Sabbath School Lesson for May 9-15, 2020


This week we explore some tools to use when we study our Bibles that will help us get the most accurate meaning from what we read.

  • Why understanding is needed? (Sunday)
  • How word meanings differ? (Monday)
  • What does repetition tell us? (Tuesday)
  • What to look for when considering the context? (Wednesday)
  • Why knowing the purpose for the different books of the Bible is helpful? (Thursday)


Word choice is everything when it comes to communicating. This is especially true for the written word, due to its lasting quality–it’s going to be around awhile. Choosing the correct word meaning from what someone either writes or speaks can make all the difference in how a message will be received and understood.

In the case of the Bible, there is an even greater chance of being misunderstood. The possibility of error in translating the proper word for the passage or not understanding its context is, of course, increased by two things:

  1. The original languages of the Bible are ancient languages, no longer spoken, making translation difficult for anyone.
  2. There are many languages spoken in the world today (around 6,000).

Often, people have to settle for having just a portion of the Bible, and not having it in their first language, the one they would naturally prefer. Despite the challenges, it’s estimated that 95% of the world’s population does have access to some portion of the word of God.

Memory Text: ” ‘Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there as a witness against you.’ ” Deuteronomy 31:26 NKJV

In other words, put it in a safe place. Interestingly, the word for “ark” was borrowed from the Egyptian language and means “box”, “chest”, or “coffer”. Moses apparently used the word for:

  • Noah’s ark, which saved him and his family from the flood,
  • for the ark in which Moses was placed as a baby and saved from death by their unfortunate decree to kill all the Hebrew baby boys, and
  • finally, as the place where God’s law was kept in the wilderness tabernacle, a law that was designed to save them.

The word for “ark” therefore seems to imply a feature of safety, giving it more meaning than just a mere box or chest. It’s something designed for safekeeping.

Sunday: Understanding the Scriptures

Understanding the Law and the Scriptures is important because our lives actually depend on it. Many other benefits are derived from the study of God’s word, such as correcting us, instructing us in right-doing, and equipping us for serving God. But, the overall purpose of God’s communication to us is to save us from certain death at the hands of Satan.

The message of salvation that God wants to convey to humanity is so vital that He has resorted to human spokesmen, who used their own spoken languages to do the job. This method actually works in our favor, however.

We can be thankful that God cares so much for us that He speaks to us out of love, as an adult speaking “baby-talk” to a small infant or child. He lowers Himself to our level of speaking and encourages us to hear His messages in whatever way we are capable of hearing and understanding them at the time.

Bible Verses to Ponder and Share:

2 Timothy 3:16, 17

  • What are some of the ways we benefit from understanding Scripture?

Deuteronomy 32:46, 47 and Exodus 20:12

  • What is the main reason we are to honor our parents?
  • How does our lives depend on observing the Law?

Monday: Words and Their Meanings

As we know, words can have many different meanings. There are almost always several word choices that could fit the message we are trying to communicate.

This is why study of the word in a text can often lead us to new spiritual insights. At the same time, it may cause us to misunderstand the author’s original intent, twisting the meaning in harmful ways. Therefore, care is obviously needed when examining the meaning of words in the Bible.

Here are some deeply profound words that the Bible uses frequently, which may be of significance:

  • The word for “mercy”, in Hebrew, chesed,  is used in the Old Testament to describe God’s love, kindness, and covenant attitude toward His people.
  • The word for “peace”, in Hebrew, shalom, may be translated “wholeness, completeness, and well-being”. Thus the greeting Shabat shalom, invites us to have the ultimate peace and wholeness available to us on God’s rest day, the Sabbath.
  • The word for “remnant” offers interesting findings in both the Old and New Testaments. Although it sounds somewhat arrogant for God’s followers to use it today for themselves, it is variously used in the Bible to signify a group of people, chosen by God, who at times go through suffering and trials that serve to purify and make them holy.

Bible Verses to Ponder and Share:

1 Kings 3:6, Exodus 20:5, 6, and Revelation 14:12

  • Who are those who receive mercy from God?
  • What two things is God looking for when showing us mercy?

Numbers 6:24-26 and Psalm 29:11

  • Although delivered by the priest in this blessing in Numbers, who is the One who gives us peace?

Isaiah 32:17 and Exodus 20:11

  • How and why are these feelings of peace especially meant for us on the Sabbath day?

Tuesday: Repetition, Word Patterns, and Meaning

Hebrew writers often used repetition for emphasis. They would repeat something three times to draw it to our attention. This was done quite often when describing some attribute of God.

We first notice repetition in the creation story. The word “created” is found three times in Genesis 1:27, which reminds us emphatically that God was the One who created us.

Isaiah recognized God’s holiness when in vision he saw angels declaring God to be “holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3). John, in Revelation, heard the same repetition about God’s holiness (Revelation 4:8).

Other repetitions include Daniel’s record of Nebuchadnezzar setting up an image. He uses the phrase “the image which Nebuchadnezzar set up” ten times in Daniel, chapter three. He was emphasizing the king’s (and our) desire to be a god to be worshiped (or admired) by others. This was in sharp contrast to the true God, the only One worthy of worship.

Bible Verses to Ponder and Share:

Genesis 1:26, 27

  • How and why are these repetitions used in the telling of our creation?

Isaiah 6:3-5

  • What was Isaiah’s response to hearing about God’s holiness, declared by these angels he saw in vision?
  • What should be our response when we fully recognize God for who He is?

Daniel 3:1-3, 5

  • Why did Daniel want to emphasize all through this chapter the fact that the image was one set up by Nebuchadnezzar?
  • How was Nebuchadnezzar’s image a denial of all that God meant to show him in his dream that we find in chapter two?

Wednesday: Texts and Contexts

As we saw with the story in Daniel, chapter three, about Daniel’s friends not bowing down to Nebuchadnezzar’s image that he set up, it was helpful to know more about the story from the chapters surrounding it. This is why exploring the context of a verse or passage of Scripture is helpful in understanding any story or event in the Bible.

Even for individual words, we sometimes need to consider the context in which they are used. Meanings change, depending on where and how they are used. This calls for interpretation on the translator’s part, but also for the reader.

An example of this is the word adam, used in Genesis for “man”. It is used for Adam, the first man. In other places though, it refers to both man and woman, or humanity in general. Reading the word in context is often the only way we are able to understand its correct usage and meaning.

Bible Verses to Ponder and Share:

Genesis 1:27, 2:7, and 5:1, 2

  • Why is “man”, or adam, sometimes used to mean Adam, the first man, and other times, both man and woman? How do we know the difference?

Romans 5:12-14 and 1 Corinthians 15:45-47

  • How was Adam considered a “type”, or foreshadowing symbol, of Christ?
  • How does this cause us to think differently when we see the word “Adam” in a text?

Thursday: Books and Their Messages

Besides understanding the context of a word or verse, it’s even more beneficial to see the context of the whole book we are studying. How does the particular chapter fit into the scheme of the entire book to which it belongs?

Becoming familiar with the type of book in the Bible is helpful in interpreting the story or passage in question. For instance, there are…

  • historical books, such as 1 and 2 Kings
  • compilations, such as Psalms and Proverbs
  • prophetic messages, such as found in Daniel and Revelation
  • letters, or epistles, such as the ones by Paul and others

Knowing something about the author of the book, as well as the location and date it was written, is also valuable in deriving meaning from a text. The first five books (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy–known as the Pentateuch, or “five books”) are believed to be written by Moses.

Others are identified in various ways, but there are a few books with unknown authors, such as Esther, Ruth, and even 1 and 2 Samuel and Chronicles, and other historical books.

It’s interesting to note that the book of Genesis is believed to have been written before the great Exodus from Egypt. Moses may very well have written it while he was shepherding his flocks in Midian, after his exile from Egypt for killing an Egyptian who was beating a slave.

The book of Genesis tells us about our origins at creation; but it also reveals the plan of salvation, starting right there in words spoken to Adam and Eve after they sinned. The Seed (the first mention of the Messiah in Genesis 3:15) was also included in the promises made to Abraham.

Bible Verses to Ponder and Share:

Genesis 3:15, 22:17, 18, and Galatians 3:19

  • Who is the Seed referring to,  and why does this knowledge give greater importance to the many lists of genealogies we find scattered throughout the Bible?

Matthew 1:17 and Luke 3:23, 38

  • What differences do we see in these two lists of Jesus’ ancestors?
  • What do these two genealogies of Christ tell us about the authors?

Friday: What We Learned This Week

When we receive a letter from a faraway loved one, our desire is usually to pour over every possible meaning and emotion in the words, written by the person we love. From beginning to end, nothing seems insignificant. Every word and paragraph will be examined and treasured.

As our hearts open up to God’s love, so will our desire to study and know more about the Bible, perhaps the best “love letter” provided to His followers.

The many intricate features of word choice and context we explored this week convince us that we need help, if we’re going to accurately interpret what we read in the Bible. A casual, superficial reading will never convey the deep messages God has shared with us through the prophets.

  1. First and foremost, we need the help of the Holy Spirit. After all, He was the One who inspired the prophets in the first place.
  2. A good concordance or two, such as Young’s or Strong’s, is also a welcome study tool many find helpful.
  3. And lastly, it is totally acceptable to rely on other trustworthy Christians to help guide us through the difficult spots in our study.

Sharing Bible truths and our mounting faith will sweeten our experience in the Word. Many have found enormous blessings in the interchange of ideas and fellowship that results from faithful witnessing to those who will listen.

Finding a community of believers, in whatever way is available to us, is also one of the ways God has established to save us from the evil forces we must battle on this planet. The bonding offered by a loving church family provides safety, and at the same time grows our love, both to God and to other human beings.

Next Week’s Lesson: Creation–Genesis as Foundation, Part 1

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