2 Corinthians 11:30-33 – Lowered in a basket

2 Corinthians

2 Corinthians 11:30-32
If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.

What do verses 32-33 have to do with 30-31? The translators didn’t put a paragraph break there. Is this an example of Paul’s supposedly helter-skelter writing? For some it may be obvious or you’ve already come to understand it one way or another but for me and others I’d like to write about it.

I’d like to gather some points by Garland from his commentary on 2 Corinthians and a thought or two of my own.

Garland mentions that 11:30-12:10 are the demonstrations of his weakness.

It may seem abrupt to us because he switches from comparisons with the “super apostles” and his catalog of hardships and switches to this subject.

11:32-33 is a narrative event in contrast to the listing of his sufferings. But it’s not just a narrative of a historical event in his ministry. It’s an example of weakness. Garland says, “Hiding in a basket is not something that someone with power would do, and the incident occurs at the very beginning of his ministry. It serves a a paradigm, as it were, for what was to come.” Imagine how you would feel hiding in a basket in fear of your life. (Acts 9:25)

In contrast, according to Aulus Gellius, “the special distinction of a mural crown belonged to the man who had been first to climb the wall.” (Attic Nights 5.6.16) Garland says, “The ‘wall crown’ (corona muralis), one of the highest Roman military honors, was presented to the first soldier to go up and over the wall of an enemy city.” This would not have been lost on the Corinthians. Yet again Paul is emphasizing suffering and weakness to get the message of the cross through to the Corinthians.

This reminds me of the indoor artificial climbing walls. If you climb to the top you’ve succeeded. You made it up with your own skill and under your own strength. Yay! If you slip or lose your strength then the dreaded rope catches you and you are lowered back down in defeat. It’s all in fun if not taken too seriously but it may serve as an example of the contrast.

Garland says, “We should not overlook, however, that Paul’s escape parallels similar escapes in the Bible. The Israelite spies were hidden by Rahab the prostitute and let down by a rope through a window in the wall (Joshua 2:15), and David escaped Saul’s soldiers with the help of Michal, who let him down through the window (1 Samuel 19:12). The biblical parallels show a pattern in which an ignoble escape on one day led to victory on another (Joshua 6:1-25; 1 Samuel 23:1-14).”

These aren’t “woe is me” types of statements, they are a testament to God’s power and strength in weakness and humiliation. If it wasn’t for God’s power, Paul certainly would never have made it through the litany of near-death experiences to bring the gospel so powerfully and genuinely to the Corinthians. That’s partly why he says in 2 Corinthians 4:12, “So death is at work in us, but life in you.”

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