Monday, 7 October 2013

'Biblical Lobola'


 On a recent trip to the Netherlands we took a tour of ‘Noah’s Ark’ (a replica anyways) and were impressed with the size and the construction of the boat.  I think it is one of the most well-known bible stories and so went to see for ourselves what Noah’s ark might have looked like.     
The funny thing I find about the bible is that as Christians, we have a strong desire to place God into a package that we can understand.  Thus, we often read some stories and use the ones we can relate to, to the neglect of others. 

There are stories in the bible that we simply never discuss lest they interfere with our attempts at piousness.  (Which incidentally I have made peace with – it’s just never quite going to happen anyway).  Except that in the attempt at piety we have sort of missed the point of God’s grace.  The bible is full of stories about people who simply fell far short of this ‘standard’ that so many Christians hold so dear.  Some of the stories in fact have enormous movie potential. 
In South Africa, many of the African cultures have a tradition of paying ‘lobola.’  Essentially Lobola is like a ‘bride price’.  The groom is meant to prove to the bride’s family that he is able to support a wife and the amount is negotiated between the families.  Traditionally it was like a gift to the bride’s family intended to show his commitment to providing for his family as reassurance their daughter would be well taken care of. 
  
And so ‘lobola’ negotiations are also referred to in the bible.  David because he was a poor man expresses his inability to pay bride price for one of King Saul’s daughters.  Culture at that time expected that a bride price be paid.  And so the terms are set in Philistine foreskins.  Not money, precious stones, cows or the like.  No.  Foreskins.  (I Samuel 18:25).  (Yeah, don’t take my word for it, go and dust off your bible.) 

Think about it for a minute; do you think David instructed his men in battle to collect foreskins?  Was there a whole battle field of dead warriors with their pants down left behind?  Were they carrying little foreskin pouches?  How long did it take?  What were they talking about? Did they dry them around the campfire; after all they needed to be presented to the king.   Did it take days?  Did David collect all of them himself?  Do you think he ever misplaced his foreskin pouch and was like, “hey guys, has anyone seen my foreskins?”     

Oh come on people.  After you have gotten past your shock and horror, seriously, “Was it like... so how’s the weather”?  “It looks like it is going to rain”? Or “Dude... wow... I have never seen one this small” ... “or big” for that matter? 
I mean this has movie potential.  It could be drama, horror or my personal favourite, comedy.  How about “The Battle of Clipped Penises”?  LOL  Or Clipped and Snipped?  Note to self: I must not blog late at night.
        
Alright, alright... but seriously... so how’s that for biblical ‘lobola’? 
           
And so no, the bible is not saying that we should be paying lobola in foreskins.  It is a recording of history that tells us God worked his plan for salvation (His relationship with humanity) through and despite circumstances, human weaknesses and wicked intentions.     

Incidentally I have never heard a sermon preached on this yet.  I will let you know if that ever changes...