who is carrying who?

English majors:  should this title end in “who” or “whom”?  My initial thought is “whom,” but then I think that this is one of those cases where the right answer is the opposite of what you think, unless I’m out-thinking myself.  I’d be happy for any help here, either with the grammar or the more important theology of this latest entry for Our Daily Journey.

who is carrying who?

read > 1 Samuel 5:1-12

But when the citizens of Ashdod went to see it the next morning, Dagon had fallen with his face to the ground in front of the Ark of the LORD!  So they took Dagon and put him in his place again (v. 3).

A sea of smartly dressed businesspeople packs the Kanda Myojin shrine in Tokyo on the first business day of the year.  They come in waves—those in front clasp their hands and bow deeply, pleading with the gods for a prosperous new year—and then they file to the side to make way for the thousands who are pushing behind.

I understand why they come.  Their business success depends on many factors beyond their control:  Will others in their company pull their weight?  Will customers buy what they are selling?  Will the world’s economy support a stable market for their product?  In the face of such uncertainty, they will grasp for help wherever they can find it.

But judging by the anguished desperation on their faces, this Shinto shrine is more of a burden than a blessing.  That’s how it is with false gods.  Idols demand our constant care and protection.  We cannot depend on them because they depend on us.

The Philistines should have learned this by the second time they propped up their fallen god, Dagon.  As they were gluing his head and hands back onto his torso, someone should have asked whether their god was more trouble than he was worth.

Idols cannot bear our weight—if we rely on them we inevitably crush them.  Worse, idols are heavy things that weigh on us.  Isaiah observed that the Babylonians of his day loaded their gods “on ox carts” so that “the poor beasts stagger under the weight.  Both the idols and their owners are bowed down.  The gods cannot protect the people, and the people cannot protect the gods” (46:1-2).

Are you bent over from bearing the weight of a false god?  Or do you feel the lightness that comes from going limp in the arms of your heavenly Father?  Who is carrying who?—Mike Wittmer

more > Exodus 32:11; Isaiah 40:28-31; 44:10-20

next > Considering the crushing burden of tending our impotent idols, why are we tempted to put our trust in them?  Rather than wait for your weight to crush them, how can you proactively smash the idols in your life?

6 Comments

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  1. Jonathan Shelley January 12, 2010 — 7:54 pm

    Mike:

    My wife, the internationally recognized Shakespeare scholar, published author, and English comp professor, agrees that it should be “Who is carrying whom?” since the second pronoun is the object of the verb. So you are smarter than you think, except when you are out-thinking yourself.

    Good devotional, though.

  2. For the correct usage of Who or Whom, maybe this clip from “the office” will help! 🙂

  3. Joel,

    Whatever!

  4. I never knew the difference in grammar until I took Greek (so I credit Gary Meadors for teaching me English!). “Who” is nominative. “Whom” is genitive, dative, and accusative. At least that’s how I try to remember it. Thanks Gary!

    All this thinking on grammar I forgot to read the devo…

  5. Heather VanTimmeren January 13, 2010 — 11:24 pm

    I’m a perpetual lurker, but I’ll comment on grammar.

    As others have noted, “who is carrying whom” would be the correct usage. An easy way to check would be to change the “who/whom” to first or third person pronouns. We would say “he is carrying her” (third person) not “he is carrying she” (first person). Thus, use the third person “whom.”

    Would you like an editor for you next book? ( :

  6. Mike:

    Just to show what an incredible nerd I am, your post (the devotional aspect, not the grammatical ambiguity) made me think of an article by Wolfgang Zwickel in Vetus Testamentum 44:2 (Ap 1994): 239-249, titled “Dagons abgeschlagener Kopf (1 Samuel v 3-4).” He explores the theory that it was actually the Israelites who snuck into Dagon’s temple and toppled the idol to demonstrate their faith in God, not a divine act of God mediated through the ark. Amazingly, he concludes… well, I’ll let you read it yourself rather than trust my reading based on my own limited translation of the German.

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