Archaeology of the Word
Begin by reading the passage aloud, slowly. Scripture sounds different when we hear it, rather than simply reading it off a page. Be attentive to the sound, rhythm and poetry of the text.
Read it a second time, this time asking students to highlight the 'clues' that they noticed (see “Ten Clues” below). Afterwards, engage in a class discussion: What clues did you notice? How might you interpret a particular clue? What might God's Word be saying to us through that particular clue - e.g., that repeated word, or that unusual turn of phrase?
Don't be concerned about covering all the clues in one session. The important thing is that students gain experience in observing detail and pondering the text. Young children may begin learning this process by just looking for one or two features in the text e.g. repetition and names.
This method is conducted in a spirit of joy and wonder (and spirited, respectful debate!) as we are drawn ever-more deeply into the inexhaustible riches of God's Word. In fact, the Rabbis speak of the 'seventy faces of Torah' - there is no one single interpretation that exhausts the meaning of a verse of scripture... there are many ways a bible text can speak to our lives.
Ten 'Clues' to look for in the text
In Exodus 18, why is Moses’ ‘father-in-law’ mentioned 13 times in just 27 verses?
Use of Numbers in the text
In the bible numbers are often symbolic. E.g., the number 3 can suggest the entry of divine power into the narrative. ‘On the third day…’
Questions in the text can be posed to the reader. How do you answer the Lord’s call to Adam in Genesis 3:9 ‘Where are you?’
In Numbers 22 the name of the pagan sorcerer ‘Balaam’ may be derived from bli am, ‘without a people’. How does this knowledge affect our grasp of the text?
‘May the Lord bless you and keep you…’ (Num 6:24). In the Hebrew, this poetic passage clearly appears as three lines of increasing length. What can we learn by pondering this structure?
Puzzling words and phrases
In the crossing of the Red Sea, wouldn’t you expect God to tell Moses to split the sea before urging the Israelites to go forward into it? Why the puzzling word order in Exodus 14:15-16?
In Genesis 22, as Abraham prepares to sacrifice his son, there is a steady, almost robotic rhythm underlying this terrifying activity. What can we make of this?
Abraham started early in the morning (Genesis 22:3). Why the early start?
In the sacrifice of Isaac (Gen 22) there is no mention of Sarah. Why is the wife of Abraham, the mother of Isaac, absent in a story with drastic familial consequences?
References to other passages
In comparing passages, what similar words and ideas do we hear?
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