Translation

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Translation
I did not know I walked in darkness
until I saw the light
I loved alongside my fellows-each one
doing what we thought right
We did not always agree on this
which meant we had to fight
But that was just the way it was
we could not escape our plight.

We trusted those who seemed to have
the gift of clearer sight
We bowed the knee to those who could
enforce their vision by their might
It was always there of course
that tiny shining light
But if I kept my back to it
It didn't shine too bright.

The light refused to be put out
and steadily it shone
Stranger still-I heard it speak
in a gentle, tender tone
It promised It would care for me
said I was not alone
Strangest of all the Voice itself
was one I'd always known.

I tried to share the Voice's words
My fellows began to wail and moan
"All lies!" they said; "You can't believe
a thing that you've been shown
It isn't care at all you'll find
but a cold and merciless throne
It will enslave you and then kill you
for the Light consumes its own".

Part of me believed them because
they sounded so sincere
And I could not deny try as I might
I couldn't always hear
The Voice that flowed out from the light
Its words weren't always clear.
I knew if I wished to hear them so
I would have to draw near.

Came the day I could hold out no more
and though my heart leapt within in fear
I began to walk towards the light
leaving all I had held dear
Though many warned me not to go
I didn't turn an ear
Away from the voice that called to me
I could not cease to hear.

The Light grew as I approached until
it was all I could see
As I entered into it I found
It had entered into me
As I dwelt inside the light
I made a discovery
The Light was not an It at all
but Personality.

In Him I was cared for-I was safe
My sense of enmity
Was something that the darkness birthed
there was no need to flee
From the truth He'd rule o'er all my life
I chose to bend my knee
Both His death and life in me now meant
We lived in unity.

I still hear the voices of the dark
that unrelenting din
Some are strange ones I ignore-
some are kith and kin
Who seek to call me back to them
I seek the right words to begin
To explain there is no more going out
but they can all come in.

There is naught to fear inside His Light
this new life is akin
To the greatest intimacy of all and yet
greater than all have ever been
Us in Him and Him in us
is how we live herein
And anything that might be lost
cannot compare to all we win!






Prayer in Dark Times

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It’s National Poetry Month and thus I am taking a brief hiatus from my study posts. I’ll be celebrating poetry all this month and will share new poems for my regular Monday posts but will also spotlight a few of my favorites throughout the month. I am continuing my study of darkness and plan to return to Isaiah 45:7 in May.

Until then, I hope you enjoy.

Prayer in Dark Times
To them who love the Lord
I dedicate this prayer
May we turn our eyes to Jesus
Show our neighbors that we care
May we show them love unfailing
Unconditional but not compliant
May we show God's grace unending
That on Him we're all reliant
Let us have mercy for our fellow man
Instead of condemnation
Let us leave our judgments with the Lord
Let us see their desperation
May we be a light in darkness
For we know the One they seek
And when they turn and ask us
May it be His words we speak
May we be Jesus personified
To everyone we see
And in this present darkness
May you say these words to me

A Matter of Perspective

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There is a moment in all of my studies where I come to a realization that I don’t know anything at all and, in fact-borrowing from that great sage Yoda-I must unlearn what I have learned.  As I have come to know this great Father revealed in Jesus, to actually know Him personally via His Spirit living in me, to know him not as a second-hand or merely intellectual knowing; I have discovered that what I have been taught to believe about Him is not true.  Not only do I discover God Himself to be very different than what I’ve been taught but I find great many other things I’ve been taught to believe do not, in fact, have their foundation in the bedrock of Jesus Christ. 

Moving from an intellectual knowledge and study of God, as if He’s an object to be studied like one of my school day science experiments, to a vital relationship with the Living God is terrifying.  There was a moment, years ago, when the God revealing Himself to me and the image of the god I’d been taught to know came face to face with each other.  The false image was burned away by the vitality of He who is Alive Forevermore (Revelation 1:18) and I could feel Him moving from my head to my heart.  I know, it sounds odd but it was a real experience.  At once, I felt as if I was dying and being made alive.  It was again, at once, a terrifying and electrifying experience. 

I do try not to be negative in these blog posts but I do have to say the god I’d come to know in religious institutions was utterly destroyed by the consuming fire God is.  This is not a pleasant experience in many ways.  There were Christian friends who were genuinely concerned that, if I continued down the path I was being shown, I would lose my salvation and end up spending eternity in hell.  These are subjects for another time.  For the sake of this post, I want to say to anyone having an experience like this, God is faithful.  The Shepherd isn’t going to let any of His sheep be consumed in the wilderness.  I had to cling to a handful of scriptures while my world was shaken to bits and stripped to the bedrock of Jesus Christ and Him crucified.  One is Isaiah 41:10; “Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed for I am your God.  I will strengthen you.  Yes, I will help you.  I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”  I also clung to the various passages in Psalms which promised God wouldn’t allow me to fall, that He wouldn’t lose His grip on me, etc.  I pictured myself held tightly in His hand and submitted to whatever the Holy Spirit thought was necessary. 

Which is not at all what I’d intended to say in this week’s post!  Perhaps all of that relates to my study of Isaiah 45:7 because I continue to come to places where I feel cast adrift.  I see that I believe something I didn’t even know I believed and I see that belief is-rather than “wrong” should I say “mistaken”?-that scriptures aren’t saying what I’ve been taught to believe they say and that I don’t know anything.  I am no longer afraid of these places of not knowing because I know I am held fast in the righteous right hand of the Father who loves me and that His Spirit will open my eyes to the Truth.  I also anticipate because my Heavenly Father loves surprises and I know there will be a Wow! moment.

That moment came when I looked up the meanings of the Hebrew letters comprising my study word darkness.  The Hebrew word is choshek (H2822) and the three Hebrew letters are Chet (ח), Shin (ש), and Caph [in its final form (ך)].  Mr. Haralick’s book The Inner Meaning of the Hebrew Letters defines the three letters as Chet = Life, Shin = Cosmic Nourishment, and Caph = The Crowning Achievement.  I had just finished looking up the definition for darkness in the Strong’s Concordance and read through the various scriptures and was still wrestling with my thinking of the darkness as something bad.  These meanings made me sit back in my chair and think, “Wow!” Not only was there nothing bad here but these letters comprising my study word darkness actually contained the word life.  I couldn’t believe it.  I needed verification.

I have another book on the meaning of Hebrew letters titled Hebrew Word Study: Beyond the Lexicon by Chaim Bentorah.  I looked up the three Hebrew letters and was fascinated by what I found.  Mr. Bentorah’s book defines Chet as “new beginnings” and “the binding together of man with God”.  The entry for the word Shin says, “The word Shin (note: the Hebrew letters themselves are spelled with Hebrew letters so there are meanings within meanings) means urine and if you drop the Yod in Shin you have Sen which means to chew, tooth, or jaw.  This tells us that the Shin represents a totality of an overall process from eating, to digestion, to the elimination of waste.  Thus, the Shin has the meaning of whole, entire, intact, or complete.”  I looked up Caph (or Kap in Mr. Bentorah’s book) and found: “The Kap is shaped like a container that is empty and ready to be filled…this is the word for palm, hollow of hand, a pan, dish or a container.”  This might make more sense when you see that my study word uses the final form of Caph and that the regular form of the letter is shaped like a backwards/sideways U:  כ.

I am such a beginner in my studies of Hebrew and Greek that using the word beginner gives me too much credit.  I always verify because the final forms of letters can look like the normal/regular forms of other letters and want to be sure I am looking at the correct letter.  The internet is extremely helpful and, while verifying, I found two more sources that helped to further define these letters.  The website alittleperspective.com defined Chet as “the wall, thus outside, divide, half”, Shin as “two front teeth, thus sharp, press, eat, two, again”, and Caph (spelled kaph) as “the open palm, thus bend, open, allow, tame”.  I found a YouTube channel for studying Hebrew words called Rock Island Books and they defined Chet as “sanctuary or inner room designed to protect, a place of refuge, or a place of separation, cut off”, Shin as “crushed, pressed down, destroyed”, and Caph as “palm of the hand which either covers or uncovers.” 

All four of my sources allow for both a positive or negative interpretation of darkness.  Mr. Haralick writes of our lives being the manifestation of our thoughts and those thoughts either coming from the human mind or the divine mind.  Mr. Bentorah speaks of a shadow meaning to Chet where that life of being bonded to God can turn to arrogance and rudeness or an addiction to newness.  Both internet sources speak of Chet as being a place of protection, an inner sanctuary, or place of refuge but it can also be a place of being cut off like a prison.  The same holds true for Shin and Caph as well.  Which is true?  Is Darkness positive or negative?  Good or bad?

I think it’s a matter of perspective.  Both darkness and light exist simultaneously in our present lives.  This is true on a natural plane where one side of the earth experiences night while the other experiences day and this is equally true on the spiritual plane.  The entire world lies in darkness.  We believers once walked in darkness and there are a host of ideas, thought processes, and identities associated with the darkness.  When our eyes are opened to the light that is Jesus Christ and we enter that light, we are confronted with an entirely different set of ideas, thought process, and identity.  His light shines in our darkness, our death is swallowed up in His life, and we are transformed through the renewing of our minds.  The process doesn’t always feel good: remember the chewing, crushing, destruction of Shin but also remember that Shin means whole, entire, intact, and complete.

“Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you” (1 Peter 4:12).  “We are hard pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed, always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifest in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:8-10).  “Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).  “But he knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

What a hope we have!  Truly, in Jesus, God our Father has given us treasures of darkness.  And, I thank Him that this purging and processing and transforming takes place in His sanctuary, a place hidden from the eyes of those who do not see and cannot understand.  He keeps us safe.  He is our covering as He fills us with Himself.  We are filled to overflowing until “as He is, so are we in this world” (1 John 4:17) and we too shine His light into the darkness.

Hallelujah!  Hallelujah!  Amen.

Unless noted otherwise, all scriptures are quoted from The New King James Version of The Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, 1982

References

Bentorah, Chaim, Hebrew Word Study Beyond the Lexicon, Trafford Publishing, 2014, Pages 92, 108, 148

Haralick, Robert M., The Inner Meaning of the Hebrew Letters, Jason Aronson Inc., Northvale, New Jersey, 1995, Pages 113, 161, 293

choshek, “darkness,” strong’s H2822 (alittleperspective.com)

(2) “Darkness” in ancient Hebrew! (Part I) – YouTube

I Can’t See Clearly

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I have great fun studying the Bible.  I never know what I’m going to learn and yet I always know I’m going to learn something new about the Father revealed in Jesus.  It’s an adventure every time.  Which doesn’t mean it’s easy.  I will start studies and find I’m utterly confused.  It is difficult to come to a study without preconceived notions about what the study passage means.  I have a background where I’ve experienced different denominations and each one has left behind echoes of its belief systems. I read commentaries and expositions on the passages I study that tell me these passages mean one thing and then, through conducting my own studies, I find these passages mean the exact opposite.

I have already mentioned reading interpretations of Isaiah 45:7 where I’m told God is saying he “permits” or “allows” darkness.  The Hebrew word there is “create” and is translated such in other passages.  That God says He creates darkness was not easy to understand once I discovered I came to this passage with a bone deep conviction that the light is good and the darkness is bad.  I wasn’t aware I felt this way until I was deep into the study and analyzing just what it was I already believed compared to what I was uncovering.  Just over the last week there have been multiple times I’ve either read or heard someone say “Jesus is the light that shines in our darkness”.  That is absolutely true: He is.  Yet I’ve been listening with every fiber of my being not just to the words but the intent and feeling of the context in which they are spoken and I find others have this same conviction that the darkness is bad the light is good.  More than that, I see this conviction carries into how we believers view ourselves: I was bad while in darkness and now that I’m in the light Jesus makes me good.  Is this true?  If God created the darkness, and Isaiah 45:7 directly quotes Him as claiming He did; did He create something bad?

The Hebrew word in Isaiah 45:7 for darkness is choshek (H2822) and is defined in the Strong’s Concordance as: “from 2821, the dark; hence (literally) darkness; figuratively misery, destruction, death, ignorance, sorrow, wickedness–dark(-ness), night, obscurity.”  This doesn’t sound good at all and yet this exact word is the same one for darkness in Genesis 1 which God calls “night”.  Night isn’t bad, it just is.  And yet, if I read slowly and carefully, I find that in verse 4 God sees the light, that it was good and then divides the light from the darkness.  In verse 5 He calls the light “Day” and the darkness “Night” and then the First Creation Day comes to a close.  God never actually calls the darkness “good” although verse 31 says, “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good.”  These are all interesting points, but I don’t find an answer to my question.

I open the Strong’s Concordance to the scripture listings of occurrences of “darkness” and begin to look at them.  At once, I find the subject of darkness to be far more complicated than I imagined.  There are eleven Hebrew words translated “darkness” in the Old Testament and an additional five Greek words in the New.  I am currently focusing on the Hebrew words and some aren’t distinct per se from choshek but rather are familial words and come from the same root.  For example, Psalm 139:12 says, “Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, but the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You.”  The first occurrence of darkness is my study word choshek but the second is chashekah (H2825).  According to the Strong’s Concordance, this word is also from 2821 and is defined as “darkness, figuratively misery”.

The two words translated “darkness” in Job 28:3 are a different story.  My New King James Version has this verse translated, “Man puts an end to darkness and searches every recess for ore in the darkness and the shadow of death.”  The first occurrence of darkness is again choshek but the second is ophel (H652) and means, “dusk–darkness, obscurity, privily.”  For those of you wondering: privily is the adverb form of privy and means, “private, hidden, secret, clandestine.”  Here we do have two different words coming from different roots and with different meanings although they’ve been translated by the same English word.  As I continued to look at scriptures containing my study word, I found plenty more to confuse me.  There are scriptures where my study word means physical darkness or night.  This is true in Genesis 1 and is also true in passages like Exodus 14:20.  And yet, while the meaning of darkness or obscurity doesn’t change, there are far more occurrences where “darkness” is used in a metaphorical rather than physical sense.  I found this to be true in many passages of Job, Proverbs, and Psalms but reading all of these did not make it any easier to discern whether darkness was good or bad.

Chapter 20 of Job is titled “Zophar’s Sermon on the Wicked Man” and verse 26 states, “Total darkness is reserved for his treasures”.  Those who lose their treasures would call this bad but there are many who would call it good.  Then I read in Isaiah 45:3 quotes God as saying, “I will give you treasures of darkness and hidden riches of secret places.”  There is nothing bad here at all.  Proverbs 2:13 speaks of men who “leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness,” which of course is bad.  But then Psalms 107 speaks of those who rebelled against the words of God (very bad) and thus sit in darkness and in the shadow of death; when they cried out to the Lord in their trouble He saves them out of their distresses and “brings them out of their darkness and the shadow of death” (verses 10-16).  That’s good: the darkness was no match for God.  Then, most confusing of all, I read in Amos: “Woe to you who desire the day of the Lord!  For what good is the day of the Lord to you?  It will be darkness, and not light” (Amos 1:18).  The darkness does sound bad in this passage but how can it be in any way associated with such a certainly good thing as the day of the Lord?

Good or bad.  How can I know?  I certainly can’t rely on my own judgment because there have been so many bad things that have happened to me and yet, as the transforming light and life and love of Jesus has come in to the circumstance I called bad and redeemed it, it has become good.  I can attest to the truth of Romans 8:28: “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”  Nor can I rely on anyone else’s judgment because one person will say a thing is bad and another will say the very same thing is good.  I can attest to the truth of Isaiah 5:20: “woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”

I think a great deal about the first few chapters of Genesis, specifically the two trees named in the Garden.  There was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and the Tree of Life.  I have a book I have not yet read in its entirety but there’s a passage that has stuck with me.  The book is Is God to Blame? by Gregory A. Boyd.  He addresses the Serpent’s lie in the first chapter and writes, “Our role as God’s creatures is to receive, enjoy and reflect our Creator’s love and goodness as we exercise the authority over the earth he entrusted to us.  But we can’t do this if we try to be wise like God, “knowing good and evil”.  To fully reflect God’s image in the way he intended, we must resist the serpent’s temptation to be “like God” in the way God has forbidden.  Unlike God, our knowledge and wisdom are finite.  We simply are not equipped to make accurate and loving judgments about good and evil…When we try to go beyond this boundary and try to know what God alone can know, when we try to be “wise” like God, it destroys us.” 

I don’t yet know whether I agree or disagree with this statement.  Perhaps the truth is closer to I see where Mr. Boyd is coming from but, in Jesus; I have His life and mind and wisdom because His Spirit lives in me and teaches me to think as He thinks and know as He knows.  “In Jesus” is, I think, the key.  I find my confusion begins to clear when I cease trying to understand darkness in terms of good and bad and begin to think of it in terms of Life of Jesus Christ and Not-life of Jesus Christ.  Can there be life in the midst of darkness?  Since life is Jesus, His life is the light of us all, and the life and light that He is shines in the darkness, then I would say that answer is yes.  I would also say this subject of darkness requires further study.

Unless noted otherwise, all scriptures are quoted from The New King James Version of The Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, 1982

References

  1. Boyd, Gregory A., Is God to Blame? Beyond Pat Answers to the Problem of Suffering, InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, Illinois, 2003, Page 23
  2. Guralnik, David B., Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, William Collins + World Publishing Co., Inc., Cleveland • New York, 1970/1976
  3. Strong, James, LL.D., S.T.D., Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990

No Fear of Darkness

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Hello, Readers! 

I am thrilled to be back this week once more looking at Isaiah 45:7: “I form the light and create darkness, I make peace and create calamity; I, the Lord, do all these things.”  While my previous studies on light are in no way comprehensive, I am moving on from “I form the light” and am beginning to look at “and create darkness.”  I noted it once before but it’s worth repeating: the word translated “create” here is the Hebrew word bara which does indeed mean “to create”.  It’s the same word as that found in Genesis 1:1: God created the heavens and the earth.  It does not mean “allow” or “permit” as I’ve found in some other’s commentaries on this passage.  The truth is stated plainly.  God creates the darkness.

I will say this portion of the passage has never bothered me.  I’ve always liked the darkness-nighttime anyway.  It is only at night and far away from the artificial lights of modern civilization, that the spectacular beauty of the cosmos can be seen.  Nighttime has always been a sacred time to be alone in the presence of God.  I used to like to withdraw from the conversations around the campfire, to sit by myself listening to the sounds of the night, and just be in the presence of God.  Of course, I never strayed too far because I never wanted to become lost in the darkness or misstep and harm myself because my vision was obscured so I realize that even in those moments of peace and quiet, there was a wariness of the dark.

There have been times when I’ve been in darkness and felt that wariness turn to fear.  Have you ever gone on a cave tour?  There’s that moment when the guide switches off the lights and darkness is experienced in a way that isn’t possible on the surface of the earth.  We all wave our hands in front of our faces and cannot see them.  I don’t know about you but I have a vivid imagination.  I wonder what it would be like to remain in that darkness.  Would I be able to remain calm if the electricity failed and I had to feel my way out of the depths of the earth?  It is a scintillating moment of fear, a safe thrill because the lights have never failed to come back on.

As I began this study on darkness, I remember a book I purchased and read some years ago.  It is called At Days Close Night in Times Past by A. Roger Ekirch.  I was curious if anything in it would pertain to my study and so I began rereading it. I was fascinated as I read about the fear of the darkness.  In his preface, Mr. Ekirch writes, “One can only speculate about when an inherent fear of darkness might first have taken root in the human psyche.  In view of the terror that must have struck our earliest ancestors, very likely this most ancient of human anxieties has existed from time immemorial…”1

But did it?  The Hebrew word translated “darkness” in my study passage is choshek (Strong’s, H2822).  It’s the same word as “darkness” in Genesis 1:2 and, when I look at Genesis, I see no fear associated with darkness.  It’s there on the face of the deep in those first moments of creation.  God divides the darkness from the light and names it “Night” on the first day.  He sets a light to rule it on the fourth.  There is nothing frightening about the darkness: it just is.  In fact, I see night as a gift from God to humankind.  As the sun sets and evening sets in, the work of the day is done.  There is nothing to do but eat and rest.  God’s covenant with the earth means the sun will rise, there will be morning, and there is nothing to fear (See Jeremiah 33:25-26).  That was true as long as humankind stayed in relationship with their Creator.

It’s so important to look at the Serpent’s words in Genesis 3.  The intimation of The Lie is that God isn’t really trustworthy, in fact He’s a liar (“you will not surely die”), He’s keeping something good from humankind, and it would be best if humans did away with Him entirely and became gods in their own right.  When both chose to believe the Serpent rather than God, one of their first acts were to hide themselves from each other and then to hide from the One who had been their companion in the Garden (Genesis 3:7-9).  With such a devastating breaking of relationship and this new fear causing our parents to be unsure whether or not God could really be trusted, I am not surprised that Mr. Ekirch’s research caused him to conclude fear of the dark has existed since time immemorial.

This fear of the darkness is found in religion.  Mr. Ekirch writes, “It would be difficult to exaggerate the suspicion and insecurity bred by darkness….Just as heaven glowed with celestial light, darkness foreshadowed the agonies waiting transgressors after death.  Often likened to hell (“eternal night”), nighttime anticipated a netherworld of chaos and despair, black as pitch, swarming with imps and demons….Indeed, it was the conviction of some divines that God created night as proof of hell’s existence.  ‘Like the face of hell,’ was how a seventeenth-century Venetian described the advance of evening.2

Further on in the Chapter, I read, “Night,” cautioned a proverb, “belongs to the spirits.”  The uninviting climes of evening-their horrible sights and foreign sounds, their noisome vapors-beckoned a host of demons and spirits, which the Stuart playwright John Fletcher called the “blacke spawne of darknesse.”  The sky was their empire, the night air their earthy domain.  None, of course, was more feared than Satan, the “Prince of Darkness,” whose misdeeds were legion, spread far and wide with the growth of printing by popular tracts and scholarly texts.”3

I had not remembered how many quotes by different believers through the ages were shared by Mr. Ekirch. I found the substance of these quotes surprising although I don’t know why I did.  I read popular tracts and scholarly texts written in this day and age that tell me this fear of the darkness and the belief that Satan rules over it is not something left back in earlier centuries. It is terribly sad that believers don’t seem to know that Jesus has come! Through His death and resurrection, He has destroyed the one who had the power of death and He now holds the keys to both death and hell [or the grave-the word hades has been translated both ways (Hebrews 2:15, 1 Corinthians 15:12-19, Revelation 1:18)]. All authority is His (Matthew 28:18). There is no need whatsoever to fear the darkness.

While darkness itself is not something to be feared, there is no denying the deeds humans choose to do in it make it worthwhile to exercise caution.  I am under no illusions as to the state of the heart of some humans and am extremely careful when and how I make any after-dark forays.  I am not suggesting our freedom from fear should then make us foolhardy.  The point I am trying to make is that when God created darkness, He did not create something bad.  Night does not belong to the spirits nor does it belong to those who seek to hide their deeds in it.  It belongs to the One who created it and I trust Him to watch over me.  He is the Covenant Father and, resting in Him, I know that when I lie down I will not be afraid and my sleep will be sweet (Proverbs 3:24). 

Unless noted otherwise, all scriptures are quoted from The New King James Version of The Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc., Nashville, Tennessee, 1982

  1. Ekirch, Roger A., At Day’s Close Night in Times Past, W. W. Norton & Company, New York, New York, 2005, Page 3
  2. Ibid., Page 8
  3. Idib., Page 15