In still another battle, which took place at Gath, there was a huge man with six fingers on each hand and six toes on each foot—twenty-four in all. He also was descended from Rapha. When he taunted Israel, Jonathan son of Shimea, David’s brother, killed him.
1 Chronicles 20 (NIV)
FYI… polydactyly (Greek for “many fingers”), is a rare but known genetic mutation that happens with one in every 500 live human births. The mutation is also found in certain animals. If you ever go to Key West, Florida, be sure to visit Hemingway’s house and his fabled six-toed cats which still inhabit the house and grounds.
I came from a relatively small family. My mother was an only child. My dad had one brother. I had three first cousins. It was pretty simple to keep track of who was who. I have only three siblings and one of my brothers has not married and does not have children (that he knows of 😉 – sorry, Tim, couldn’t resist). So it is fairly easy to keep tabs on nephews (2) and nieces (2).
Wendy comes from a relatively large family. There are seven siblings and to that you add a few spouses and children. Between her immediate family and extended family, it took me a few years to figure out who everyone was. To be honest, with the extended family I’m still confused on a regular basis.
We have friends who have twelve or more siblings. I can’t imagine the spreadsheet you need to keep track.
The truth is, despite my limited family extensions, I’ve come to appreciate in recent years how important the role of uncles and aunts can be in family dynamics. Uncles and Aunts are usually about the same age as parents, but they aren’t responsible for their nephews and nieces so I notice that it’s easier to extend a little more grace. Uncles and Aunts grew up with one or both of our parents and have a lot longer experience living with them, so they provide nephews and nieces what can sometimes be a much needed context in understanding the parental unit. Aunts and Uncles can be fun to hang out with. They can be appreciated, admired, and enjoyed without a lot of the relational entanglements that come with parents.
I thought about that when I read of Jonathan, David’s nephew, who killed the six-fingered man from Gath who dared to taunt Israel. I can imagine Jonathan hearing the six-fingered man’s taunting and thinking of his Uncle David, whom he’d always admired and of whom he’d always heard the family legend of the killing of Goliath. “If Uncle David can do it,” Jonathan thinks to himself, “So can I!”
This morning I’m grateful for uncles and aunts, nephews and nieces.