Questions From Readers
When Jesus Christ sent out the 12 apostles to preach, were they told to carry staffs and wear sandals?
Some contend that the three Gospel accounts that report on Jesus’ sending out the apostles contradict one another. By comparing these accounts, however, we can reach an interesting conclusion. First, compare what Mark and Luke wrote. Mark’s account says: “[Jesus] gave them orders to carry nothing for the trip except a staff alone, no bread, no food pouch, no copper money in their girdle purses, but to bind on sandals, and not to wear two undergarments.” (Mark 6:7-9) Luke recorded: “Carry nothing for the trip, neither staff nor food pouch, nor bread nor silver money; neither have two undergarments.” (Luke 9:1-3) Here we note the seeming contradiction. According to Mark, the apostles were told to carry a staff and to bind on sandals, but Luke’s record says that they were to carry nothing, not even a staff. Unlike Mark, Luke made no mention of sandals.
To understand what Jesus wanted to convey on this occasion, note the expression common to all three Gospels. In the accounts just quoted as well as at Matthew 10:5-10, the apostles were told not to wear or to have “two undergarments.” Likely, each apostle was wearing one undergarment. So they were not to get another for the trip. Similarly, they were wearing sandals. Mark highlighted the need “to bind on sandals,” the sandals they were already wearing. How about staffs? The Jewish Encyclopedia notes: “It seems to have been the universal custom among the ancient Hebrews also to carry a staff.” (Gen. 32:10) Mark mentioned that the apostles were to “carry nothing for the trip” except the staff that they had with them when Jesus gave the command. Hence, the Gospel writers were emphasizing Jesus’ instruction not to go out of the way to get extra supplies for the trip.
This point is further emphasized by Matthew, who heard Jesus’ command on this occasion and recorded it. Jesus said: “Do not procure gold or silver or copper for your girdle purses, or a food pouch for the trip, or two undergarments, or sandals or a staff; for the worker deserves his food.” (Matt. 10:9, 10) What about the sandals that the apostles were wearing and the staffs that they had in their hands? Jesus did not say to throw away what they already had, but he was telling them not to procure such things. Why did he give such a command? Because “the worker deserves his food.” That was the thrust of Jesus’ command, which was in harmony with his exhortation in the Sermon on the Mount that they not be anxious about what they would eat, drink, or wear.—Matt. 6:25-32.
Though the Gospel accounts may at first seem to be contradictory, they were all covering the same point. The apostles were to go as they were and not be distracted by procuring anything extra. Why? Because Jehovah would provide for them.
Who were the “lady, even ladies” to whom Solomon referred?—Eccl. 2:8.
We cannot be sure, but one possibility is that they were notable women that Solomon encountered at his royal court.
In Ecclesiastes chapter 2, Solomon mentioned various things he had accomplished, including his extensive building projects. He added: “I accumulated also silver and gold for myself, and property peculiar to kings and the jurisdictional districts. I made male singers and female singers for myself and the exquisite delights of the sons of mankind, a lady, even ladies.”—Eccl. 2:8.
Many commentators assume that the “ladies” to whom Solomon was referring were the many foreign wives and concubines that he had in his later years, women who led him into false worship. (1 Ki. 11:1-4) However, there are problems with that explanation. When Solomon wrote these words, he already was acquainted with the “lady, even ladies.” And at that point, he still had Jehovah’s approval, for God was inspiring him to write books of the Bible. That hardly fits his situation in later years when he had hundreds of foreign wives and concubines and he took up false worship.
In the book of Ecclesiastes, Solomon said that he had “sought to find the delightful words and the writing of correct words of truth.” (Eccl. 12:10) He obviously knew the words for “wife,” “queen,” and “concubine,” because he used those words in his inspired writings. (Prov. 5:18; 12:4; 18:22; Eccl. 9:9; Song of Sol. 6:8, 9) But at Ecclesiastes 2:8, those familiar words are not used.
In the words “lady, even ladies,” we find the only instances (singular and plural) in the Bible of an unusual Hebrew word. Scholars admit that its meaning is uncertain. Many Bible translators take the phrase at Ecclesiastes 2:8 to refer to women, expressed in singular and then the plural or superlative degree. The rendering “lady, even ladies” conveys that sense.
Solomon was renowned, so much so that a queen from the wealthy kingdom of Sheba heard of him, visited, and was impressed. (1 Ki. 10:1, 2) That points to one possible meaning to Solomon’s mention of “a lady, even ladies.” He may have been referring to outstanding women whom he encountered at his court during the many years when he still had God’s favor.