Have you ever thought about how many of the stories in the Bible make more sense if you understand the culture of the time in which it was written? Most of our children are not being raised in an environment where shepherd is an occupation. When the Bible talks about Jesus being our shepherd, the most our kids can do is think of sheep.
By not understanding the duties and attitudes of a good shepherd, our kids will miss a lot of the depth in those scriptures. The same is true for a lot of things in the Bible from foot washing to eating dates and figs to riding a donkey. When our children hear those stories, most of those things have little if any meaning to them. The culture and the context is lost and the scripture becomes a question mark or merely words on paper.
You can have fun with your kids and help them understand the Bible better by helping them experience the cultures of the Bible. We have a lot of ideas under the Bible activities on our parent site Teach One Reach One. In general though, here are some basic categories to get you started:
- Food – Dates, figs, unleavened bread…the Bible is full of mentions of foods your child may have never tasted. You can even find recipes for lentil stew that is probably similar to what Jacob cooked for Esau or various foods common to that area of the world during different time periods. It’s amazing to me how many “picky” eaters will try foods in the context of learning about the Bible. You can even find edible locusts so your kids can eat like John the Baptist!
- Occupations – Fishermen, shepherds, tent makers and more. There are a lot of jobs in the Bible that aren’t common in today’s world or have changed drastically. Take your kids fishing with a net or try to repair one. Make an ancient sling shot and see if your kids can hit a target with a ping pong ball “rock” (trust me, you don’t want to use real rocks!). Find out what went into making a tent or why Lydia sold purple dye. Sometimes it’s just interesting, but shepherds and slingshots can make the story of Goliath come alive and make a lot more sense.
- Cooking and Sewing – There are actually more scriptures than you realize about these two topics. Try cooking on an open flame or taking the wool just shorn from a sheep and following all of the processes that must happen for that wool to become clothing. There are so many fun things to try in this area, they could keep your kids learning and having fun for months.
- Common Objects – Museums are great for this. What did a shofar, a clay lamp or an idol of Baal really look like. Photos are fine, but seeing the real thing in a museum is an entirely different experience. When checking exhibits at local museums, you will rarely find the word Bible used. Look for Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Israel, Assyria, Persia, Greece and Rome. Many of those exhibits will contain items mentioned in the Bible.
- Special Events – This photo was taken with part of a very large group of children who experienced a Bible wedding and the wedding parables of Jesus. These little girls got to portray the wise bridesmaids. Through the wedding, the children got a better understanding of lamps and oil, wedding banquets and proper guest etiquette. Those parables now make a lot more sense than when those children had no idea why oil was even needed to “turn on a lamp”.
Take some time and have fun learning about and experiencing the various aspects of the cultures in the Bible. Your kids will learn a lot, have fun and finally understand some of those mysterious things in their Bible stories.