How Midrash Can Change Your Spiritual Life Forever

Margaret —  February 15, 2013 — 34 Comments

How Midrash Can Change Your Spiritual Life Forever

Growing up with a Jewish grandmother taught me a lot about my heritage. (I can make a mean Matzo ball soup!) But one thing she forgot to mention was the concept of Midrash—a type of Biblical exegesis that encourages us to get our fingers, elbows, and shoulders dirty as we dig deep into Scripture.

Midrash plunges head first into passages, where readers are encouraged to wrestle, argue, debate, and reflect over the unfamiliar verses of the Bible. [Tweet this] Midrash is the belief that God created a one-sided conversation through his Word, and it's our duty to hash it out and keep the conversation moving.

By wrestling over passages we discuss hard-to-answer questions like Why did Lot’s wife turn around? Or What was going through Isaac’s mind when Abraham tied him to the altar?

As I begin a Midrash of a specific passage, I often find myself looking into the people, places, and details that are commonly glanced over on the surface. So often, my findings unleash facets of each tale that draw me deeper into God's greater Story. [Tweet this]

Here are some helpful tips when it comes to Midrash:

  1. Select a passage or story (no more than 10 verses) that stirs your curiosity and find it in three different translations or versions—perhaps the NIV, ESV, and The Message.
  2. Grab a notebook and your favorite pen and set aside at least 30 minutes to wrestle over the passage you selected.
  3. Pray and ask God to open your eyes and heart to the wonder of Scripture.
  4. Read the passage at least three times over in each translation and circle any confusing words or phrases.
  5. Jot down all the questions the passage surfaces as you read. (For example: Who characters are? Where it takes place? What is the greater context of the story?)
  6. Peek at the surrounding context. Read what happens before and after the passage to get a fuller understanding.
  7. Use a Bible commentary to answer any questions you may have. Head to the local library or seminary or use as a resource.
  8. Discuss what you discover or any questions you have with friends, your small group, or your pastor. Invite others to wrestle over Scripture alongside you.

As you dive into Scripture, Midrash can be a tool that opens your eyes and heart to aspects of God’s story you might have missed before. The wonder of Scripture is that as we read, we uncover new gems and hidden treasures along the way.

What passages have you used Midrash with to discover God's word in greater depth?

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34 responses to How Midrash Can Change Your Spiritual Life Forever

  1. I love wrestling through scripture, Margaret, and this is similar to a method I use. Thanks for the tips for going deeper into the Word!

  2. Thank you I’m encouraged. Love revelations & freshness of ideas

  3. At first, I was like, “What’s Midrash?” Then I started reading your post and I was like “Hey! I’ve already been doing that!” 😀

  4. I married a Jewish man in 1994. I am very WASP-y. When I learned about midrash in 2004, it helped to explain some cultural differences between us. From my observation of my husband’s family, I believe that culturally, midrash is a practice engrained without even having to think about it, like breathing. The conversation must continue! Every response DESERVES another response. In my husband’s culture, every comment must have a response or the commenter says something like “huh?” Or “eh?” In my culture, if you want to engage in conversation, you ask a question. My husband thought my lack of response was rude and disengaged. I did not know that he expected a response even from statements. It was a real lesson for me in inter-cultural harmony with his whole family. Just try getting off the phone with a Jewish person! No one can end it! Lol!

  5. Hmm…I have had a few questions floating around in my mind. One of them has to wait till Christ returns before I get an answer because it is not in the Bible at all. The question is: What did God do prior to creating the universe and all the planets and mankind on Earth? Yeah…well, He always existed. So…what was He doing? That’s an awful lot of eternity before we came along. It opens the mind to endless possibilities.
    Also if He rolls up the sky like a scroll, or in one passage, it’s gone with a roar, then what does that say about our concept of reality?
    There is no up or down in space (outer space). So even though the apostles saw Jesus rise from the earth, could it be possible that Heaven is not necessarily up but even overlapping us. This would account for angels coming and going without descending and ascending. Heaven is not in a layer on top of our universe somewhere. That’s our limited thinking, which would go back to medieval concepts where Heaven was depicted in layers. God is closer than we think.
    When you start thinking outside of the box, a whole new world opens up. I think I should do a post about this on my blog.

  6. Margaret, I love digging into the Bible and so appreciate it when I find a fresh way to dig deeper. Thanks for sharing about Midrash.

  7. Margaret,
    I love Midrash. I tried that first with Mary and Martha and developed a story, then a children’s story. Haven’t published that one yet. But it really made me know the story.
    If we did this with many Scriptures think of how much more we would understand it.

  8. Ah, here is one from today’s Bible reading (40 day challenge). Exodus 4:24- Why did God want to kill Moses? I know He was previously angry with Moses and appointed Aaron as his spokesperson but why suddenly did God decide He wanted Moses dead? Did it have to do with the fact that Gershom was not circumcised according to the covenant law? How old was Gershom at that time?

  9. Thank you–wWhat a breath of fresh air!

    I’d heard the term Midrash before but had never bothered to delve into it.

    I’d suggest a 9th point: Listen–Spend time in quiet solitude allowing the Holy Spirit to speak and give you God’s insight into the scriptures you’re mulling over. This I’ve found is the beautiful secret of meditation: not emptying the mind, but filling it with the written word, and inviting the Living Word to come and lead us into all truth.

    And to Christine’s point–perhaps you don’t need to wait! Why would the Lord want His children to be in the dark?

  10. I love this. I have done this several times on my own but never knew that it was called Midrash or the history behind it. It truly makes God’s Word come to life! 🙂

  11. Bill, I don’t think God wants to keep us in the dark as much as some things are beyond our understanding right now. After all, we live in a finite physical world. We can’t even begin to comprehend all of Heaven because we’re not there yet. So it might be a matter of not having a frame of reference. For instance, try explaining a cell phone to an ancient Egyptian from Pharoah’s time, some year BC. Or a computer. He would not be able to imagine it because he has no frame of reference.

  12. Thank you for this post, Margaret. A great practical outline to better understand Scripture. I’m going to do it this weekend.


  13. Love this Margaret. I’m sharing it on my Sabbath post for the weekend. And I’m making Leif’s chicken tomorrow in the crock pot. Can’t wait to try it.

  14. Love this. Love, too, trying out other languages. My three tend to be NRSV, ESV, and either French, Latin, or the LXX. There are ideas that don’t quite work in English unless we have pages to fill on them, but it may take one word in French, or two in Latin, or a sentence in the Greek. It helps push out the firmament of my fixed notion of God.

  15. Margaret! Thanks for this post. I am so excited to try what you’ve outlined. 🙂

  16. Margaret, this is wonderful advice. There is a lot of Scripture that I wrestle with. I believe, Lord. Help my unbelief. e.

  17. My dearest precious Margaret, thank you from the bottom of my 5 ft heart for teaching me about Midrash. I’m new at this but hey, I like it! I”m learning LOTS of stuff!

    Love in Christ,

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