Rule 1: Always begin by placing a passage of the Bible (text) within its proper boundaries. In other words, do not select either too small or too large a portion of Scripture and fail to take into account what comes before or after it. Once you have determined the boundaries of your text ask yourself: To whom was it written? Why? What was going on historically at this time? Politically? Economically? What was the mood of the author? Questions such as these enable you to determine the context of your passage. Finally, be aware of your personal pretext; that is, what you bring to the text. For example, you are male/female, a certain age, married, single, a parent, childless, white, middle class, Lutheran, etc.
Rule 2: We are more concerned with what the text is trying to say (cargo) than how it is trying to say it (vehicle). Truth is a commodity which can be carried in a number of different vehicles: historical narrative, parable, proverb, fable, allegory, mathematical equation. Always remember, truth is not synonymous with history. As the Zen Master said, "Don't confuse the finger pointing at the moon with the moon."
Rule 3: Don't make the text say more (or less) than it is attempting to say. Always strive to discover the one main point of the story and resist the temptation to read into the text that which is not there.
Rule 4: Avoid taking passages out of context. Make sure that your interpretation jives with the rest of the Biblical witness, both Old and New Testaments.