Tough Words

Even as the words were on his lips, a voice came from heaven, “This is what is decreed for you, King Nebuchadnezzar: Your royal authority has been taken from you.  You will be driven away from people and will live with the wild animals; you will eat grass like the ox. Seven times will pass by for you until you acknowledge that the Most High is sovereign over all kingdoms on earth and gives them to anyone he wishes.”

Immediately what had been said about Nebuchadnezzar was fulfilled. He was driven away from people and ate grass like the ox. His body was drenched with the dew of heaven until his hair grew like the feathers of an eagle and his nails like the claws of a bird.

  • Daniel 4:31-33

I doubt if I have ever heard a sermon on the passage above.  And by the way, God did not turn Nebuchadnezzar into an ox.  He just made him live like an ox.

The reason for using the Scripture is that I used it a couple of days ago and it has the word ‘Nebuchadnezzar’ in it. I have heard sermons on Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego (in the previous chapter, Daniel 3).  I have heard sermons about how Daniel continued to pray and worship God after Nebuchadnezzar decreed that he was the only one who would be worshiped.

The point is that for one of those sermons, a lay-person did the liturgy.  The first time she came across the name Nebuchadnezzar, she said, “Knee Boo Chad Knee Czar.”  Since the name would be used several times in the passage, the preacher stood up and whispered something in her ear.  Instead of quitting…  Instead of breaking down into tears for screwing up and being humiliated…  She said in a delightfully cheery voice, “Oh, that’s what that is!”

There had been a few groans in the congregation when she mispronounced the name of the king of Babylon.  There were a few stifled snickers, but when she responded to the preacher’s whispered prompt, the entire congregation erupted in laughter.

Frankly, I remember the incident, because it reminds me how to spell it.  Ne-bu-chad-ne-zzar.

In some passages of the Bible, there are a lot of names of cities and people that are tongue twisters.  The genealogies are sheer torture to read out loud.  Children that grow up in church get to hear their Sunday school teachers pronounce the words.  Whether the teacher has it right or not is another thing altogether.  In moving to Pennsylvania from the south, a lot of those names are pronounced a little different.  Jehoshaphat, being among them, but there are too many to mention.  For Jehoshaphat, place the accented syllable on each syllable.  The one that sounds really strange is probably the method of pronunciation somewhere else in the country or the world.

(Okay, for those who read these posts regularly.  There was that time in Washington state between the south and Pennsylvania, but most of the members of the church where we attended in Kennewick, Washington had moved there from Oak Ridge, Tennessee.)

Another word that confuses me is “Beelzebub.”

It is one of the names for Satan.  In my old Southern living days, I’d hear preachers on the radio that would accentuate a non-existent “Aah” at the end of words while the preacher took a breath.  This was either for effect or a means of avoiding the public speaking no-no of muttering “ummm” a lot.  But when they ended a sentence with ‘Beelzebub,’ it came out ‘Beelzebubba.’  Well, I know Southern nicknames.  No one calls anyone ‘Bubba’ unless he’s a good friend.  It made you wonder who the preacher hung out with after the sermon was over.

No, I had to throw that in – a fond old memory.  But the NIV now spells the name Beelzebul, instead of Beelzebub.  When I type it that way, I get a red line underneath.  This change of spelling has me confused.

This has been a post about nothing other than tough words to read out loud.  From a practical standpoint, if you are the guest liturgist, I pray that the preacher gives you warnings so that you can practice and even a coaching session on the tough words.

For the preachers, do not expect the layperson to know how to pronounce the words, even easy ones. We once lived in Corinth, MS when their mayor pronounced Corinth the way you do in the word “Corinthians,” with the accent on the second syllable.  For fun, we’ve pronounced it that way ever since.

And for all those who read the Bible at home, keep stumbling through those names.  Regardless of pronunciation or spelling, God is speaking to us through the study of His Holy Word.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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