One must research each passage in Scripture, using a Strong’s Concordance, to discover the meaning of the Greek and Hebrew words. The meaning of the Biblical passage is not determined by what the English words “mean to you in your mind”. The Bible is not a “subjective experience”. The message that God has given us is determined by what God said to Noah, or Miriam, etc. and recorded by Moses or Matthew in the specific meaning in the ancient Hebrew and Koine Greek languages in which God had the Scriptures to be written—not based upon what Noah or Miriam Webster say that an English word means in English. Furthermore, God is Immutable, truth is immutable, morality never changes... not a jot or tittle.* Morality was forever established each time God commanded, “Thou shalt not!” and “This shalt thou do!” The only valid interpretation is the one that finds the harmony in the immediate context and within overall Scripture. God will never contradict himself. If any passage seems to contradict another the reader is confused.
[* or more properly, keraia, should not be translated tittle, which means a “little dot”, but should be translated tiny hook or horn on the top of a letter, like serif fonts like Times New Roman or Agaramond, on the slight flourishing hooks on the top of letters such as b,d,h,k,l, etc. Horns of animals are, we are told, tightly compressed hair, and a hair protein is called keratin, and this Greek word keraia is whence that word keratin is derived.]
Understanding Scripture is no different than understanding the plot of a mystery novel, chemistry, a puzzle (crossword, jigsaw, “what’s wrong with this picture?”, “how is this one list of things the same as this other list of completely different things?” etc.), or being a crime scene detective or engineer trying to resolve a problem. Very few things are binary (on or off, this or that)... there is a complex inter-relationship of maybe a dozen different things, and like the pins in a lock’s tumbler, all have to be lined up properly in relation to each other for the lock to open. Thus, no verse is an island unto itself, but interconnected, and the only interpretation is to find the harmony to discover how, for example, 4 different statements that sound different can all be true at the same time. Understand also, God may not have given us all the information that we need to know in order to come to a definitive answer to understand everything, but that does not mean that we are to believe nonsense or that God made a mistake or contradicted Himself or “changed His Mind” (see my book, Does God Repent? Can God Change His Mind?). Sometimes the missing piece of information is hidden in an obscure passage. Regardless it does not honor your Master to believe that He is a hypocrite, liar, whimsical, untrue, or confused. You cannot understand Scripture without understanding God’s Nature and God reveals His Nature in His Word. Thus, Scripture indeed is one of those things in which the whole cannot be understood until you understand the individual parts, and you cannot understand the individual parts until you understand the whole. This is not as ominous as it sounds. It is the same in many areas and you just don’t realize it because you treat things causally and learn as you go. However, God’s Word is not to be treated casually. It is Holy. It never changes; and it is not merely “information” at times, but unchanging commands. Imagine being in the military, or a child given rules by his parents when they are away from home, or the older son who is put in a position of management of a large family business; the rules / orders / instructions are to be obeyed and the consequences of disobedience can be severe, long-reaching, and even permanent. (See also my upcoming, highly annotated reprinting of Arthur Pink’s, The Attributes of God.) Only if one understands God’s Nature can one understand the Word of God—for God is not a man that He should lie or repent. We are not to project our ideas onto God, like throwing a halloween costume at His Feet and saying, “Here, Put this on!” We are to conform our minds to His. He reveals His Mind in His Word and it never changes. Those who think it does are confused.
Words have different meaning, but a word can only mean one thing in one context (and there can be a play on words—but one is literal and one figurative and the two should never be confused). A few jokes / riddles to make a point:
What did one strawberry say to another strawberry?
When is a car not a car?
What did the mayonnaise say when someone opened the refrigerator door?
(Answers below, in a moment.)
While the usages of words in Scriptures will not be as blatant as these examples (though sometimes it may be) the point is: Words have original meaning, like the leg on your body; and words have extended meanings, meanings that arise out of the original meaning used in a different or figurative context. The leg of a table or chair or the last leg of a journey or race are not the same as the leg on your body. A lake may even be named “dog’s leg” if that is what it looks like from an aerial view. A myriad of examples could be given. Fire can mean a combusting heat burning organic material that serves as fuel, it can mean to shoot a gun, or dismiss someone from a job. But in coherent thought, the word will not mean all those things and those three meanings cannot be used interchangably in any sentence; and certainly not in any verse of Scripture.
If you weren’t so fresh we wouldn't be in this jam.
When it is turning into a driveway.
Eeeek! Close the door... I’m dressing.]
Not every instance of the word neighbour, stranger, enemy, etc., is the same. Though the word “brother” is sometimes “interpreted” in a “spiritual” sense, it should not be. According to God our only brothers are kinsmen. God commanded us His people to live separate from aliens. Our only neighbors are to be kinsmen. In the New Testament the word brother / brethren is the Greek word aldephos, “of the same womb”.
In Psalm 79:4 the word neighbour may confuse some. It is no neighbour that we would have allowed into our community had we obeyed God; but it is not referring to the guy who lives on the other side of the fence from your property, it is referring to alien nations surrounding the nation of Biblical Israel and is the Hebrew word #7934 shawkeyn, and refers only to “the act of lodging, geographic domicile”, not any relationship.
However, in other passages a more intimate word for neighbour is used that clearly refers to kinsmen; as in Exodus 20:17: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbour’s wife...”
It is the Hebrew word #7453 rey-ah, “associate”; but its deeper meaning is only understood in the meaning of its root word #7462 raw-aw, “to tend a flock, pasture it”. Thus, it refers to an intimate, familial association, true fellowship, or to “fellow-sheep”—and sheep and pigs are to have no fellowship. Dogs and swine scatter the flock. God’s true people are his Sheep. Alien nations are swine, dogs. “Give not that which is holy...” Christ declared. “Come out from among them and be ye separate” God commanded to His people after they had been delivered up to their enemies, carried into captivity, and now were on the threshold of being forgiven and restored, and were about to return to their land. The first step was separation as God commanded; which including putting away all marriages (and offspring) with aliens which God forever forbade. Morality never changes. Biblical adoption is within the family; never crossing the boundaries that God commanded: “everything after its own kind” and “come out from among them and be ye separate” and “touch not [more properly, join not unto] the unclean [not “thing”, but] people... [and only then] shall ye be My sons and daughters [indeed]” (II Corinthians 6:17,18). Biblical adoption (literally, “son placing”) is if the parents of young kinsmen die, the nearest kin / kinsman redeemer adopts them. It refers to the re-reinstatement to a place of honor of a previously disgraced person back to a place of honor (as the prodigal son) and it refers to a boy coming to the age of manhood, before which, he is still like a servant (Galatians 4:1). It does not refer to aliens being brought into the family—which God forbade.