinating analysis … thanks for bring it to our short attention spans.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, atlibertytosay!

Pule said...

This is a fascinating analysis … thanks for bring it to our short attention spans.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks, Pule, whoever you are.