Having the occasion to spend some time in a motel recently, I opened the drawer of the nightstand, and yes, there it was. The Gideon Bible.
And it got me to wondering how often I take for granted things I expect to find.
So, just this once I opened this version of the Good Book and learned a few things. For instance, it has John 3:16 written in 27 different languages which cover, according to the heading, 3/4 of the world’s population. The common ones, like English and Chinese and Spanish, but also Malay, Greek, Russian, Tamal.
The organization was started in 1898 by two businessmen. A lot was going on in religion during this last 50 years of the nineteenth century in America: Christian Scientist, Mormons, Seventh Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses. Something to do with what Wikipedia calls the Third Awakening, the turn of the millennium. Interesting that they all happened about the same era.
They named their organization after the biblical story of Gideon recorded in the 6th & 7th chapters of Judges. I looked it up, and then remembered: I had heard this story when I was a little girl going to vacation bible school a long, long time ago. Gideon was told to smite the Midianites, using as few men as possible, so God got the credit. First Gideon cut the crew from 22000 to 10,000 just by telling those who were afraid to go home. God said that was still too many, so Gideon took them down to the river to drink and selected only those 300 who drank by cupping water in their hand.
These 300 were given a trumpet to blow and a light in a pitcher. Sneaking up on the town they broke the pitchers and let the light shine forth and at the same time blew on the trumpets to spread the Word and defeat the enemy. What a wonderful metaphor to carry forward in such an organization!
Since that time the group has distributed Bibles not only to motels and hotels but also to hospitals, nurses, scout troops and the armed forces.
The bible in my room was the King James version, c. 1978. Somehow that does seem to be a misnomer. How it this something you can copyright? It seemed almost brand new, except for a passage in II Samuel talking about Absolom that was heavily underlined. Why? I don’t know.
A lot going on in my world that I don’t always notice. But Gideon Bibles now aren’t one of them!