Walter G. Williams
Customs and Scripture
customs recorded in Scripture puzzle us, or at least are
not fully understood because the customs are unknown in
modern cultures. Sometimes a Bible writer knew that an
explanation was necessary because customs had already
changed in his own day.
For example, Ruth 4:7 explains the significance of
drawing off the sandal to indicate renunciation of one's
rights. But even if the author had not given us an
explanation we would now know the significance of the
custom because of the work of the archaeologist. Tablets
have been recovered from near Kirkuk (ancient Nuzu),
Iraq, which explain this particular practice.
Other unexplained customs can now be understood.
ff. records Laban's anguish because his teraphim or
household gods had been stolen. Unknown to her husband
Jacob, Rachel had taken these images. The incident seems
to have little significance except for the increased
tension between Jacob and Laban. Through the Nuzu
tablets we now know why the tension was increased and,
more important, why Rachel risked possible injury or
death in taking the images. Ancient law among the tribes
provided that whoever owned the family gods inherited
the family estate, or in other cases, became the
recognized head of the clan. Rachel was seeking to
protect her own and Jacob's just inheritance.
New commentaries contain many such insights which come
as a direct result of the work of the archaeologist."
Williams, "Archaeology in Biblical Research" (Nashville,
Tennessee: Abingdon Press, 1965) pp. 17-18