The Beatitudes and bankruptcy — part 3

June 19, 2009

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

So reads the third Beatitude in Matthew (5:5). I was taught (were you?) that this meant something like, “Blessed are those who endure injury with patience and without resentment, for they shall reap a last reward (in heaven). It was a promise to the passive. But not so for Jesus and his listeners.

They recognized “meek” as a legal term referring to people who have been judicially disenfranchised by bankruptcy and can no longer represent themselves in court and must find another elder in the assembly who can bring their case. And “earth” (eretz, in Hebrew) is a word that’s really rich with meanings: it can mean earth in the universal, cosmic sense, but it can also mean just dirt, soil, specifically arable soil; but more pointedly, in a meaning that more directly fits with the legal meaning of “meek”, it can mean your land, your family farm, your inheritance. (It can also stand in for eretz Israel, the land of Israel, Yawheh’s inheritance.)

So this is what Jesus’ listeners heard:

Blessed are those who have lost their family farm and can therefore no longer protect themselves in court or bring their own claims for judgment, for they shall re-inherit their portion and recover their position among the elders of the assembly.

What would we do today if we aligned ourselves with the spirit of this pronouncement?

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One Response to “The Beatitudes and bankruptcy — part 3”


  1. […] Here, I want to raise up the Beatitude that is perhaps most familiar and that also most directly addresses the suffering that bankruptcy entails: Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. (BibleMonster link) […]

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