Why immersion in living water is the only cure for being thirsty
After using the previous track “HUMBLE.” to boast that his abilities in the arenas sex, money and murder made him the “realest nigga”, Kendrick now uses the track “LUST.” to expose the force that has inspired him to pursue the unholy trinity. Due to the modern usage of the word “lust” to refer primarily to sexual passion, one might assume that this track will only address the first of the three pursuits. It is a reasonable assumption given that the one time that lust is mentioned in the Sermon on the Mount is in reference to a man gawking at a woman.
You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust (Greek: epithymeō) for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
- Matthew 5:27–28
Here the word translated as “lust” is the Greek word epithymeō. One important detail about the word epithymeō, is that it does not carry the same negative connotation that the English word “lust” implies. Epithymeō is more equivalent to the modern use of the word “desire” and thus could be used to speak of both positive and negative patterns of thought. We can see the positive usage of the word in Luke’s account of the Last Supper when Jesus voices his own desire to eat food and drink in the company of his disciples.
“I have eagerly desired (Greek: epithymeō) to eat this Passover meal with you before I suffer”.
- Luke 22:15
By sharing his own heartfelt desires, Jesus made it clear that following him did not mean the cessation of all desires, as some other Eastern philosophies might suggest. Rather it would seem that Jesus wants his followers to distinguish between good and evil desires. The question then remains, how does one know that a desire is good?
As mentioned in our discussion on Track 8: HUMBLE., the biblical narrative suggests that something is “good” only if it fulfills it’s purpose. What then is the purpose of desire? If one examines the most universal desires of animals, such as hunger — the desire for food — and thirst — the desire for water — one might conclude that the purpose of desires is to direct a creature toward things that will sustain life. Hence, a desire would be considered good if attempting to fulfill that desire leads humanity toward life. By contrast a desire would be considered not good if attempting to fulfill that desire fails to lead humanity toward life. A desire might even be considered evil if it convinces humanity that fulfilling that desire will lead to life but, in reality, leads to death. This definition of evil seems to be what the prophet Jeremiah meant when he delivered a message from God against the Judeans who had a desire to worship other gods.
“The word of the Lord came to me, saying: Go and proclaim in the hearing of Jerusalem, Thus says the Lord:
Has a nation changed its gods, even though they are no gods? But my people have changed their glory for something that does not profit.
For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living water, and dug out reservoirs for themselves, cracked reservoirs that can hold no water.
Jeremiah 2:1, 11, 13
The word of the Lord noted that the people had turned away from the living God and towards idols which they carved for themselves out of stone and wood from dead trees. The word went on to compare the people to those who no longer desired fresh water from a living spring and instead carved for themselves poorly engineered reservoirs which leaked after cracking under pressure. Even though these broken reservoirs were incapable of holding life-giving water, the people nonetheless sought out their man-made solutions rather than receiving the water that God had provided. Unless the people returned to the source of fresh water, they would eventually die of thirst. Since Kendrick has identified himself as an Israelite, it should not be surprising to find that he is suffering from the same condition.
I need some water
Fittingly, the introductory chorus to “LUST.” opens with Kendrick declaring that he needs water. The statement is consistent with the fact that on the track “YAH.” Kendrick forsook following God and instead chose to follow his intuition to idolize sex, money and murder. It would seem that Kendrick, like his Israelite ancestors, is dying of thirst.
This assessment of Kendrick’s state of being takes us back to GKMC and the track “Sing About Me, Dying of Thirst” which came just before the song “Real” (see our discussion of “Real” in previous post, Track 8: HUMBLE. — Verse 2). Given that on the previous track Kendrick reverted to a mindset in which he believes that killing a nigga makes him real, it seems fitting that Kendrick has also returned to the point on GKMC when one of Kendrick’s friends suggested going back into a rival gang’s territory in order to take vengeance on the gang bangers who killed their friend Dave.
“Nigga — they just killed the homie’s brother, my nigga. So what we gon’ do, my niggas? What we gon’ do? Bro, we can go back right now, my nigga. Like… nigga, I don’t give a fuck, my nigga.”
- An unnamed friend
“Fuck! I’m tired of this shit! I’m tired of fuckin’ runnin’, I’m tired of this shit! My brother, homie!”
- Dave’s older brother
However, Dave’s older brother cannot bear to think about inciting more violence. His brothers death has finally run him into the ground, as Kendrick explains in the following verse.
Tired of runnin’, tired of huntin’
My own kind but retirin’ nothin’
Tires are steady screechin’, the driver is rubbin’
Hands on the wheel, who said we wasn’t
Dyin’ of thirst, dyin’ of thirst, dyin’ of thirst?
Dope on the corner, look at the coroner
Daughter is dead, mother is mournin’ her
Stray bullets, AK bullets
Resuscitation was waitin’ patiently, but they couldn’t
Bring her back, who got the footage?
Channel 9, cameras is lookin’
It’s hard to channel your energy when you know you crooked
I know I’m good at
Dyin’ of thirst, dyin’ of thirst, dyin’ of thirst
How many sins? I’m runnin’ out
How many sins? I lost count
Money is power (Money is power)
Yours is ours (Yours is ours)
Lay with a snitch, die with a coward
Hope we get rich, hope we can tower
Over the city with vanity with the music louder
The same song, a black flower
I’ll show you how to
Dye your thirst, dye your thirst, dye your thirst
What are we doin’? Who are we foolin’?
Hell is hot, fire is proven
To burn for eternity, return of the student
That never learned how to live righteous but how to shoot it
Now back to business, loadin’ the guns in
Back of the Buick, your hood is feudin’
And the beef is bubblin’, it’s no discussion
Hereditary, all of my cousins
Dyin’ of thirst, dyin’ of thirst, dyin’ of thirst
My best days, I stress days
(Lord, forgive me for all my sins, for I not know — )
My best days, I stress days
Say: “Fuck the world,” my sex slave
Money, pussy and greed — what’s my next crave?
Whatever it is, know it’s my next grave
Tired of runnin’, tired of runnin’, tired of tumblin’ — backwards
The truth will set you free, so to me be completely honest
You dyin’ of thirst, you dyin’ of thirst
So hop in that water, and pray that it works.
- Kendrick Lamar from “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”
After watching one friend die and another friend contemplate perpetuating the cycle of violence, Kendrick realized that his energy was leading him down a crooked path in search of money, pussy and greed (aka sex, money and murder). He knew this path would only lead to generational feuds, slavery and death. If he and his family members remained unable to resist being driven by evil desires, their spiritual thirst would become a hereditary illness passed on through the DNA of successive generations.
Kendrick’s understanding that thirst for sex, money and murder will eventually decimate entire families reflects the warning God spoke to the family of Israel through the prophet Amos.
Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt:
The time is surely coming, says the Lord GOD , when I will send a famine on the land; not a famine of bread, or a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the LORD. They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east; they shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the LORD , but they shall not find it. In that day the beautiful young women and the young men shall faint for thirst.
Amos 3:1, 8:11–13
Because the family of Israel had refused to listen and obey God’s commandments, Amos prophesied that the land would one day experience a drought of hearing God’s word. At the time, the Israelites likely thought that their basic desires for earthly food and water were the most important pursuits to chase after. However, Amos’s prophecy asserted that the word of God is the only thing would satisfy the deepest thirst within human beings. Unless the Israelites received this living water from God, they would grow tired from running and eventually faint from thirst.
Without any rain to water the dry land, it would seem that the only hope left for Israel was that some Israelites would find streams of fresh water. This is exactly the hope that Amos spoke of elsewhere in his prophecy.
Let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
- Amos 5:24
According to Amos’s prophecy, the children of Israel would be able to satisfy their deepest thirst if only they upheld justice in their society and did what was right for their fellow humans. Unfortunately, as we know from the narrative of the Tanakh, the injustice of the Israelites continued to increase until the kings of Judah began to burn their own children as sacrifices to other gods. The rampant injustice of the Israelites eventually led to death, deportation and the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem at the hands of the Babylonian Empire.
The destruction of the temple in Jerusalem was a particularly traumatic event for the Israelites because in the ancient world temples were the places that people of all cultures went to ensure that their desires were satisfied. If you were Canaanite and desired sex and fertility, you would go to the temple of Astarte. If you were Roman and desired money, you would go to the temple of Plutus. If you were Greek and desired to kill your enemies, you would go to the temple of Ares.
What separated the Ancient Israelite religion from the religions practiced by their neighbors is that the Israelites did not have multiple temples to pursue various desires. They had one temple dedicated to the one true God. Nonetheless, the Israelites’ desire for sex, money, and military strength drove them to seek out the temples of the surrounding nations while also claiming devotion to the temple in Jerusalem.
Many of the prophets, including Jeremiah, observed this tendency of the people and warned of the futility in going to other temples which housed only idols carved from dead pieces of wood (see Jeremiah 10). In contrast to these dead idols, Jeremiah and other biblical authors referred to the Lord as the “living God”. The implication of this distinction is that if an Israelite desired to have life, they needed to go to the temple of their God in Jerusalem. By contrast, if an Israelite turned toward the temples of other gods they would be inherently choosing death rather than life. Thus, in the view of the prophets, whatever desire drove the Israelites to choose death instead of life should be considered an evil desire, aka lust.
This association between idolatry and lust was made explicitly clear in the writings of a prophet named Ezekiel who lived through the destruction of The temple. He sharply criticized the people of Jerusalem and Samaria for the unfaithfulness they displayed towards their God when they burned their children as sacrifices to idols. In one of his most visceral critiques, Ezekiel compared the cities of Samaria and Jerusalem to two sisters who became adulterous prostitutes.
The word of the Lord came to me:
Mortal, there were two women, the daughters of one mother; they prostituted themselves in Egypt; they prostituted themselves in their youth; their breasts were squeezed there, and their virgin nipples were stroked. “My Tent” (Oholah)was the name of the elder and “My Tent Is in Her” (Oholibah) the name of her sister. They became mine, and they bore sons and daughters. As for their names, “My Tent” is Samaria, and “My Tent Is in Her” is Jerusalem.
“My Tent” prostituted herself while she was mine; she lusted after her lovers the Assyrians — warriors clothed in blue, governors and officials, all of them desirable young men, horsemen riding on horses. She bestowed her sexual favors on them; all of them were the choicest young men of Assyria. She defiled herself with all whom she desired — with all their idols.
Therefore I delivered her into the hands of her lovers, into the hands of the Assyrians, for whom she lusted. These striped her naked; they seized her sons and her daughters; and they killed her with the sword.
Her sister “My Tent Is in Her” saw this, yet she was more corrupt than she in her lusting and in her prostitution, which were worse than those of her sister. She saw male figures carved on the wall, images of the Chaldeans — a picture of Babylonians whose native land was Chaldea. When she saw them she lusted after them, and sent messengers to them in Chaldea. And the Babylonians came to her into the bed of love, and they defiled her with their lust; and after she defiled herself with them, she turned from them in disgust. When she carried on her prostitution so openly and flaunted her nakedness, I turned in disgust from her, as I had turned from her sister. Yet she increased her prostitution, remembering the days of her youth when she engaged in prostitution in the land of Egypt. She lusted after their genitals — as large as those of donkeys, and their seminal emission was as strong as that of stallions.
The Lord said to me:
Mortal, will you judge “My Tent” (Oholah) and “My Tent Is in Her” (Oholibah)? Then declare to them their abominable deeds. For they have committed adultery, and blood is on their hands; with their idols they have committed adultery; and they have even offered up to them for food the children whom they had borne to me. Moreover this they have done to me: they have defiled my sanctuary on the same day and profaned my sabbaths. For when they had slaughtered their children for their idols, on the same day they came into my sanctuary to profane it. This is what they did in my house.
- Ezekiel 23:1–20, 36–39
By referring to Samaria as “My Tent” — aka Oholah — and Jerusalem as “My Tent Is in Her” — aka Oholibah — Ezekiel seemed to be saying that God’s desire had always been for Jerusalem to be the place in which his people — both Judeans and Samaritans — would gather and become the dwelling place where the Spirit of God would reside. However, both Samaria and Jerusalem rejected their purpose and instead began to wander to other nations to be filled with contrary thoughts and emotions through extended social intercourse with Israel’s neighbors.
After reading Ezekiel’s allegory, some postmodern thinkers might get distracted in arguing that the story represents an archaic view of women who have not been intellectually and sexually liberated. For such people it might be helpful to point out that Ezekiel’s story about Oholah and Oholibah is not all that different from Kendrick’s story about Keisha from “Keisha’s Song” and Keisha’s sister from the second verse of “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst.” In both stories, the first sister leads the way into prostitution until she is sexually assaulted and then stabbed to death. In both stories, the second sister is not deterred by her sister’s tragic death. Instead, she becomes more proud about her prostitution and resistant to anyone who tries to help free her.
Knowing that the desire to “keep it real” would continue to inspire resistance to change, Kendrick explained that his motivation for telling the story of the two sisters was to break the cycle which would otherwise cause all subsequent generations to be cursed.
And your sister’s situation was the one that pulled me
In a direction to speak on somethin’
That’s realer than the TV screen
By any means, wasn’t tryin’ to offend or come between
Her personal life, I was like “It need to be told.”
Cursin’ the life of twenty generations after her soul
Exactly what’d happen if I ain’t continue rappin’
Or steady bein’ distracted by money, drugs, and four-fives
- Kendrick Lamar from “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”
Unfortunately for the ancient Israelites, those who initially heard Ezekiel’s story refused to listen to it until it was too late. As a result, their generation was the one to experience the full weight of the curses from Deuteronomy 28 (see Part 3: Curses & Commandments). Those who survived death by the sword were deported from their ancestral land and scattered into exile by the Assyrian and Babylonian empires, where they were left to mourn the destruction of their temple.
After the initial shock wore off, many Israelites assumed that the destruction of their temple must mean that the gods of Assyria and Babylon were more powerful than the God of Israel. They thus chose to abandon the God of their ancestors and fully devote themselves to the temples in the nations where they had been scattered. However, others held onto their belief that God would rescue his people from death. These faithful Israelites found renewed hope in the last nine chapters of Ezekiel’s writings which contain a detailed vision he experienced while living in exile in Babylon.
In Ezekiel’s vision, God brought Ezekiel back to Jerusalem. There God showed Ezekiel a new temple that would be built to replace the destroyed temple once Israel’s enemies were defeated and the Israelites returned to the land. However, as Ezekiel examined the structure it became clear that this new temple represented something much greater than the old temple.
Most notably, Ezekiel saw that water was flowing out of the ground under the entrance of the temple. This water gathered until it formed a stream of water running out to the east into Arabah, the desolate and dry region near the Dead Sea. As the water flowed into the Dead Sea, everything that the water touched began to burst forth with new life.
This water runs out to the eastern region, and flows into the Arabah; and when it comes into the sea, into the sea of filthy waters, the water will become wholesome. Every living creature that swarms will be able to live wherever this stream goes; the fish will be very abundant once these waters have reached there. It will be wholesome, and everything will live wherever this stream goes.
All kinds of trees for fruit will grow up on both banks of the stream. Their leaves will not wither nor their fruit fail; they will yield new fruit every month, because the water for them flows from the Temple. Their fruit will serve for food and their leaves for healing.
- Ezekiel 47:8–9,12
As the Israelites sat down and wept by the rivers in Babylon, they found hope in Ezekiel’s vision. They held onto the promise that they would one day return to their native land and rebuild the temple. 70 years after the Babylonian conquest, their hopes seemed to be coming true when the Babylonians were defeated by the Persian Empire. Cyrus, the king of Persia, reversed the deportation tactics of the Babylonian Empire and allowed the Judeans to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. Then the leaders, priests, Levites prepared to depart along with “everyone whose spirit God had stirred to go up and rebuild the house of the Lord” (see Ezra 1:1–5).
At first it seemed that the Israelites were well on their way to seeing Ezekiel’s vision come to pass. However, as the foundation of the second temple was laid, those who had seen the original temple wept in disappointment because they knew that the second temple would be nowhere near as glorious as the original temple— not to speak of the temple from Ezekiel’s vision (see Ezra 3:12).
Furthermore, unlike Ezekiel’s prophecy, Israel’s enemies had yet to be defeated in battle. Many of the Israelites still lived in exile and Judea still was under the rule of the Persian Empire. Even as the second temple became the new center for Israelite worship, the Israelites themselves were scattered like seed across the earth from Persia to Egypt and to Spain as successive empires took turns conquering Judea along with most of the known world.
By the time that King Herod the Great reigned over Judea and began his famous renovations to the second temple around 20 BCE, the Judeans were under the rule of the Roman Empire who had themselves installed Herod as a puppet king. The fact that the second temple continued to flourish even while the Roman’s occupied the promised land made more and more people question why God had not yet delivered Israel from its enemies.
One of the prevailing explanations of why Israel had not become great again was given by a political-religious party known as the Pharisees. The Pharisees claimed that the reason that the political situation hadn’t changed was that most of the Judeans were not following the 613 commandments from the Torah. Based on this reasoning and a belief that common people could not follow the 613 laws to the Pharisees’ standards, the Pharisees instituted hundreds of additional laws in order to “build a fence around the Torah”. The thought was that by strictly enforcing these additional laws the Pharisees could prevent the people from coming anywhere close to breaking the original laws given by Moses.
The unfortunate consequence of this approach is that these additional laws placed a heavy burden upon the people. The burden was particularly oppressive for people on the fringes of society — particularly women, the poor and the physically disabled. Often the additional laws prohibited such people from entering the temple. Those who were able to enter often were still unable to participate because buying an animal sacrifice placed a heavy financial burden on those already crushed by the Roman taxation system. At the busiest times of the year — particularly during Passover — the poor were further excluded by rampant price gouging and other exploitative sales practices.
Thus, the fence that the religious leaders created to guard the word of God from sinful people instead became a cage that prevented the word of God from reaching the outsiders. Similarly, the temple which was supposed to be a source of living water had instead become an open drain which dried up the resources of the poor. It is with this social context in mind that a disciple named John began the poetic introduction to his account of the gospel. In his introduction, he made the paradoxical claim that from the beginning of the biblical narrative, Jesus had existed as the word of God who came to the unreceptive Israelites.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.
He came to his own, and his own did not receive him.
John 1:1-2, 10
While the Ancient Israelites as a whole might have rejected the word of God, the Tanakh does mention several individuals throughout the ages who received the word of the Lord when it came to them. The first instance of the word of the Lord coming to an individual happened to the Israelite ancestor, Abraham, when God promised to be Abraham’s reward (see Genesis 15:1–2). The word of the Lord also came to David’s son, King Solomon, while Solomon was in the process of building the first temple and told Solomon that God would “dwell among the children of Israel” (see 1 Kings 6:9–13)
There were also numerous prophets whom the scriptures mention the word of the Lord coming to. However, the two prophets who received the word of the Lord most frequently were the authors Jeremiah and Ezekiel — to whom the word of the Lord came nearly 90 times between them, more than all other people in the Tanakh combined. The sheer volume with which God spoke through Jeremiah and Ezekiel is likely related to that fact that these were the two prophets who lived through the destruction of the first temple and spoke of a future day when God would bring his people out of exile and live amongst them once again.
However, while prophets like Jeremiah and Ezekiel were faithful messengers of God’s justice and mercy, other prophets proved to be unreliable messengers who either refused to proclaim the word that was sent to them or distort the message through intentional omissions. One of the most notable examples of such problematic prophets is Jonah. Fittingly, Jonah was a contemporary of Amos and prophesied in favor of an unjust king who Amos prophesied against. As we have discussed elsewhere, the word of the Lord came to Jonah twice. In the first instance, Jonah ran away to avoid giving Israel’s enemies the chance to hear God’s word. In the second instance, Jonah agreed to prophesy but neglected to mention God or the possibility of mercy.
The rejection of God’s word by prophets like Jonah meant that even if God sent his word, it would likely not reach the people. Thus, the people would continue to faint of thirst. With no one reliable enough to proclaim the Word of God, it seemed that the word would need to find a better way to reveal itself to the people. This need for clear revelation seems to be what John was getting at when he described Jesus as the embodiment of God’s word.
The Word became flesh and made his residence in a tent among us.
To further highlight Jesus as the fulfillment of Jeremiah and Ezekiel’s prophecies, John mentioned that Jesus came to reside in a tent among the Israelites. Here John was not speaking of Jesus’s literal residence. Instead, he was making a reference to the Tent of Meeting, also known as the Tabernacle. The Tent of Meeting was a mobile structure built by Moses. It was the place where God met with Moses and the priests on behalf of the Israelites. The Tent of Meeting contained another structure called the “Residence”, or Mishkan in Hebrew. This was the place where God’s presence — or Spirit — was said to reside among the Israelites as they too resided in tents during the 40 years spent wandering in the wilderness. The Tent of Meeting held these functions until many years after the Israelites entered the promised land and Solomon was granted the resources to build the first temple in Jerusalem.
By associating Jesus’s flesh with the Tent of Meeting, John was making several bold claims. Firstly, John was claiming that Jesus at his essence is God. Furthermore, John was claiming that Jesus’s body was the most perfect fulfillment of the temple’s original purpose — providing a physical medium through which humans could meet with God.
If Jesus fulfilled the purpose of the temple, it stood to reason that there was no longer the same need for the Second Temple where the Judeans worshiped during Jesus’s lifetime. Hence, Jesus’s life created an inherent rivalry between two temples — much like the rivalry between the Samaritan Temple on Mount Gerizim and Judean Second Temple on Mount Zion that we discussed in Track 6: LOYALTY. — Verse 2. The previous temple rivalry eventually led to the Judean high priest sending an army to destroy the Samaritan Temple. Thus, anyone who knew the history of Judean would know that John’s introduction is setting up the central point of conflict which will recur throughout John’s account of the Gospel.
Jesus as the Eternal Temple
The first instance of Jesus supplanting the Second Temple occurs in the second chapter when Jesus visited the Second Temple during Passover and proceeded turn over tables and forcibly drive away the temple merchants who were getting rich by selling sacrificial animals to the poor at exploitative prices. Jesus thus temporarily shut down the sacrificial system of the Second Temple. When the religious leaders challenged Jesus to prove he had authority to halt sacrificed at the temple, Jesus claimed that he would rebuild the temple after religious leaders destroyed it. The leaders dismissed the notion that Jesus could rebuild such a grand building. However, as John explained, Jesus was not talking about a building.
Jesus replied, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again.” Then the Judean leaders said to him, “This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and are you going to raise it up in three days?” But Jesus was speaking about the temple of his body.
For John, Jesus’s resurrection after being killed by the Judean leaders was the ultimate proof that Jesus was the eternal temple. Moreover, Jesus’s life trajectory of being swallowed by the grave only to rise up after three days showed that Jesus has come to proclaim the Word that Jonah refused to proclaim: that God desired to have mercy on the enemies of Israel.
Jesus as the Wellspring of Living Water
To further emphasize God’s desire to reach those outside of Israel, John goes on to tell a story of Jesus speaking to a Samaritan woman. As we discussed in Track 6: LOYALTY. — Verse 2, the Samaritans were the hated enemies of the Judeans during Jesus’s lifetime. The animosity had begun centuries earlier when the Samaritans tried to undermine the initial Judean effort to rebuild the Second Temple under Zerubbabel. In 111 BC, the Judean high priest of the Second Temple exasperated relations when he sent an army to destroy the Samaritan temple on Mount Gerizim near a town called Shechem and enslave the surviving citizens of Shechem.
It so happens that Jesus’s conversation with the Samaritan woman occurred at a well in a town built on the ruins of Shechem. The Samaritan woman even refers to the conflict between the Judean sand Samaritan temples by asking Jesus which temple her people should worship at. Jesus tells her that in the future, people will not worship God at either the Judean temple or the Samaritan temple. Instead, people will worship God “in Spirit and Truth.” In case the audience was still wondering whether Jesus was the new temple that Ezekiel had prophesied, Jesus also claimed that he could give the Samaritan woman living water so that she would not be thirsty again.
Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this well’s water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”
The woman initially thought Jesus was talking about literal water. However, she soon understood that Jesus was speaking prophetically after Jesus revealed that he knew her desire for a stable husband had left her unsatisfied. Five husbands had sent her away divorced and the sixth man who she lived with refused to grant her the dignity of marriage.
Even though such a checkered history had left her ostracized by a conservative society, Jesus claimed that the living water he offered could transform her so that water would spring out of her just like it had sprung out of the temple in Ezekiel’s vision. Essentially, Jesus was saying that this woman who would have been prohibited from entering the Second Temple could herself become a small version of the eternal temple.
Jesus ended his conversation with the Samaritan woman without giving any explanation of how or when such a transformation would take place. The author seemingly holds the reader in suspense for a few chapters until Jesus returns to Jerusalem for a special festival called the Feast of Tents.
Jesus as the Conduit of God’s Spirit
The Feasts of Tents (also known as the Feast of Tabernacles in 17th Century English and Sukkot in Hebrew) was a feast that was instituted by Moses while the Israelites were living in the wilderness. The feast called for all future generations of Israelites to leave their houses and spend a week living in tents. The Feast of Tents was meant to remind all future generations of how God had caused their ancestors to live in tents for forty years and how God had resided in attempt among the tents of his people. The feast also recalled how God satisfied the basic desires of those living in the wilderness by providing a stream of flowing water which sprung from a rock.
On the final day of the feast after the people had spent a week living in tents and reading aloud the wilderness stories from the Torah, Jesus stood among the people and offered the same living water that he had spoken of with the Samaritan woman. He claimed that this water would transform the belly — i.e. the center of a persons bodily desires — into an overflowing source of water capable of satisfying the desires of others.
Jesus cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me. The person who believes in me, as the scripture has said, ‘Out of that person’s belly will flow rivers of living water.’
(Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive)
- John 7:37–39
It is only after this climatic statement that the author adds a parenthetical statement to explain that the living water that Jesus spoke about was actually metaphor for the Spirit of God. Essentially, the author was claiming that Jesus would give those who put their trust in Jesus a new pattern of thoughts and emotions that would satisfy their deepest desires and allow them to pour themselves into the lives of others.
Fittingly, the way that Jesus instructed his followers to declare that they had put their trust in him was by allowing their bodies to be fully immersed in water as part of a ritual known as baptism.
The Baptism of Water and Spirit
The word baptism comes from the Greek word baptízō which meant “to immerse.” The first biblical mentions of baptism as a religious ritual occur in each of the four Gospel accounts with the introduction of a man referred to as John the Baptist (different John than the one who wrote one of the Gospel accounts). John the Baptist was a prophet who lived in the wilderness of Judea and preached about how the Israelites needed to repent — literally, to think differently. The Israelites who went to the desert to repent were then baptized in the Jordan River — the same river that the Ancient Israelites had passed through when they first entered the promised land under the leadership of the first Yeshua — aka Joshua (see Track 2: DNA. — Verse 1).
Many of the Israelites who heard John the Baptist wondered if John’s act of baptizing in the Jordan River meant that he was the Messiah — the Anointed King who would free Israel from oppression. However, John quickly clarified that his baptism was only a preparation for an individual to receive an even more transformative baptism from the Messiah.
I immerse you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me … He will immerse you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
- Matthew 3:11
At some point, the second Yeshua — aka Jesus — arrived and John immediately recognized him as the Messiah. However, to John’s surprise, this man who was meant to be king asked to be brought down under the waters of baptism. John even tried to stop Jesus from making himself subject to a lesser man, but Jesus replied that such a voluntary inversion of traditional hierarchy was a fitting way to create right relationships amongst all humanity.
John tried to prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and you are coming to me?”
But Jesus answered him, “Let it happen now; for it is fitting for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.”
- Matthew 3:14–15
Jesus’s baptism was one of the most significant moments of his life. It is his earliest life event that is recorded in all four Gospel accounts. Moreover, Jesus’s baptism was one of the earliest indicators of how the Anointed King planned to create relational justice in his kingdom. Like the king of Nineveh, Jesus would take the lead in humbling himself and calling all of his people to join him in undergoing the baptism of repentance — i.e. immersing themselves in different thoughts.
Even beyond the similarities to the king of Nineveh, baptism has always been seen as a re-enactment of the Jonah narrative. In baptism, the individual acknowledges that she has rejected God’s call and followed her intuition in the opposite direction. In order to turn around — i.e. to convert, the individual must allow herself to be thrown down to the bottom of a watery grave where the evil desires of one’s former life are laid to rest. It is only after this symbolic death by drowning and the individual’s trust in a subsequent resurrection that the individual is lifted up out of the watery grave so that her body can be inspired by the breath of God — aka the Spirit.
Baptism thus marks the start of a new kind of life that is eternal and filled with good desires — desires that will allow others to enter into this same eternal life. This is the kind of life that Ezekiel saw springing forth in his vision of a stream of living water flowing from the new temple. Thus, as the river flowed under the temple of Jesus’s body into the desert and the Spirit of God came upon his body, Jesus showed himself to be the fulfillment of Ezekiel’s eternal temple.
Then John consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming upon him.
- Matthew 3: 16
Given the claim from the Gospel according to John that undergoing baptism in water and receiving the Spirit is the way in which the God of Israel sought to satisfy the thirst of his people, it should not be surprising that “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst” concludes with Kendrick going through this same process. We first hear a thinly veiled reference to baptism in the last line of the final verse.
You dyin’ of thirst, you dyin’ of thirst
So hop in that water, and pray that it works.
- Kendrick Lamar from “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”
After Kendrick ends the last verse with an ambiguous line about hopping in water, the track cuts back to a scene where Dave’s older brother is crying out that he is “tired of this shit”. It is then that an anonymous woman interrupts Kendrick and his friends out of concern for their state of mind. Seeing a gun in one of their hands, the woman offers a diagnosis of what is truly wrong with them.
Young man, come talk to me!
[seeing the gun]
Is that what I think that is?
I know that’s not what I think that is
Why are you so angry?
See, you young men are dying of thirst
Do you know what that means?
That means you need water, holy water
You need to be baptized, with the spirit of the Lord
Do you want to receive God as your personal savior?
- The anonymous woman from “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst”
The anonymous woman claims that the only way for Kendrick and his friends to have their minds fundamentally transformed is to be baptized in the water of God’s Spirit. They must become completely immersed in the pattern of thoughts and emotions that come from the living God. The woman is thus making the same claim that John presented in his stories about Jesus talking to the Samaritan woman at the well and the people at the Feast of Tents.
After experiencing the destructive thirst which came from pursuing evil desires throughout GKMC, Kendrick humbled himself, prayed to acknowledge Jesus as his king, and agreed to be baptized. Now that Kendrick is experiencing that same thirst at the beginning of “LUST.” one would think that Kendrick will soon realize that he needs to return to the source of living water. We will see whether Kendrick can turn away from his desires for sex, money and murder as we explore the rest of the track.
Track 9: LUST. — Chorus and Verses