Hunchbacks and cheese

I’m still setting up this blog site and getting used to things. So this 2nd post is a short note about the word for cheese in 2 Samuel 17:29 and the ‘rugged’ (NIV) or ‘many-peaked’ (ESV) mountains of Psalm 68:15. I link this to the film ‘Just Mercy’ and the old hymn ‘The old Rugged Cross’.

“When David came to Mahanaim, Shobi the son of Nahash from Rabbah of the Ammonites, and Machir the son of Ammiel from Lo-debar, and Barzillai the Gileadite from Rogelim, brought beds, basins, and earthen vessels, wheat, barley, flour, parched grain, beans and lentils, honey and curds and sheep and cheese from the herd, for David and the people with him to eat, for they said, The people are hungry and weary and thirsty in the wilderness.” (2 Samuel 17:27-29).           

Cheese [Hebrew: sepot]

This is the only use of that Hebrew word for cheese, although there are two other words used for cheese which occur once or twice in Hebrew Scriptures. One is linked to the word for ‘hunchbacked’ which is itself an unusual word, and the other with ‘rugged’ – both suggesting the ‘hardness’ and shape of the milk-cream translated as ‘cheese’, I suppose.                           

The word for cheese in Job 10:10 is ‘gebina’ [1482 Kohlenberger] and this seems to be linked to ‘gibben’ [1492 Kohlenberger] which is the word translated ‘hunchbacked’ in Leviticus 21:20, and the next word in the concordance is ‘gabnon’ [1493 Kohlenberger] and it is the word translated ‘rugged’ in NIV and ‘many-peaked’ in ESV. ‘O rugged mountain of Bashan’ is found in Psalm 68:15 – the ESV Bible has a footnote for its translation: ‘many-peaked mountain’ and the footnote reads ‘or hunch-backed’. 

The word ‘rugged’ reminds me of the hymn ‘the old rugged cross’. In the film ‘Just Mercy’ this hymn is played across the prison sound system at the time of the execution of the prisoner who was on death row. This matches the actual historical detail of the event – that hymn was played at that time. It was an extremely moving scene in the film.

“Why gaze in envy, O rugged mountains, at the mountain where God chooses to reign, where the Lord himself will dwell forever.” (Psalm 68:15 NIV).

During lockdown, I recorded a devotional based on Galatians 2:20 which I based on the hymn the Old Rugged Cross. It can be found here.

And here is a very different version of The old Rugged Cross. A dear friend and former parishioner, Yvonne, who has now gone to glory, once gave me this CD ‘I surrender all’ sung by Carman. At a time of deep distress I happened to come across the album (which I had not yet listened to) and through it the Spirit ministered to my mind’s anxiety in a very deep way. Barzillai ministered to David with cheese and other gifts – and I’ve found myself wondering, perhaps it was like Yvonne had given cheese for this hunchback in his time of need?!

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