WORD STUDY – OUTERMOST PARTS OF HEAVEN
Deuteronomy 30:4: If any of thine be driven out unto the outermost parts of heaven, from thence will the Lord thy God gather thee, and thence will he fetch thee.
Even the Skeptic’s Annotated Bible missed this one. God gathering from the outermost parts of heaven? Sounds like He is not going to miss a trick. He will even pick up a Jewish astronaut and bring him back.
Or did you hear the one about the man in Michigan who is suing Zondervan and Thomas Nelson for $70 Million dollars for mistranslating malakos in the NIV and other current Bible translations as homosexuality in I Corinthians 6:9. By using the word homosexuality for malakos where is it listed as sin, it has made him an outcast from his family, caused him periods of physical discomfort and demoralization.
The KJV translates it as effeminate. Maybe that is more politically correct. Malakos is used only two other times in the New Testament (Matthew 11:8 and Luke 7:25) which references soft clothing. Only the wealthy and those associated with royalty could afford fabric that was soft. Jesus was making a contrast to John the Baptist who did not use his prophetic gifts to enrich himself. However in I Corinthians 6:9 it seems obvious that listing soft clothing as a sin does not seem to fit as a horrible sin, so he must have been referring to something else. Thus our litigated friend is asking, why call it homosexuality and thus cause everyone to throw rocks at him?
To be sure he is representing himself in this legal case and probably knows he doesn’t stand a snow ball’s chance in summer time of prevailing, but he has found a chance to make a statement and claim his 15 minutes of fame.
Still he does make a good point about translations being opinion, even with the exacting nature of the Greek. Indeed translating malakos as homosexuality is an opinion, but a good opinion based upon how the word is used in extra Biblical sources and the use of proper exegetical principles we can say with some degree of certainty that Paul was making a reference to homosexuality. However, that is not conclusive by evidence of the debate that is raging.
This brings us to our attempts to translate Deuteronomy 30:4 and a discussion I had in one of my Hebrew classes. How do we translate bikeseh hashimayim which most English translations render as the outermost parts of heaven. Are we talking about space travel here? Or is it just a metaphor?
Remember, nothing is placed in the Bible by accident. Every note and detail has a reason for it being placed there. So there must be a reason why God is speaking of gathering the nation of Israel from the outermost parts of heaven. Bikeseh comes from the root kesah and has the proposition Beth (in or on) in front of it and literally means “in the end or extremity.” The following word “hashimayhim” is from the root shama’ which means heaven. The word has a definite article Hei at the beginning and a plural ending. Thus we wound render that as the heavens. So we are not referring to our final resting place and the celestial city but most likely it is used to describe the sky or outer space. If the writer wanted to depict God gathering the Jews from the ends of the earth he would have said kesevi eres. So why does the writer say the heavens or sky? Here is where opinion comes into play and like malakos, we are left with few alternatives in creating an opinion that makes sense.
We could say the writer is really speaking prophetically and speaking of Jewish astronauts but even that stretch would not fit as these are outcast, in other words they are not in outer space by choice. You could say he is mixing in some extraterrestrials or space aliens. If you hold to that I know a good padded cell. Thus, we are left with just a metaphor, a poetic expression and a wonderful one at that. God will not only search out every corner to restore the ones he loves, but he will even look in the most unlikeliest places, like outer space.
The other day I did a study on the sparrow falling. I believe in the Aramaic you say that God is aware of everytime a sparrow lands. He is not only aware when a sparrow dies, He is aware when a sparrow lands and the do a lot of landing. This is just another verse to show how aware God is of every individual He created and how He longs to draw them to Him. He is aware of every corner and every rock on earth and every place in the sky and the universe, you just cannot escape His notice.