The Good Samaritan, Part 2
Apr 02, 2014
In response to the lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus did not answer directly but told a parable. It is written in Greek yet in the style of Hebrew parallelism.
A1. Self-justification (Luke 10:29)
B1. Lawyer’s question (Luke 10:29)
C1. Traveler left for dead (Luke 10:30)
D1. The priest’s actions (Luke 10:31)
D2. The Levite’s actions (Luke 10:32)
D3. The Samaritan’s actions (Luke 10:33, 34)
C2. The traveler left with restoration (Luke 10:35)
B2. Jesus’ question (Luke 10:36)
A2. Self-correction (Luke 10:37)
The central portion (D) is emphasized to compare and contrast the behavior of three men and to define the “neighbor” as God intended.
The Jericho Road
After setting up the problem in verse 29, Luke 10:30 says,
30 Jesus replied and said, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho; and he fell among robbers, and they stripped him and beat him, and went off leaving him half dead.
Jericho was the home of many priests and Levites. It was located on the plain near the Jordan River and was 800 feet below sea level. Jerusalem, on the other hand, was situated 2500 feet above sea level. Hence, the man in the parable was going “down from Jerusalem to Jericho.” The seventeen-mile stretch of road dropped 3300 feet down the base of the mountain where Jericho was situated. The Greek word for “priests” (ιερεις) has numeric values of 330, which is a tenth of 3300.
The priest and Levite in Jesus’ parable were returning home from their work in the temple. They had performed their respective duties—so they thought—but had done so without fulfilling the intent of Leviticus 19:18, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
The Hebrew phrase in 2 Samuel 12:11 translated “to your companion” is l’ray-ah (לרעיך) also has a numeric value of 330. The same word is translated “neighbor” in Leviticus 19:18. Its root word, raw-aw, means “to tend,” that is, to take care of (a flock). In other words, it implies being neighborly. Luke had no knowledge of the 3300-foot change in elevation from Jerusalem to Jericho, so there was no way he could have related it to the numeric values of the priests and neighbors which form the key elements in the story. Yet God knew.
It is apparent that the robbers in Jesus’ parable were not being neighborly. In Mideast culture, robbers do not normally beat men unless they resist. Apparently, the man had tried to resist the robbers. The man that they robbed and beat was “a certain man,” but his nationality was not stated. Presumably, he was a Judean or Galilean, but his identity is left out of the story. Furthermore, since one’s clothing almost always served as a mark of identity, and he was stripped of it, we can say that he was stripped even of his identity.
The Priest and the Levite
Luke 10:31 continues,
31 And by chance a certain priest was going down on that road, and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.
Jesus’ audience would have understood that this was one of the priests living in Jericho and that he was returning home after ministering in the temple. Because the priests had become quite wealthy by that time, the people would have pictured a priest riding a horse or donkey, rather than walking.
He had been tending the flock of Judah and Benjamin by offering up sacrifices on their behalf. He did this out of duty, but when presented with an opportunity to be neighborly in real life, “he passed by on the other side.” The man’s identity was unknown, because he had been stripped of his clothing. And because he was unconscious, he could not be identified by language or by accent. Further, the priest did not want to defile himself by touching a possible foreigner—and possibly a dead one at that—for then he would have to return to Jerusalem a week later to undergo purification rites.
Luke 10:32 continues,
32 And likewise a Levite also, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
The Levites were the civil magistrates and keepers of the public records in the local communities. They also assisted the priests in the outer court of the temple in Jerusalem. Perhaps Jesus intended his readers to understand that this Levite was the assistant of the priest who was walking ahead of him. Perhaps the Levite saw the priest walk by on the other side and followed his example.
Since both the priest and the Levite lived in the same town, he might have to face the priest later. After the priest passed the Samaritan, it would not look good for a mere Levite to upstage the priest by helping the wounded man. That could easily be taken as a personal insult.
Luke 10:33, 34 continues,
33 But a certain Samaritan, who was on a journey, came upon him; and when he saw him, he felt compassion, 34 and came to him, and bandaged up his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them; and he put him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
This part of the story was the surprise. The natural order of a story such as this would be to feature a priest, then a Levite, and finally a “good Jew,” with whom His audience could identify. Instead, Jesus sets forth a hated and despised Samaritan as the hero of the story. The Samaritan uses his resources to cleanse the wound with oil, to disinfect it with wine (alcohol), and then brought him to an inn—presumably in Jericho.
Since the story was set in Judean territory, it is clear that the inn was in a Jewish town. For a Samaritan to find lodging there was as unusual (and even dangerous) as it was for a Jew to find hospitality in a Samaritan town. Jesus’ audience would have expected the Samaritan to unload the wounded man at the edge of town, and to disappear, and to let others take responsibility for the man.
But instead, the Samaritan takes him to the inn and takes care of him that night, paying for his room and any other expenses incurred. Luke 10:35 continues,
35 And on the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper and said, “Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I return, I will repay you.”
The Samaritan stayed the night at the inn in Jericho, exposing him to possible danger the next morning from a hostile Jewish crowd. He gave the innkeeper two denarii, equal to a half shekel of silver at the time.
Two denarii (half shekel) was the equivalent of redemption money in Exodus 30:12-15,
12 When you take a census of the sons of Israel to number them, then each one of them shall give a ransom for himself to the Lord…. 13 This is what everyone who is numbered shall give: a half a shekel according to the shekel of the sanctuary…. 15 … to make atonement (l’kaphar, רפכל) for yourselves.
The phrase “to make atonement,” as used in this verse, has a numeric value of 330, which, again, is a tenth of the elevation between Jericho and Jerusalem.
The half shekel given in a census denotes Israelite citizenship as much as it provides for his atonement. It is paid by the Samaritan to heal the man whose identity has been stripped away.
Adam, He Who Bleeds
The underlying implication of the half-shekel payment is that the man half dead is Adam, representing all of humanity, not just Jews or even Israelites. By the principle of loving your neighbor as yourself, all are brought into citizenship by the half-shekel that represents atonement and healing through the blood of Jesus Christ.
Adam’s name is like so many other names in that it describes his dominant characteristic or calling. The main portion of his name is from dam, “blood.” His name means “to show blood.” When blood is revealed, it means that a man is bleeding. Hence, his name means “he who bleeds.” Ector Ward tells us,
In Hebrew, things which are referred to as red are compared with the color of blood, as if blood is the original red. Some words derived from the root verb adam are adamah (the red earth), admoniy (red hair or a reddish complexion), adom (rosy or red), edom (red), and odem (redness, a ruby or garnet). Notice dam, the Hebrew noun for blood, is incorporated in each example.
We can compare with similar words. The name Laban comes from the verb that means to be white or to make white, to whiten. Some nouns derived from the same root verb are moon, a whitish shrub, Lebanon (the white mountain), and bricks made from white clay. I have found that in an Arabic/American cookbook yogurt is called laban. So, we see that things that are white are named from the root word laban meaning to be white.
In Hebrew, each noun is formed out of a root verb. For example, the name Caleb means a dog, but the root of caleb is the verb to attack. So when Adam named the animals, he named each after its main characteristic, i.e., what it does. The dog attacks, therefore he is called He Who attacks, or simply The Attacker. Another example is the serpent who is Nachash, The Whisperer, after the root verb to hiss or to whisper.
The name Adam is the noun form of the primitive Hebrew root verb adam which means to show blood. In order to give a name to the substance of blood, something or someone must first have had to bleed. Therefore, in the same way as the dog was named Caleb, He Who Attacks, so the man was named Adam, He Who Bleeds.
(Ector Ward, He Who Bleeds, The Dawning of the Day of Atonement, pp. 51, 52. Available at: http://ectorward.wordpress.com/ )
The victim in Jesus’ parable of the Good Samaritan was wounded, bleeding, and left for dead. This identifies him with Adam in the broad prophetic picture. The awdawn (or “man”) mentioned in Genesis 1:27 is essentially anyone who bleeds, and it is a non-racial term. It also refers to man’s calling. Not only does it foreshadow death by bleeding, but also implies atonement by the covering of blood.
Ector Ward explains this, saying, “We, as sons of Adam, are called to lay down our lives for one another.” Again, she says, “Every Adam is called to die, that is, to lay down his life. The cross is the entrance to resurrection.” Therefore, the fact that we are called awdawm shows not only that we may bleed to death, but also that through the bleeding of the last Adam on the cross, we may inherit life.
When Jesus finished His parable, he asked in Luke 10:36,
36 Which of these three do you think proved to be a neighbor to the man who fell into the robbers’ hands?
Hence, the lawyer’s question, “Who is my neighbor?” is understood by the deeper question, “To whom must I become a neighbor?” Is it pleasing to God to limit one’s neighborly actions to those of one’s own ethnicity or to the “chosen” ones? No, the parable makes it clear that Leviticus 19:34 must be included as part of the law of love, where we are to love the alien as ourselves. Luke 10:37 concludes,
37 And he said, “the one who showed mercy toward him.” And Jesus said to him, “Go and do the same.”
The lesson was not lost on the lawyer. Let us hope it is not lost on us as well.
This is part 2 of a mini-series titled "The Good Samaritan." To view all parts, click the link below.
This is part 54 of a series titled "Studies in the Book of Luke." To view all parts, click the link below.