Set against the bleak backdrop of the Great Depression, Napoleon Hill penned his magnus opus, Think and Grow Rich in 1938. Contained in the pages of this timely book which gave people hope that life could get better, Hill records the story of R. U. Darby and his uncle.
U. Darby’s uncle caught gold fever and traveled west, staked a claim, purchased a pick and shovel, and began to dig with feverish abandon. His lust for gold caused Darby’s uncle to push through the hard days.
Week’s passed before this uncle unearthed the shiny metal. He figured that heavy machinery could expedite his recovery of this vein or riches. He covered up the mine, crossed the country back to his home in Williamsburg, Maryland, and convinced many friends and family to invest in the mine. The machinery was purchased and shipped to the mine. Darby and his uncle returned to the mine.
They extracted a car of gold and shipped it to a smelter. Darby’s uncle owned one of the richest mines in Colorado. The debt for the machinery could be paid with a few cars of this gold. Then the gold would be filling in their pockets.
The men drilled as their hopes arose. Then, something happened – the vein of gold vanished. The rainbow dried up and the pot of gold was missing. The two men kept drilling, but they soon gave up. They quit!
To help recoup some of their expenses, the men sold their machinery to a junk man for a few hundred dollars. They purchased train tickets and left for home. Now, some junk men fail to seize the opportunities presented to them. But, not this junk man. He sought the services of a mining engineer who figured what had happened to the gold vein. He told the junk man that Darby and his uncle had failed because they did not understand how the ‘fault lines’ ran. He finished some calculations and told the junk man, that the gold vein was just three feet from where Darby and his uncle stopped. Can you imagine that? Three feet from millions of dollars. The junk man was wise in that he sought help to mine the gold ore from the earth before giving up.
Biblical Narratives represent a gold mine of almost immeasurable riches.
Almost half of the Old Testament (40 %) consists of narratives. Have you discovered the narratives in Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1 – 2 Samuel, 1-2 Kings, 1-2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Daniel, Jonah, and Haggai are mostly narrative? Even Job, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel have substantial amounts of narrative scattered throughout them.
Since biblical narratives are stories, they go beyond merely documenting events that happened in history. Narratives include how things happened and this invites the reader to experience, along with the main characters, the action being described. The biblical authors intend his readers (you and me) to identify with the characters and to experience what they are experiencing.
Norman Perrin, in The New Testament: An Introduction (New York: Harcourt Bruce Jovanovich, 1974), 165 writes, “The natural function of narrative is to help the reader hear the voices, take part in the action, get involved in the plot.” Naturally, the more realistic the characters, the more accurate the settings and the more believable the plot, the more compelling the reader is to join the characters in the story.
Let’s define the gold we want to unearth: Narrative or story is a literary from possessing sequential time action and involving setting, characters, and plot. It is the story form of literature.”
Quarry for the Setting –
Settings serve as the stage upon which the stories unfold. Settings serve as a backdrop to the plot and aid the reader in understanding the action taking place. For example, knowing Abraham was a nomad provides the reader with knowledge about his lifestyle. Settings include the physical aspects of geography, culture, and nearness or distance from society.
Excavate for Characters –
Characters paint important pictures. Picture these scenes among others: Abraham with his hand raised high, holding a sharp knife, poised to pierce Isaac’s heart? The disheartened reaction of Josephs’ older, wicked brothers’ hearts when Joseph demanded they leave their youngest brother in his care while they returned to their father with Benjamin. The eyes of the people of Israel when they watched the armies of Pharaoh drown in the Red Sea. The surprise of both the Philistines and the Israelites when youthful David slung the rock into the forehead of Goliath and Goliath fell to the ground like a mighty oak.
Characters fill almost every page of the Old Testament. Consider Haman, the Agagite exterminator, Jezebel, King Ahab’s murderous wife and vineyard stealer, Jonathan, King Saul’s son whose heart was knit to David’s. Reflect upon scheming Rebecca who helped her son, Jacob, steal the birthright from his brother. Who could forget Jacob being outwitted by his father-in-law on his wedding night? Many more intriguing stories await discovery in the Old Testament.
Dig for the Plot –
Plot contains the arrangement of events within the story. Normally plot is a sequential arrangement of events interrelated. Plots build on a beginning, a middle and a conclusion. Plots rely on conflict to move the story line forward so that a resolution can be found. Conflict can utilize physical boundaries, such as seeking to survive wandering in the wilderness for forty years. Other plots explore the conflict between characters: Cain and Abel for instance. A third plot explores moral of spiritual conflict such as Jezebel’s desire for Naboth’s vineyard.
Six Suggestions for unearthing the gold from Biblical Narratives*
- Read the biblical narrative with the intention of joining the main characters in their journey. Narrative stories are invitations to experience what the characters are experiencing. Use your imagination to make the experience vivid and concrete.
- Read the biblical narrative examining every detail of the setting. These details are not normally superfluous. They are hints the author has included to help us understand the plot of the story. Ask yourself how these setting details aids your understanding.
- Read the biblical narrative digging to know every detail about the characters. No detail is irrelevant.
- Read the biblical narrative paying attention to the development of the plot, especially the conflicts. How are the conflicts explored and resolved? Watch for multiple plots within the story. Keep an eye for cause-effect events.
- Read the biblical narrative asking how the narrative gets your attention, arouses your curiosity, or creates suspense?
- Read the biblical narrative seeking to develop the antagonist and protagonist in the story. What characteristics do you notice of each?
Fee, Gordon and D. Stuart. How to Read the Bible for All its worth, 2nd ed. Thorndike, ME: G. K. Hall, 1993).
Gabel, C. B. Wheeler and A. B. Your, The Bible as Literature: An Introduction, 4th ed. New York/Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000.
Goldingay, J. Models for Interpreting Scripture. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995.
Licht, Jacob. Storytelling in the Bible. Jerusalem: Magnes, 1978.
Ryken, Leland. How to Read the Bible as Literature. Grand Rapids: Academie
Books/Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.
Tannehill, Robert C. “The Disciples in Mark: the Function of a Narrative Roll.” Journal of Religion 57 (1977): 386-4-5.
Wilder, Amos N. “Story and Story-World.” Interpretation 37 (193): 353-364.
What biblical narratives do you find most enjoyable to read? Why? Let;s discuss how we can experience what the biblical characters experienced.