This is an excellent book for those of us who live in the west and are not familiar with the middle eastern culture. Barbara Bowen has put some explanations to some passages that you might think you understand and others which you have no clue about. Here’s a great excerpt from the book:
The Needle’s Eye (Matthew 19:24)
“It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.”
Let us examine a city gate which has the “needle’s eye.” City walls have several large gates of iron, which are always two-leaved. In Isaiah 45:1 we find these words: “I will open before him the two-leaved gates.” When we read of Samson taking the “doors of the gate” it means he unhitched both leaves. (Judges 16:3). “And Samson arose at midnight, and took the doors of the gate of the city, and the two posts, and went away with them.”
Gates are closed at sunset and not opened until sunrise. This is still the case in all eastern walled cities.
When once the gates were shut, they would not be opened except to admit a great official who might be on an errand of importance. The chief captain sends Paul from Caesarea “at the third hour of the night” (Acts 23:23) — about 9 p. m., a wise precaution because no one could possibly pursue them until the gates were opened at about six the next morning. The apostle therefore had nine hours’ start, which made it impossible for anyone to overtake him on the way.
When any person has to be admitted or allowed to leave the city by night, a small door fixed into the larger one is opened. This smaller door was called the “needle’s eye.” Matthew 19:24 says, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle.”
Now let us try to picture the scene to which Jesus refers. Camels laden with large bags of barley, wheat, charcoal, or wood, were coming into town daily.
The burdens are well balanced on either side of the camel’s back, and stand out sometimes three or four feet on the right side and on the left. You can see, therefore, that a camel needs a wide gate to admit him and his great burden. Every traveler in the East knows from experience what it means to meet a camel coming along a street which is only just wide enough for the beast to pass through. You cannot stand against the wall; your only possible way to do is to stoop very low and allow the camel to pass by, the burden then being above you.
Hence the meaning of the Lord’s words was easily understood by His hearers. A camel with its burden cannot enter the needle’s eye.
Jaffa Gate in Jerusalem has a very fine “needle’s eye.”
This is a 149 page digitized PDF. Really worth a read. You’ll find something you didn’t know.
Click Here for Strange Scriptures that Perplex the Western Mind by Barbara Bowen
You may also right click the link above and select “save link as” to download the entire book to your PC.