Rise Up, My Love (181): Legs of Marble…or Silk…or Both?!

Pillars with Golden SocketsSong of Solomon 5:15 “His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold.” Have you ever been confused by the discovery that there are many words, particularly in the Old Testament, with no exact and certain translation? When I first became a Christian, I was taught that the Bible was the plenarily inspired, inerrant Word of God…that it was “God-breathed…” that every letter and punctuation mark was exactly as God had ordered it. Frankly, that is still my sincere belief today, although I now understand that only the original text as given by God was perfect and without error. What we have today are copies and translations of the original manuscripts into modern languages, and as such, I believe that many of the texts circulating today are wonderfully accurate, but no longer perfect. Still, it is preeminently important to understand that none of the apparent inconsistencies or possible errors affect any of the major doctrines. All honest, scholarly translations of the earliest available manuscripts make clear the deity of Christ, the sinfulness of man, man’s need of salvation, and the provision by God for our reconciliation and salvation through repentance toward God and faith in Jesus Christ. Still, I used to be alarmed by variant translations, wondering “who was right and who was wrong.” Now I believe that there are elements of truth in many of the variations, and instead of becoming insecure over the validity of the whole because of the breadth of possible variation in meaning per word, I have learned to look for all the possibilities, and what God might have intended, allowing the diversity to enrich rather than blur my understanding. PIllars in CathedralAll this I mention as a preparation for discussing the word translated “marble” in this text. It is the Hebrew ses and is used forty-one times in the Old Testament. Interestingly, every one of the major translations of this particular text render the word as “marble” (as it is also translated in I Chronicles 29:2 and Esther 1:6),Linen although in all of the other thirty-eight instances, it is translated as “silk” or “fine linen.” The contrasts between marble and silk are legion; the similarities are few. Is it possible that the same word could be used to mean both materials (marble and silk), and beyond that, is it possible that properties of both materials could rightly describe the legs of a man…and of God? Ancient Marble PillarsAs usual, the Lord is perfect in all his ways. Only he could find one word to carry such richness and depth of meaning! “His legs are as pillars of marble”—strong, unmoving, and rock solid. “His legs are as pillars of fine linen/silk.” What could that mean? What do marble and fine linen have in common? What they have in common is the beauty of their color and texture. SilkFine marble and fine linen are both smooth and white. Linen and silk are two of the most highly prized materials used in clothing because they are so beautiful and pleasing to the touch.Silk Sheet The finest sheets made to caress one’s body all night are made from silk. The legs of Solomon were as soft as silk to the touch, but as strong as marble underneath. The skin was like silk; the bones and muscles were like marble. The pastor at the church my husband and I attended when we were first married told us that in ministering to others, we should have “a hide like a rhinoceros but a heart like butter.” He meant that we should not be “thin-skinned” or easily offended by others, but that our hearts should easily melt with compassion for their needs. That is also a truism…although reverse imagery from this passage. In our love relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, we find that his exterior is as beautiful and smooth…as pure white and touchable as marble or silk. Inviting. Flawless. Awe-inspiring. Comforting. Silk…living tissue…spun strand by strand from the frailest of material drawn from the body of a tiny caterpillar…a perfect picture of Christ as Son of man. Pillars. Palace Gate. St. PetersburgMarble…a substance not subject to life or death… hewn from the hardest of rock fired in the pressure and heat of the earth…a perfect picture of Christ as Son of God. This is our Lord! The finest, the most beautiful, the purest, the smoothest, the firmest. He is like silk, and He is like marble!

2 responses to “Rise Up, My Love (181): Legs of Marble…or Silk…or Both?!

  1. Charylene Powers

    Is the second picture in this post the church that is beside the Garden of Gethsemane in Israel? The mural on the back wall is the same one we saw when we visited that church. Also, I really like your comments on all the different translations we are now using.

    • Yes, I believe you’re right. I didn’t title all my pictures the way I should of when I got home, and now some of them are fuzzy in my memory. I need you to come and remind me! 🙂

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