Sunday, November 21, 2021

Phonics with Jeremiah, and the grapes of wrath

I was creating illustrations for a children's phonics book, the bit about the a-consonant-e spelling of the "long a" sound. Since this is hardly work that fully engages my brain, I was at the same time listening to the Bible read aloud, as I have been doing on and off recently. (I started with Genesis back in August and have got as far as Jeremiah.)

I had already prepared a list of 20 words, in truly-random order courtesy of As it happened, the word grapes had been put in first place, with gate in second.

As I started drawing some grapes, Jeremiah said, "He shall give a shout, as they that tread the grapes, against all the inhabitants of the earth" (25:30).

As I was illustrating the word gate, Jeremiah said, "Then they came up from the king's house unto the house of the Lord, and sat down in the entry of the new gate of the Lord's house" (26:10).

Well, obviously that kind of thing can't continue for very long. Even the synchronicity fairies have to respect the laws of probability! I did the next dozen or so illustrations without any prophetic counterpoint.

The 16th word on my list was blaze. No sooner had I begun sketching the flames of a massive conflagration than Jeremiah chimed in: "And the Chaldeans shall come again, and fight against this city, and take it, and burn it with fire" (37:8).

(Next after blaze came the name Dave -- but, alas, Jeremiah's last reference to David was back in 36:30, just 10 verses before the burning with fire.)

I don't think these kinds of synchronicities mean anything in particular in terms of their specific content; I just take them as a general sign that I'm on the right track, in touch with the harmony of Creation.

Having had Jeremiah 25:30 brought to my attention, I'm wondering now: Why should shouting be proverbially associated with treading the grapes? Is this a reference to some long-forgotten agricultural custom or pagan ritual? A more likely interpretation, I think, is that "treading the grapes" would have been understood by Jeremiah's contemporaries as a kenning-like way of referring to the bloodshed of war, and that the reference is to the war-cry of soldiers going into battle. We see something similar in Revelation 19:15, where smiting the nations with a sharp sword is juxtaposed with treading "the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God." The metaphor may in ancient times have been such a stereotyped one that "soldiers" came to be the primary meaning of they that tread the grapes -- just as for us bloodletting now has "violent bloodshed" as its primary meaning, although this was originally a metaphorical use of a word that referred primarily to a now-obsolete medical procedure.

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Never mind, Lord . . .

Please, God, save us from this terrible storm -- oh, never mind, it's just stopped! -- traditional prayer Good night, Westley. Good work...