No Shark Nets

17 Jul

ImageThis is me in the Indian Ocean in 2004. It was “winter” in South Africa, so it wasn’t odd that there were no locals at the beach. We Canadians, however, found it to be quite delightful weather for an evening dip.

We noticed the posted signs that said, “No shark nets”. We hadn’t known that people could use nets to catch sharks and we weren’t sure why that was prohibited, but there were a few guys fishing with regular old rods and reels off some rocks nearby. Obviously they were obeying the rules.

After quite some time of progressively venturing further and further into the waves despite being fully clothed, our host finally told us what the signs actually meant: the nets that are used during peak seasons to keep the sharks away from the swimming area are currently not installed.

Oh. So our lives were in drastic peril the whole time we were frolicking in the sea. Thanks.

Once I understood those three simple words to be a warning, I felt very silly for previously assuming they were a bizarre instruction. What a difference a little perspective makes. Plus the wise (if somewhat delinquent) advice of someone who knows what’s what.

Being a person who often feels things in extremes and sometimes jumps to conclusions, I need to be careful about how I read the Bible. It would be very easy for me to get my back up over verses that seem to be dogmatic, exclusive directives that don’t have any relevance in today’s culture.

One such passage that had me chuckling recently is Deuteronomy 25:11-12. It says “If two men are fighting and the wife of one of them comes to rescue her husband from his assailant, and she reaches out and seizes him by his private parts, you shall cut off her hand. Show her no pity.” (NIV)

What the what?!?! At first blush (and yes, we should all be blushing), that is a crazy rule! Why should the wife be punished in this situation? She’s not the bad guy here! And that is a ridiculously severe punishment for someone who is obviously just trying to be helpful.

I admit I don’t fully get it. But… “No shark nets”. Maybe there’s a broader context here that has more to do with letting the men duke it out without any emasculating interference. Maybe the severity of such an example is meant to draw our focus not so much to the image of an outraged amputee, but to the sacredness of marital purity and privacy.

And maybe I should leave this particular debate to the theological experts. I am no such expert. But suffice it to say, I need to be mindful of the possibility of more than one perspective even in words that seem so blatantly obvious.

I will leave you with another example that is much more widely known (and misused). Psalm 37:4 says, “Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” (NIV) Raise your hand if you’ve ever heard a preacher, a Sunday school teacher, a Bible study leader or even a parent use this verse to teach you that God will give you the things you desire if you just love Him enough?

Whoa! (And woe!) Let’s apply the “No shark nets” principle here and look at what else this verse could be saying (and, I believe, is saying based on a little tidbit called the rest of the whole Bible). If you love the Lord, and seek to honour Him by delighting in His Word and His presence and His love, He will put desires in your heart that are in line with His will.

‘He will give you healthy and worthy desires’; not ‘He will give you everything you desire’. See the difference?

And with that, I challenge you to go grab your Bible and see what other little pieces you may have misconstrued over the years.


Posted by on July 17, 2013 in God, Personal Growth


Tags: , , ,

5 responses to “No Shark Nets

  1. Jeanie Everson

    July 17, 2013 at 6:52 PM

    Nice entry, Anita. Yes, perspective matters. I hesitate to say this as I am NOT for female circumcision, but now that I’ve lived in Ethiopia and understand how common rape is in the countryside, I can say I understand how someone came to the point of doing it. Still it’s not aiming at the core of the problem. At least it helps me not think quite as angrily at the parents who still choose to do it. And, your saying this perspective thing is important when understanding the Bible is absolutely right!

    • Anita Neuman

      July 17, 2013 at 9:20 PM

      Ah yes, living in Ethiopia certainly added to my perspective on a number of things that I previously judged more harshly. Polygamy is another example that springs to mind.

  2. Tracy

    July 18, 2013 at 4:15 PM

    The details in that Deuteronomy 25 passage are too funny. Of all the detailed descriptions to include in the Bible. Oh, how I long for the Bible to contain more details… more relevant details for my own life. Thank you for putting that Psalms 37 information out into the blog world! It sure is easy for people, including me, to misunderstand that one. I’m interested in hearing more about your change in polygamy judging. 🙂

  3. Jcm Manuel

    August 7, 2013 at 6:36 AM

    Ha Anita,

    I couldn’t resist reading yet another blog – be it in backward order (I’m like that you know).

    I can imagine how you would perhaps still have come to realize the meaning of “No shark nets” while being a mouth full in some lucky shark’s experience – but being munched that way is not…. courteous, really. And your host (or did you mean Ghost?) wouldn’t have let it happen, I guess.

    The Bible. Aaargh…. at the verge of diving into a long debate now (although I’m sure you would be able to circumvent the hot potato gently and witty). But… nah. You’re a grown-up, there is no need for debate. You already correct yourself here. Yes, Mesopotamian / Assyrian law systems were quite rude because retributive, and this is of course also found in the Bible – while other accounts seem to be more merciful. The growing up of Israel and its religious notions.

    There have been arguments around that cutting off the hand wasn’t literally – it meant something else. But this is simply talionic retribution and that’s how it was in those days, an eye for an eye. Although not always ending in execution of the verdict – the ‘beautiful’ site of this is when the measure could be negotiated: “okay, I don’t want to lose my hand – please tell me how to compensate otherwise” (like in paying back with something). Which means the victim had a basis for negotiation which was rooted in the real value of the body part at stake. However, this works better with “a hand for a hand”, less so for “a hand for a couple of painful private parts” methinks. But humiliation was not to be bandied about at that time. And let’s be honest, we still don’t want ladies to behave this way most of the time.

    Even your “chuckling” about our private parts is a bit suspicious – I really think it’s a sin, but we can talk about the compensation later.

    Your Ps.37 interpretation is challenging to say the least. In a good way I mean. True, “he will give you the desires of your heart” is not the same as “He will give you everything you desire”. Whether it corresponds better with “He will give you healthy and worthy desires” remains to be seen… Do I sense some downgrading of the original here? If you promise someone “all his desires”, then refuse to deal with it by arguing “I only meant to wish you your best desires”, he or she might reply “But I already had my best desires”. But of course, I understand what you mean. Maybe this is what I would call “realistic faith” – and its a good thing. Whether it is a biblical thing – or even, whether one needs a bible to have realistic faith, is an open question.

    You are certainly on the award list of courageous people who dare to be pretty honest about the bible. I think the amount of misconstruction is staggering, to a point where it may become frightening for many Christians. Which is one reason why I respect courageous Christians – all of them. And it is definitely an advantage to be able to deal with controversies – there is courage in accepting controversies as part of our being human, and then courage to also accept our mistakes within the realm of controversy that live is. A double challenge. And indeed: No shark nets!

  4. cmartdesign

    November 2, 2013 at 6:10 PM

    Hi an exciting read, sharks are pose a small threat but not a constant one.

    🙂 check out my page –

    “It is a community decision” – says dep. Nature Parks and Wildlife



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