Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"Logging in Scribe Time"

Deuteronomy 17.18-20
The NET Bible

“When he sits on his royal throne he must make a copy of this law on a scroll given to him by the Levitical priests. It must be with him constantly and he must read it as long as he lives,… Then he will not exalt himself above his fellow citizens…”

God designed a way to keep leaders humble… “he must read it [the Torah] as long as he lives, … then he will not exalt himself above his fellow citizens.” A Hebrew king’s first royal duty was to transcribe the entire law of Moses on a his own scroll. Every good leader knows how to delegate but this was one job the king had to do for himself and by himself.

“When he sits down on the throne of his kingdom, the first thing he
must do is make himself a copy of this Revelation on a scroll”.
Deuteronomy 17.18 “The Message”

The initial role of a king was the role of a scribe. He had to hand-write all 5,850 verses of the first five books of the Bible: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy [1] on his own scroll. This body of literature was called Torah and considered to be pure, holy, and unadulterated truth. It was, for the devoted ancient Israelite, the actual and living Word of God.

Besides the obvious benefit of learning its content and message, as the king logged in time copying the Torah, the new leader and his subjects profited by the natural development of a spirit of humility. The Hebrew Scriptures were normally transcribed by scribes who dedicated themselves to making accurate copies of the holy texts thousands of years before Gutenberg invented the printing press. They spent their lives bent over makeshift desks, stylus in hand, carefully recording for all time every single ‘jot and tittle’ (tiniest letter or smallest stroke) of the Law of Moses. With painstaking concentration, the new king was reduced to the role of a scribe and would not soon forget his many months spent recording the Holy Writ. Like any scribe, the king would experience times of monotony and tedium. The new ruler felt for a brief moment what a scribe felt his entire life… the physical pain (back aches, eye trouble, writer’s cramps) and the waves of meaninglessness washing over the shores of a man’s psyche. For some new monarchs, living like a scribe was a prison sentence.

The temporary loss of significance was good for a man who would rule a nation. The lowly life of a scribe was not an easy life. The king would recall the long and difficult hours he spent as a scribe each time he picked up his personal scroll and read Torah. It kept him humble.

[1] The internet sources I researched varied. One reported 5,845 verses and another 5,853. There were no verse designations when Moses first wrote down the Law. If a typical verse contained an average of 25 Hebrew words, and a typical Hebrew word contained 7 letters, that’s over a million letter strokes of the sylus… certainly more than a weekend project!

The humorous drawing of a scribe using bad language is by artist Patricia Storm, who gave me permission to use her drawing here. You can view and purchase her work at

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