Our God Has Wings: A Sermon

Under wings
Psalm 61
For the director of music. With stringed instruments. Of David.
 Hear my cry, O God;
listen to my prayer.
 From the ends of the earth I call to you,
I call as my heart grows faint;
lead me to the rock that is higher than I.
 For you have been my refuge,
a strong tower against the foe.
I long to dwell in your tent forever
and take refuge in the shelter of your wings
 For you, God, have heard my vows;
you have given me the heritage of those who fear your name.
Increase the days of the king’s life,
his years for many generations.
May he be enthroned in God’s presence forever;
appoint your love and faithfulness to protect him.
Then I will ever sing in praise of your name
and fulfill my vows day after day.
This Psalm echoes some sort of unknown problem. We don’t actually know that there was a problem present, even though there’s a cry for help. It’s just a general cry for distress. But the psalmist knows the faithfulness of the God he calls on. He has experienced the sheltering presence of the LORD, the God of Israel. And as he makes his request for being hidden under the wings of this God, he knows that if he’s hidden there, he will be able to fulfill his vows, the king will be enthroned forever, and God’s reign will go on. And that’s good news.
Here’s the deal: in case you didn’t know it, your God has wings. This is not like a Marvel series. Your God has wings, and that’s something to be excited about. Your God has wings. “I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings” (Psalm 61:4).
Numbers 15 is a message from the LORD through Moses while the children of Israel are still in the desert.
The LORD said to Moses, “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘Throughout the generations to come you are to make tassels on the corners of your garments, with a blue cord on each tassel. You will have these tassels to look at and so you will remember all the commands of the LORD, that you may obey them and not prostitute yourselves by chasing after the lusts of your own hearts and eyes. Then you will remember to obey all my commands and will be consecrated to your God. I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt to be your God. I am the LORD your God.’” (Numbers 15:37-41)
Now this is a weird, obscure text, just like the idea of God having wings is weird. These are two things that seemingly aren’t related. Tassels at the four corners of clothes. If you travel to Israel, you’ll see a little fringe hanging outside of Jewish jackets. Orthodox Jews to this day still wear these four tassels.
Why? The sign of the covenant for Israel was circumcision. Since there is no way to appropriately check if people are circumcised, there is an outward testimony that one is a faithful covenant member of God’s people. It is four tassels that serve as a constant reminder, not only to that person, but to everyone who sees them, that this person belongs to the LORD.
Now what does this have to do with taking refuge in the shadow of the LORD’s wings? The Hebrew for wing (kanaf) can either be translated as wing or corner. It just depends on the context. And these texts collide because of this word. “Take refuge under the kanaf of the LORD.” “Wear on the kanaf of your clothes a testimony of your faithfulness to the LORD.” This is a super weird command. As we read the text, we just don’t understand why it’s here. In fact, just so you get the point, it gets repeated in another list of weird rules in Deuteronomy 22 about not blending your clothes, not boiling a goat in its mother’s milk, etc. It’s the kind of stuff you love in your daily devotional. It’s a command that gets repeated 40 years later as the people are about to go into the Promised Land: Don’t forget the tassels on the kanaf/corner of your garment as a testimony of your faithfulness; as a reminder of faithfulness.
Now we get this interesting story in the book of Ruth; Ruth, who is shockingly repeated as the Moabitess. According to Deuteronomy 24, anyone who marries a Moabitess excludes themselves and all of their generations up to ten generations, from ever entering the tabernacle or temple of the LORD. This is the word of the LORD. In the story of Ruth, several Israelites go down to Moab because there is famine for disobedience because it is the days of the judges when everyone does what is right in their own eyes. They go down to Moab, which is experiencing more fruitfulness than Israel. There they hook up with a couple ladies except all the men die, and one of the Moabitess’s, Ruth, remains with her mother-in-law, as they hear that the LORD has returned favor back to Israel. And when she goes back, she goes out into a field to work and get some food for herself and her mother-in-law. She just happens to run into a certain man named Boaz. And Boaz just happens to be the closest relative, and the closest relative was the one who could redeem back all the fields, houses (anything that had to be sold because of impoverishment).
Here, she receives a blessing. Ruth 2: she’s harvesting the field, and she meets Boaz because she wants to know who Boaz is. Ruth 2:11-12: “Boaz replied, “I’ve been told all about what you have done for your mother-in-law since the death of your husband—how you left your father and mother and your homeland and came to live with a people you did not know before. May the Lord repay you for what you have done. May you be richly rewarded by the Lord, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to take refuge.” In other words, you have found yourself hidden under the wings of the LORD. Because of your faithfulness, He will be faithful.
Now the story actually unfolds. I’m not sure if Naomi hatches this as a plot or not, but Naomi tells Ruth one night, “Here’s the deal. You should put on your finest dress. Then wait. Boaz is going to work hard all day, and at the end of the day, he’s going to have a feast and drink a lot. And when he’s had as much as he can eat and has drunk all he can, he’s going to feel really good. He’s going to take a nap. I want you to go in to him, and let him take care of what is supposed to happen next.”
As it turns out, he eats, drinks, passes out, and Ruth comes in, finds him, uncovers his feet, and lies down by him. In the middle of the night, he wakes up and sees her by his feet.
Chapter 3 verse 9: “Who are you?” he asked. “I am your servant Ruth,” she said. “Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are the kinsman redeemer.”
He has spoken blessing, “May the LORD cover you for your faithfulness.” Now she says, “Cover me with your faithfulness.” Now we already know Boaz is a faithful follower of the LORD. So what does he have at the corner of his garments? Tassels. He is faithful to the core. And she says, “I see the symbol of your people. You are faithful to the covenant. Be faithful to keep your part of the deal. Be faithful to the LORD. What he has commanded do.”
So the story unfolds, and sadly, while this should be a story about women, it’s not. It ends with David, who is the great grandson of Ruth. Because of the faithfulness of Ruth and Boaz, the LORD is faithful to raise up for himself one who would be king in Israel.
Reread Psalm 61
David does not become king. Saul becomes king and is not faithful. He tries, but he keeps messing up. He tries to kill David a few times even though David works for him. David runs for his life, and Saul uses the kingly resources to actually chase David down and kill him because he believes David is trying to replace him as king. He goes and he finds a cave to relieve himself, and it turns out in the course of the story that David and his men are hiding out in the back of the cave. David’s men think this is a great opportunity to kill King Saul. “The LORD has given him to us today. He’s going to fulfill the promise he made to make you king.”
1 Samuel 24:4: “The men said, “This is the day the Lord spoke of when he said to you, ‘I will give your enemy into your hands for you to deal with as you wish.’” Then David crept up unnoticed and cut off a corner of Saul’s robe.”
The corner was likely the tassel. If Saul is trying to be faithful, he has signs of faithfulness. David just makes a little snip, and takes the tassel. He has just challenged the faithfulness of Saul as a true Israelite. Saul leaves the cave, and he goes to look for David. David is suddenly conscience stricken. He comes out and tells Saul that he could have taken his life but didn’t, and shows him the proof. Then he is repentant and says that the LORD should be the judge. The LORD will be faithful. And he throws himself under the shelter of the wings of God. David does eventually become king. The LORD shows himself faithful to David.
Matthew 9. Jesus is on his way to raise a dead girl. Verse 12: “Just then a woman who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years came up behind him and touched the edge of his cloak.” (I’m not pretending the original translation of this uses the word kanaf, but the Hebrew translation done later does use kanaf.)
13-14: She said to herself, “If I only touch his cloak, I will be healed.” Jesus turned and saw her. “Take heart, daughter,” he said, “your faith has healed you.” And the woman was healed at that moment.
This is a beautiful story. She’s trying to get a secret healing. She sneaks up through the crowd that she is making unclean by her contact. In fact, she will make Jesus impure by touching him. Unclean passes, but clean never does. You don’t get accidentally clean. He’s defiled. His faithfulness is challenged and questioned by her laying hold of it, and this testimony is exactly where she touches it. The same place David challenges Saul (the corner of his garment), the woman says, “I know he’s faithful, and if I could only lay hold of his faithfulness, I will be clean.”
She’s healed! She’s cleansed! 12 years, and the faithfulness of this Jew is what sets her free. And that’s not it. In Matthew 14:36, this becomes a trend. “All who touched it (the kanaf) were healed.” There’s nothing magical about his clothes, but at the corner of his clothes are four tassels because he is a faithful Jew. He fulfills everything that the LORD has commanded, and at the shadow of his wing, a woman is healed and others are healed. At the corner of his garment, the corner of his faithfulness begins to cover all the needs of those who reach out for it.
So what’s the point? Here’s the deal. Some of you have a better way of being faithful than others. But here’s the good news: your salvation never rested in your faithfulness to begin with. The fact of the matter is you can’t say enough prayers, cry enough tears, confess enough sins, do enough right, or be faithful enough. It doesn’t work that way. You experience the goodness of our God because his faithfulness covers over you, because you know where to run, hide, and put yourself. It is under His faithfulness, and not your own.
But some of you think it is your faithfulness that has somehow earned His faithfulness. Some of you think, almost as Ruth could get that notion that Boaz said it’s because I’m faithful. But what is Ruth? A Moabitess. Under no circumstances should she experience the faithfulness of the LORD, but she does, because it never depended on her faithfulness, but always on His. Some of you are carrying around this weight of perfectionism, because you think it will make you a better follower of Jesus. Some of you need to know the faithfulness of your God. He covers you not because of your faithfulness, but because of His. And like this woman and these others who get the idea, you seek Him and find yourself laying hold of His faithfulness. Let Him cover you with His wings.

Ezekiel 24-25 – A Time To Mourn And A Time Not To Mourn

24:1-5 – The siege begins. The exact date (January 5, 587BC according to Daniel Block NICOT I:772-774) is given in order to verify that indeed the word of the LORD declared what happened before it could be verified. Note the emphasis on the date in the second verse. The siege would be finished within 18 months. The LORD addresses those in Jerusalem as “this rebellious house”, but who is Ezekiel speaking to when he proclaims this message? Why does the LORD give a “parable”? Jerusalem is the cooking pot and the inhabitants are the “choice pieces” of meat for cooking. This could actually have been initially taken in a positive way by Israel if not for the following explanation.

24:6-8 – The “choice” portions ruin the pot. It is the blood which has been shed and treated contemptibly that Israel is charged with ruinous judgment (note the commands about “blood” in Lev. 17:10-16 and the failure to “cover it” in Deut. 12:16, 24; 15:23; and Job 16:18).

24:9-14 – The explanation of the parable is that the LORD will cook (judge by the suffering through the siege by Babylon) the inhabitants of Jerusalem and they will be completely cleansed from the pot (city) because of their rebelliousness and lewdness. It is guaranteed to be accomplished by the LORD. Why would He not have pity or relent? Will He really have no pity or relent?

24:15-18 – The love of Ezekiel’s life is taken and he is not allowed to publicly mourn. Why would the LORD take the life of Ezekiel’s wife and what purpose might be served by refusing him the comfort of the normal public mourning process? (cf. 1 Cor. 7:29-31)

24:19-27 – The death and mourning of Ezekiel’s wife serves as a sign to Israel in exile. They will lose the love of their eyes (the LORD’s Temple and their children) and will not be allowed the normal rites of public mourning because all of this happens as a result of sin’s judgment. What is the intended result? When the news finally reaches the exiles that Jerusalem has fallen suddenly Ezekiel will be freed to speak (Eze. 3:26-27).

The oracles which follow in the next chapters until the thirty-third are against the nations surrounding Israel that persecuted and joyfully benefited from Israel’s judgment. Daniel Block (NICOT II:5) notes that the order of the nations mentioned (with the exception of the closing messages concerning Egypt): Bene-Ammon, Moab, Edom, Philistia, Tyre and Sidon are listed in clockwise order from the north east of Israel to the north west. Iain Duguid succinctly writes concerning the shift to judgment of the surrounding nations that “Judgment may begin with the house of God, but it doesn’t end there” (NIVAC 325).

25:1-7 – The prophecy against Ammon. Who were the people of Ammon? (A son of Lot born by his daughter in Gen. 19:36-38; Deut. 2:19; Judges 10-12; 1 Sam. 11:10-11; 14:47; 2 Sam. 8:11-12; 10) Why was Ammon to be judged? Who would conquer them and what would become of their territories? What was the goal of the judgment of Ammon?

25:8-11 – The prophecy against Moab. Who were the people of Moab? (Another son of Lot born by his other daughter in Gen. 19:36-38; they enticed Israel to sin after several failed attempts to have Balaam curse Israel in Numbers 21-24; Judges 3:12-30; Ruth 1-4; 2 Kings 1:1; 3:4-27) Why was Moab to be judged? Who would conquer them and what would become of them? What was the goal of the judgment of Moab?

25:12-14 – The prophecy against Edom. Who were the people of Edom? (Gen. 25:30; 36:1-43; Num. 20:14-23; 1 Sam. 14:47; 2 Sam. 8:11-14; 1 Kings 11:14-16; 2 Kings 3:1-27; 8:20-22) Why was Edom judged? (cf. Obadiah) Who would conquer them and what would become of them? What was the goal of the judgment of Edom?

25:15-17 – The prophecy against Philistia. Who were the people of Philistia? (Gen. 10:14; 21:34; 26:1-18; Judges 3:3-4, 31; 10:6-7; 13-16; and the continual struggles against them in 1-2 Samuel) Why were the Philistines judged? Who would conquer them and what would become of them? What was the goal of the judgment of Philistia?

Ezekiel 15-16 – R-rated Jerusalem: Useless and Unfaithful

15:1-8 – What use are the clippings of vines? How is Jerusalem like a clipping of a vine? (cf. Ps. 80:8-19) What do the references to fire have to do with Jerusalem? (cf. Eze. 5:2, 4; Rev. 17:16) What does the LORD promise Jerusalem? What does it mean for the LORD to set his “face against” something or someone? Again, what was the stated point of the judgment? (Eze. 15:7) What charge did the LORD make against Jerusalem? The charge of unfaithfulness (and thereby uselessness)! (cf. John 15:1-2, 6)

16:1-5 – The LORD will “confront Jerusalem with her detestable practices”. Take note of the “detestable practices” mentioned throughout the chapter. What does it mean to be from the Canaanites and to have it said that “your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite”? (see Deut. 7:1-5) How was Jerusalem treated by her parents once born? How did the LORD treat her? The significance of this is noted as an adoptive function whereby the LORD makes claims upon Jerusalem. How should have the LORD’s treatment impacted her in light of abandonment by her parents?

16:6-7 – What was the LORD’s response to Jerusalem? Why does He say “Live!” and what happens once He does? What are the possible dangers of Jerusalem’s infantile and then matured (“your breasts were formed and your (pubic) hair grew”) nakedness?

16:8 – Why does the text say the LORD waited until Jerusalem was “old enough for love”? What does it mean for the LORD to “spread the corner of his garment over her”? (cf. Ruth 3:9; Num. 15:37-41; Deut. 22:12; and possibly Matt. 9:20-22) What type of covenant is referred to here? What does it mean for the nature of their relationship?

16:9-14 – What does the LORD claim to have done for Jerusalem? Verse nine possibly refers not to the acts of cleansing just after birth (16:4), but to some form of wedding bath (though otherwise unattested) following virginal bleeding (cf. Deut. 22:13-21). Note that the materials—for adornment and food—were those used for the tabernacle. What does all of this mean? What were the immediate results? (16:13-14)

16:15-19 – Using beauty and fame to whore? What was Jerusalem accused of doing? Also, what might be the connection between the many fine things given by the LORD and their use in prostitution? Who is Jerusalem engaged in prostitution with?

16:22-22 – Whose children were sacrificed to idols? What role should remembering beginnings play? “In her intoxication with her newfound beauty and her insatiable lusts, she suffered from a severe case of amnesia. Instead of remembering her desperate beginnings or celebrating the goodness of Yahweh in rescuing her, she trampled underfoot the grace of God” (Block NICOT 491).

16:23-29 – The “mound” and “lofty shrine”? How did Jerusalem degrade her “beauty”? She literally “spread her legs (Heb. pasaq raglayim) to every passerby” and engaged in prostitution with the Egyptians with the “enlarged flesh” (Heb. gidle basar; and see Block NICOT 466-7 for greater detail). Who all did she whore herself to and what was the result?

16:30-34 – What might this passage teach us about any notion of the freedom of the will? In what way was Jerusalem unlike a prostitute?

16:35-42 – What was the punishment and who would carry it out? What would satisfy the anger of the LORD? How does this account fit into one of God as faithfully merciful? (compare Hosea 2:2-3)

16:43-48 – What were the “other detestable practices” to which lewdness was added? In what way is the proverb true that is cited here? Who did the LORD declare to be the family of Jerusalem and why? (cf. John 8:39-47) Samaria as “older” (Heb. gedola) sister and Sodom as “younger” (Heb. qetanna) sister refers to size and not age (Duguid NIVAC 213; Block NICOT 507fn256). Jerusalem was “more depraved” than Sodom?

16:49-52 – What were the sins of Sodom according to Ezekiel? (cf. Gen. 18:16-19:30; esp. 18:20 and 19:30) What kinds of things did Samaria do (which aren’t listed until chapter 23) and how did this compare to Jerusalem? How wicked would one have to be to make Sodom and Samaria “appear righteous”?

16:53-58 – Was there any hope for redemption? Whose “fortunes” would be restored and what does it mean? Why must the punishment be public?

16:59-63 – Did Jerusalem deserve punishment? What role does the covenant play in judgment and mercy? (cf. Jer. 31:31-34) Who will atone for Jerusalem? What does it mean for the LORD to “remember” His covenant and to what “eternal covenant” does this refer? Once again, what is the stated purpose of all of judgment?

Ezekiel 10-11 – The Glory of the LORD Departs

10:1 – How does this vision compare and contrast with the vision of chapter one?

10:2-8 – The “man dressed in linen” previously marked the righteous of Jerusalem and at this point was told to gather coals of fire from under the divine chariot and scatter them over Jerusalem (for “fire” in Jerusalem see 2 Kings 25:9; 2 Chron. 36:19; for an angel who will use the “fire” from the altar in final judgment see Rev. 8:3-5; and God as a “consuming fire” see Deut. 4:24). Why does a cloud fill the inner court as the coals of fire are taken? Why are the glory of the LORD and the wings of the cherubim moving? What does it mean for a sound to be “like the voice of God Almighty (Heb. El Shadday)”? (Exo. 6:3; cf. Ps. 29:3; Eze. 1:24; Heb. 12:18-19; Rev. 10:3-4)

10:9-17 – What do we make of the further description of the wheels and cherubim? Why are the cherubim suddenly described as covered with “eyes”? Why is the order and description of the cherubim’s faces (10:14) different than in 1:10? Daniel Block thinks because of the different direction Ezekiel is facing in relation to the cherubim affects the different ordering and he also proposes that the bull and cherubim faces are just two ways of describing the same face (NICOT 324-5).

10:18-19 – Why does the glory of the LORD and the chariot rise? Notice that there is a pause while leaving Jerusalem. What is the possible significance of this? Why should it be emphasized that the cherubim (and the wheels) go straight ahead? Also, why repeatedly remind the reader that these are the very same creatures as in chapter one’s vision (10:15, 20, 22)?

11:1-6 – Why does Ezekiel mention Jaazaniah (who is different than the man with the same name in 9:11) son of Azzur and Pelatiah son of Benaiah among the 25 leaders noticed? Likely because he knew them and the people he was prophesying to knew them and he was specifically exposing their sins (which were plotting evil and giving wicked advice – cf. Micah 2:1). What is the meaning of the “cooking pot”? Why do they think it will soon be time to build houses? “Prophesy against them, prophesy” places particular emphasis upon the demands of the LORD to Ezekiel. What does the Spirit of the LORD say? He knows their hearts and their violence against the people of Jerusalem (see Eze. 22:27).

11:7-12 – The leaders of Jerusalem are “not the meat” in the pot? How is this bad? What does it mean that they are the refuse outside the pot? (refer to the entire prophesy of Eze. 8-11) Note again the reason given repetitively, “You will know that I am the LORD” (11:10, 12) and therefore the covenant responsibilities this places upon them (11:12). How has the pot motif changed in this vision? It was no longer a safe place, but now the place where they have been consuming the people of Jerusalem (cf. Micah 3:1-3). They are the refuse from the pot and as such are going from the frying pan and into the fire. Why is the judgment of them said to occur “at the borders of Israel”? Who should Israel have been conformed to? (11:12)

11:13 – While Ezekiel was prophesying Pelatiah (“the LORD has delivered”) son of Benaiah (“the LORD has built up”) died. According to Daniel Block (NICOT 338), he “symbolized the hope of Jerusalem” and so his death would signal the end of Jerusalem’s hope that they would be delivered. Ezekiel’s exclamation following Pelatiah’s death seems to be the answer to his parallel statement in 9:8.

11:14-15 – “Your brothers, your brothers”? Why is this doubled? It is emphatic about who will be redeemed. “Your blood relatives” is literally “men of your redemption” which is a reference to the next of kin responsible for redeeming you if needed (see the “kinsman-redeemer” of Ruth; Lev. 24:47-55; 25:23-34; Num.35:19-28).

11:16 – What does it mean that the LORD has become “a sanctuary” (Heb. miqdash; cf. 8:6; 9:6 – where it refers to the Temple) for “a little while” (or less likely “of a lesser degree”) for the exiles who have been removed from Jerusalem? (see also John 2:19-22; 3:21-23)

11:17-21 – When was the promise of the exiles returning fulfilled? Who is the promise addressed to – the people of Jerusalem or the exiles? Who will bring Israel back and who exiled them to begin with? What does this say about the LORD’s involvement in the affairs of people? Who was responsible for cleansing the land? Who will give them a new heart and new spirit (but compare Eze. 18:31)? Contrast the new hearts of 11:19 with the hearts of 14:3 and 20:16. What was the heart change expected to accomplish? The key statement here is “They will be my people, and I will be their God” (Exo. 6:7; Lev. 26:12; Jer. 7:23; 11:4; 24:7; 30:22; 31:33; Eze. 14:11; 36:28; 37:27; Hosea 2:23; Zech. 13:9; 2 Cor. 6:16; Heb. 8:10; Rev. 21:3).

11:22-25 – Why does the glory of the LORD stop over the Mount of Olives east of Jerusalem? Apparently the glory departs for twenty years until Ezekiel 43 speaks of the glory of the LORD returning. Suddenly Ezekiel is returned from the vision to the exiles whom he immediately informs about what he just saw (chapters 8-11). How did they respond? We aren’t told what their immediate response was. Iain Duguid describes the connection between the “glory” of Ezekiel 10-11 and Jesus as mentioned in Matthew 23:37-24:3: “There Jesus laments Jerusalem’s history of hard-heartedness towards the prophets and her refusal to come to him (23:37). As a result, her house will be left desolate (23:38), and Jerusalem will not see Jesus again until they are willing to welcome his coming (23:39). He then prophesies the forthcoming destruction of the temple (24:1) and removes himself to the mount of Olives, leaving behind a magnificent but doomed structure” (NIVAC 153).

The KNP ("corner"): Reflections Related to Ruth 3.9

(NAS) “He said, ‘Who are you?’ And she answered, ‘I am Ruth your maid. So spread your covering over your maid, for you are a close relative.’”
(NET) “He said, ‘Who are you?’ She replied, ‘I am Ruth, your servant. Marry your servant, for you are a guardian of the family interests.’”
(NIV) “‘Who are you?’ he asked. ‘I am your servant Ruth,’ she said. ‘Spread the corner of your garment over me, since you are a kinsman-redeemer.’”
(NKJV) “And he said, ‘Who are you?’ So she answered, ‘I am Ruth, your maidservant. Take your maidservant under your wing, {Or Spread the corner of your garment over your maidservant} for you are a close relative.’”

The Hebrew knp occurs 109 times in the Hebrew Bible in 86 verses in 21 of the books [most of the prophets and writings and each of the books of the Law] but only once in any verbal form [Niphal] in Isaiah 30:20 with the denominative meaning of “hide; enclose; assemble”. (TWOT 446-447)

Most of the uses of knp refer specifically to wing(s). Nearly half (51 times) of the occurrences deal with angelic beings and emphasize the traditional translation of “wing(s)”: primarily the cherubim (in visions [18 times in Ezekiel 1, 3, 5, 7, 10, 11, 16, 17, 39] and “covering” the Ark of the Covenant [22 times in I Kings 6:24, 27; 8:6-7; II Chron. 3:11-13; 5:7-8]) and seraphim. Twenty-two actually refer to birds “wing(s)” whether literally or as figurative examples.

Sixteen occurrences pertain to the clothing of a man and are typically translated as “corner; edge; border”. Four of the uses are in the account of David’s cutting off the corner of Saul’s garment as a witness to Saul that he held Saul’s life in his hands (1 Samuel 24:4, 5, 11) and perhaps the reason for this is to be found in the following analysis. Of special note are the two references in the Law to placing tassels (“tzitzith”) on the four corners of garments “to look at and remember all the commandments of the LORD, so as to do them and not follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot” (Numbers 15:38-39; and Deuteronomy 22:12). 

This seems to bear out in relation to the NAS95 translational footnote of Matthew 9:20 (“tassle fringe with a blue cord”) in reference to Jesus healing of the woman with the issue of blood by her touching the corner of his clothes (the Syriac Peshitta has knp!).  Was she actually reaching out to touch the tassles at the corner? Jesus would certainly have had tassles there indicative of his faithfulness to the covenant and so this seems likely to have been her reason for wanting to touch the knp of Jesus clothes…to somehow lay hold of this wonder-working covenantly faithful prophet and be healed…even if only by the visible symbol of his covenant faithfulness. 

Nine times knp occurs with God as the reference – three illustratively use wings explicitly (Exodus 19:4; Deuteronomy 32:11; Psalm 91:4). While the other six may in fact refer not necessarily to wings, but simply to his covering (garments?) even in one verse finding the specific comparison to being in his “tent”. Six also very specifically connect the phrase “in the shadow” to God’s knp where one may take “refuge”. In Ezekiel 16:8 there is a very noteworthy reference to the LORD’s covenanting with Israel by his throwing his covering over her to declare her as his own.

The Targums primarily understand the meaning to be “that which curves or bends; thus wing(s) or something that covers”. As to the Ruth 2:12 reference, the Rabbis understand knp to refer to the “faith” – that is the true and Jewish faith (Jastrow 651) and this would appear to be with reference to the tassles on the knp as indicative of covenant faithfulness. While Gesenius translates this particular verse in Ruth 3:9 as “throw thy coverlet over thy handmaid” and takes it to mean “take me to thy couch as thy wife” (Gesenius 406). He places it within the framework of the Deuteronomic law (22:30; 27:20; incorporating the prophetic picture of Ezekiel 16:8) of not violating one’s “father’s bed” by “uncovering his father’s coverlet” placing both under the primary definition of “edge, extremity”.

There is considerable ambiguity in translating this particular term as can be seen by the various translations of Ruth 3:9 in the opening paragraph. The vast majority of the time the simple translation of “wing(s)” is to be preferred, but in the context of humanity (and possibly the references to God himself in most of the cases) this translation is untenable. knp in this context of Ruth should therefore be understood in reference to the corner of his clothing with special reference to the covenant reminder of the tassels and the later prophetic claim to God’s covering Israel in “taking her in marriage”.

The use of knp offers great theological insight into Ruth 3:9 over against a simple “covering” of Ruth to keep her warm, she has asked Boaz to enter into the covenant of marriage with her and reminded him to be true to the covenant of the LORD in doing so…to which Boaz assents and follows through in becoming the kinsman-redeemer of Naomi through his marriage of Ruth.


Gesenius, H.W.F. Gesenius Hebrew-Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Samuel Prideaux Tregelles trans. (Grand Rapids: MI, Baker Book House Co., 2000). Harris, R. Laid, Gleason L. Archer Jr., and Bruce K. Waltke, Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament “KNP” (2 Vols. Chicago, Moody Publishers, 1980). Jastrow, Marcus (Compiler), A Dictionary of the Targumim, The Talmud Babli and Yerushalmi, and the Midrashic Literature (New York,G.P.Putnam’s Sons, 1903).