We say alleged inaccuracies, because to upright souls who wait on God to be taught by His Spirit, what many of the learned of this world think to be contradictory or incorrect, they find to be full of blessing when rightly understood. No doubt errors in copying with the pen accidentally crept in; verbal errors, too, in translation from one language into another; but the preservation of the scriptures as they are is of itself a standing miracle, and distinctly marks the guardian care of God. But supposing in our present version there are some few verbal inaccuracies, they by no means touch the great lines of truth as to creation, redemption, and glory in and through our Lord Jesus Christ, which are so prominently and fully set forth. Let us look at some of the supposed discrepancies.
One of the commonest statements made by the opposers of the truth is, that as all other living and moving creatures are said to have living souls as well as man, there is therefore no more proof of a man having an immortal existence than brutes. Now the answer is plain and unquestionable. Brutes have living souls as a part of their creation, concerning which God said, "Let the waters bring forth," or, "Let the earth bring forth;" whereas God formed man of the dust of the ground, and "breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." (Gen. 1:20, 24, 30; margin; 2:7.) Thus man was not only unlike every other creature in that he was created in the image of God, but he "became a living soul" by God's in-breathing. Hence his immortality: hence his existence after death. If he dies in his sins, after death is judgment. His body only is spoken of as mortal.
We must not, however, confound immortality with eternal life. Eternal life is by our being associated with Christ the Saviour by faith; and thus receiving the gift of eternal life. "God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life, and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life." (1 John 5:11, 12.)
First and Second Chapters of Genesis
A very old attack of rationalists as to these chapters giving two accounts of the creation, and contradicting each other, has lately been revived, and largely published. The perfection of the two chapters are wholly unperceived by them; so true is it, that "the things of God knoweth no man but the Spirit of God." (1 Cor. 2:11.) The truth is, that in the first section of the book of Genesis, which extends to the end of the third verse of the second chapter, we have God's work and His rest. God only (Elohim) is spoken of all through. It is not God giving us an account of everything He created, for angels and other heavenly beings are not there included; but it is God giving us so much as He judged best for our profit and blessing. After the general statement in the first verse, the second verse shows us the chaotic state the earth was in when God began to form the present heaven and earth for man. Between the first and second verses, a considerable time may have elapsed, and vast changes have taken place, so as to account for geological discoveries; for the earth, not the heaven, was without form, and void. The earth, no doubt, when created, must have been perfect. As for God, his way is perfect."
In the first chapter it is God making everything for man's comfort and blessing day after day, on the sixth day forming man, and on the seventh day resting because all was finished. God is mentioned in this section about thirty times; but in the second chapter we have not simply God (Elohim), but all through it is the Lord God (Jehovah Elohim). Why is this? Because it treats of man's relationship with God. Now relationship is formed, God reveals Himself as Jehovah God. Unlike the first chapter, it is not here God giving a consecutive account of what He made in six days, and then rested; but this chapter enters into details more in moral order than in a consecutive style, and very especially occupies us with Jehovah Elohim's thoughts and ways with "the first man." He is long afterward spoken of in scripture as "the first man," and this chapter is authenticated by being quoted from in that he "was made a living soul." (1 Cor. 15:45.) Genesis 2 informs us, that "Jehovah God formed man out of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." He was to till the ground. He might eat of every tree except "the tree of the knowledge of good and evil," and if he did eat of it, death would be the result. As he was created to have dominion over every living creature on earth, Jehovah Elohim brought them to him to name them; and whatever he called them, that was the name thereof. The account also recorded of the formation of Eve, gives us one of the most striking types of Christ and the church found within the whole compass of scripture. There is also the intimation, that redemption was not brought in merely to repair what man had spoiled; but that, before sin entered, God's eternal counsel and purpose as to Christ and the church were before His mind, and, as we are afterwards told, we were chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world. The earth, however, would be the platform on which man must be tested; man innocent, and man guilty; man without law and man under law; man in Christ's presence on earth, and now during the presence and power of the Holy Spirit come down; and man will be tested also under Christ's reign in righteousness, and as Judge of all. And in the eternal state while the earthly people occupy the sin-cleansed earth in unchanging blessedness, the church ― the bride and body of Christ ― shall share the inheritance with the Heir of all things, and shine in heavenly glory throughout all ages. (Eph. 3:21.) Thus in the type Adam could say, "This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh" ― "one flesh," and all the result of the man's "deep sleep," so that she shares with him his dominion and glory. Few chapters have been more thoroughly authenticated by our Lord and His apostles than Genesis 2. On one occasion, when an inspired writer referred to Adam and Eve, he says, "Adam was first formed, then Eve." (1 Tim. 2:13.) This chapter unfolds this to us, and gives most important information as to man's accountability, privileges, and blessings, as well as enters into detail as to what took place on the sixth day. It also gives us the divine institution of marriage, and that man and wife should now typically set forth Christ and the church. (Eph. 5) Had we not all this instruction, in what darkness and uncertainty as to these things should we be; and if men were hearkening to God, and seeking to learn of Him in reading and pondering His holy word, instead of expressing themselves with such temerity and mistaken zeal, the alleged inaccuracies would never have been heard of.
It does not say in the first chapter that Adam and Eve were made at the same time; nor does it say in the second chapter that man was formed before the animals. Each chapter is perfect after its kind. In the first, we have the consecutive account of God having made all in six days, and then rested. In the second chapter we have the moral order of Jehovah Elohim's relationship with man; hence the statement that, man having been formed of the dust of the earth, God breathed into him "the breath of life, and man became a living soul;" his responsibility as to the trees, his dominion, and the blessing of an help-meet, have a more fitting place here than in the first chapter.
The oft-repeated and irreverent statement, that in writing the first two chapters of Genesis, Moses copied from two different "theories of creation" which contradict each other, is a mere fable, and carries with it its own refutation. A moment's reflection is enough to convince any fair mind, that no one could give a true account of creation unless God had revealed it. Besides, as we have seen, the second chapter, in divine perfection, follows the first in giving us further information as to Adam and Eve, which could not properly be introduced into the first, which chiefly sets forth God's creatorial ways. We do well to remember that Moses was commanded to write, that he often gave his authority with, "Jehovah said unto Moses," that he abode in the mount with God forty days and forty nights at a time, and is spoken of as "faithful in all his house as a servant." Moreover we ask, Where in scripture is there a shred of authority for such charges against the book of Genesis?
No human being, however much spiritually instructed, pretends to understand all scripture, or to be able to clear up all the difficulties that may be presented. On the contrary, even the most gifted apostle, when contemplating God in His dispensational actings, says, in a worshipping spirit, "O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out!" (Rom. 11:33.) For any of us to suppose, that we can comprehend all the mysteries of divine truth, would only be the clearest proof of our ignorance. "If any man think that he knoweth anything, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought to know." (1 Cor. 8:2.) If apostles were wont to say, "We know in part," how small must be the measure of any of us now! It is not by argument we advance spiritually; but humble souls God will bless. We have never yet known a child of God, who has quietly waited on God for the teaching of the Spirit as to difficulties in scripture, but could say that some things which seemed to be inexplicable, have not only been cleared up, but have brought blessing to his soul. Jeremiah felt the need of this in his day. He said, "Hear ye, and give ear; be not proud; for Jehovah hath spoken;" for it was as true then as it is now, that, "the proud he knoweth afar off." Logic is not faith. Happy are they who bow before God, and say, "Speak, Lord, for thy servant heareth." Happy are those who are obedient to His word.
Nor has the inspired account of the Deluge escaped the rude hand of mistaken men. Very lately there has emanated from the press, by a professed protestant teacher, charges of "historical inaccuracies in the Bible," and "contradictory statements," which, he says, "cannot be true." "As an example," says he, "compare Genesis 6 with Genesis 7:3. 'Of fowls after their kind, and of cattle after their kind . . . . two of every sort shall come unto thee to keep them alive.' 'Of fowls also of the air by sevens, the male and the female, to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth.'" The charge of inaccuracy and contradiction is, that the direction in one chapter is that Noah is to take two of every kind, and in another chapter seven. Let us see how far it be an inaccuracy, or whether it be not a ministry of Christ, and an example of the divine perfection of the word.
If the reader turns to a paragraph Bible, he will find these statements in two separate paragraphs, the first extending from Genesis 6:13 to the end of the chapter, and in it God is commanding, and God is obeyed by Noah. Observe, it is God here. The other expression referred to begins with chapter 7, and ends with the fifth verse, and here it is Jehovah commanding, and it concludes with, "thus Noah did, according to all that Jehovah commanded him." The first allusion to "Two of every sort shall come unto thee [Noah] to keep them alive," is God's (Elohim's) care of His creatures to preserve every kind alive in the earth. But when we read of His taking "of every clean beast by sevens, his male and his female," it is God as Jehovah who speaks. And why? Because He is now arranging as in relationship with man for sacrifices ― types of Christ. The paragraph, therefore, begins with, "Jehovah said unto Noah, Come, thou and all thy house, into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation." (Chap. 7:1.) How striking this is! It is God as Jehovah owning relationship on the ground of redemption with Noah, the man of faith, as we know he was. (See Heb. 11:7.) We are therefore told, in the next place, that he was to take clean beasts, by sevens, and also the fowl of the heaven by sevens, and it is then added, "to keep seed alive upon the face of all the earth," for the judgment of the deluge was at hand. Now, the reason of this addition to the general command of two of every sort is very manifest to souls who have to do with Christ, as taught and led by His Holy Spirit. It was Jehovah's mind that the accomplished work of Jesus, on which all our blessings are founded, should be frequently before Him in figure by the offering up of sacrifices. For this "clean beasts," and "fowls of the heaven" were indispensable, for surely nothing unclean could typify the Holy Saviour. Had there been only "two of every sort," the offering of some in sacrifice would have put an end to those particular kinds of created beings. So the "sevens" left ample room both for sacrifices, and "to keep seed alive on the face of all the earth." Thus Jehovah, who counted His people "righteous" on the principle of faith in a coming Redeemer, shadowed forth Christ in the "clean beasts" and "fowls" for sacrifices, as Adam and Noah in their measure also were figures of Him, as "the last Adam," in having dominion over the created things around them. We find that, no sooner did Noah emerge from the ark, and set foot on the purged earth, than he "builded an altar unto Jehovah, and took of every clean beast, and of every clean fowl, and offered burnt-offerings on the altar," which most blessedly typified Christ's sacrifice of Himself. "And Jehovah smelled a sweet savour; and Jehovah said in His heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake," etc. Now, where is the "inaccuracy"? Is it not clear that the "sevens" were actually needed for the sacrifice of "burnt-offerings;" and, if not provided for, would have at once exterminated some, at least, of the "two of every sort"? Where is the "contradiction"? If two applied to all unclean animals, and seven to clean ones, because of the requirements of sacrifices, where is the difficulty? The child of God, to whom the scriptures are "profitable," and for whose "comfort" they are written, finds a real delight in the contemplation of such passages of holy scripture, as opened up to him by the Holy Spirit; while the philosopher, and all other of the wise and prudent of this world, see nothing to interest, and try to see much to find fault with. Now we trust it is clear to our readers, why it is said of Noah, that "Jehovah shut him in," while in the same verse it is said, they "went in male and female of all flesh, as God commanded him." (Gen. 7:16.) The scriptures abound with such marks of their divinity. How true are our Saviour's words to the Father, "Thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight." (Matt. 11:25, 26.)
Jacob's Going into Egypt
It has been stated, that because we read in scripture of those who went down into Egypt being sixty-six in one place, in another seventy, and in a third seventy-five, there must necessarily be contradiction in the statements but those who make such statements have not read the passages with sufficient care to perceive that they are three different calculations.
1. If we turn to Genesis 46, we find a complete list of those who composed the sixty-six, and accompanied Jacob into Egypt. Such accuracy is manifested in the account, that two who had died were named only to show they were not in the list. "All the souls that came with Jacob into Egypt, which came out of his loins, all the souls were threescore and six." This is the first list.
2. The next verse tells us that "all the souls of the house of Jacob came into Egypt were threescore and ten." This is the second list. How is it so calculated? Because Joseph and his two sons which were born him in Egypt were there already. Hence these with Jacob, as stated, made up the number of seventy souls. Now where is the contradiction? Nay more. Is it possible to read this chapter attentively, without being struck with the care that is taken to avoid the appearance of any discrepancy? But further. If we look into the beginning of Exodus 1, we again find the list spoken of as seventy, and including not only Jacob's eleven sons by name, who came out of his loins, and went with him into Egypt, but, in strict agreement with Genesis 46:27, it is added, "for Joseph was in Egypt already." Now where is there any contradiction?
3. When Stephen, in his famous speech, refers to this, he says, "Then sent Joseph, and called his father Jacob to him, and all his kindred, threescore and fifteen souls." (Acts 7:14.) This is the third list, and here, even to upright souls, a difficulty may present itself. Observe, however, in this calculation, that Joseph and his sons may not be included, and if so, it leaves room for nine more of the Patriarch's "kindred;" and kindred is certainly not the same thought as those who "came out of his loins." We do not offer any positive solution of the difficulty, nor is it needful to prove how exactly the list of seventy-five was made up. If we had been told that two of his sons' wives had died, it would be made clear, but we are not told, and must be silent. It is enough to know that Stephen, in this statement, quoted from the Septuagint, the authority of which was generally allowed. The fact, too, that Stephen was full of the Holy Spirit, and speaking before an assembly of masters in Israel, who were well instructed as to every detail of the history of Jacob, these and other considerations leave no opening for question as to the veracity of the martyr's statement.
In Numbers 11, the account of the quails has certainly puzzled many; but like some other apparently insurmountable difficulties, they vanish before those who cast themselves on God, and wait on Him to instruct them. As it stands, infidels have made a great deal of it, from the statement in our version that the quails were "two cubits high," or, about three feet high, "upon the face of the earth," whereas it should be above the face of the earth; that is, they would be made to fly about three feet high, so that a man would be able to take as many as he chose. We have looked into the best translations of the Hebrew that we know, and also in the Revised Version, and in all it is rendered, "above the face of the earth;" and not as infidels have said, packed from the ground for three feet high, over a distance of forty miles across.
River, not Flood
There is a somewhat similar error of translation in Joshua 24, when Abraham is said to have been taken from the other side of the flood, as if this account made him to be living in Noah's day, instead of long after, as Genesis 11 tells us. But the mistake is obvious to any fair mind, for "flood" is a word that is translated in many other scriptures, "river," and means that Abraham was taken by Jehovah from the other side of the river Euphrates. This, too, is corrected in the Revised Version, and in three other of the best translations.
Sun, stand thou still!
As to the sun standing still (Joshua 10), a lady said to us lately, "Of course, that cannot be true, because it is entirely contrary to the laws of nature." To which we replied, "Let us read it: 'Then spake Joshua to Jehovah, in the day when Jehovah delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said, in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies . . . . and there was no day like that before it, or after it, that Jehovah hearkened unto the voice of a man; for Jehovah fought for Israel.'" (Joshua 10:12-14.) "That would be an impossibility," repeated the lady, because it would be entirely opposed to the laws of nature." How sad to find people speaking of God as if He must be subject to any of these laws, for "with Him," we are told, "nothing shall be impossible." Again, we asked, "Was not the ascension of our Lord Jesus Christ entirely contrary to that law of nature termed attraction of gravitation? And will not the resurrection and rapture of the saints, when the Lord comes, be also entirely contrary to all the laws of natural philosophy?" The fact is if, in our calculations, we leave out God who is omnipotent as well as omniscient and omnipresent, there is no knowing to what length of scepticism and infidelity we may go. Well did our Lord say of some, "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God."
When we remember that, for many hundreds of years after the days of our Lord, the sacred scriptures were only made known by written copies, and how difficult it is to copy anything with perfect accuracy, and then, as before noticed, add to this the possibility of errors in translation, and also the mistaken zeal of the most upright adding or erasing what they could not but think desirable from their meagre or incorrect view of a passage, it is marvellous that we have the Bible so kept and preserved from the tampering of infidelity as it has been. Difficulties we all experience as to portions of the scriptures here and there, but to upright souls God still fulfils His own word, "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye." (Ps. 32:8.)
The Threshing Floor
Take another case. Rationalists tell us there is a serious contradiction between the account given in Samuel 24:24, and 1 Chronicles 21:25, as to David's purchase of the threshing floor from Araunah. This allegation is now again being widely circulated. It says in Samuel that David bought it for fifty shekels of silver, and in I Chronicles the price is six hundred shekels of gold by weight; so our opponents tell us both cannot be true. The fact is, however, that both are perfectly correct. In Samuel we learn that he bought the threshing floor and the oxen for fifty shekels of silver, and in 1 Chronicles 21:22, 25, we are told that he bought "the place" for six hundred shekels of gold by weight. It is obvious that "the place" might have extended over a large area beyond "the threshing floor."
The Census of Israel and of Judah
In the same chapters, another question has been raised; because in Samuel 24:9, when the census was taken, we are told there were in Israel eight hundred thousand valiant men that drew the sword; and the men of Judah were five hundred thousand men; whereas, in 1 Chronicles 21:5, "All they of Israel were a thousand thousand and an hundred thousand men that drew sword, and Judah was four hundred, three score and ten thousand men that drew sword." It is alleged that there is a contradiction as to the numbers given; but let us consider, that in Samuel it is the valiant men that are enumerated, and in 1 Chronicles all that drew sword, making it possible there were then among them those who, though they drew sword, would not be ranked among David's valiant men; and of Judah we find in Samuel there were five hundred thousand men, and in I Chronicles only four hundred and seventy thousand of them drew sword, whether from old age or any other reason we are not told.
Now all thought of inaccuracy as to these sacred scriptures vanishes, and we find, that the more we prayerfully ponder the word, in humble dependence on the Holy Spirit, the more divinely perfect the written word appears; so perfect that we are struck sometimes with the importance of the addition or omission of a single letter. For instance, when reference is made to Christ as the seed of Abraham, the Holy Spirit by Paul says, "He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ." (Gal. 3:16.) Again, we read of Christ being "the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin [not sins but sin] of the world." It is obvious that if Christ had taken away the sins of the world, the world would have been saved; but the new heaven and the new earth will then show that He has taken "sin" completely out of the world, and that there righteousness dwells. Again, we find the written word saying sometimes "that the scripture might be fulfilled," but when our Lord in Gethsemane spoke of His competency to have from His Father, if desired, twelve legions of angels, He added, "But how then shall the scriptures be fulfilled?" and again, that the scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled." And why scriptures and not scripture? Because all the prophetic writings as to His humiliation, rejection, sufferings, pain, forsaking, must all have their accomplishment in His death as a sacrifice and offering to God on the cross.
Before leaving our consideration of the Old Testament, it is interesting to notice that, early in the book, we find man's utter ruin and total unfitness for God's holy presence; then we have largely and repeatedly set forth in types that it is only by the shedding of blood there can be remission of sins or approach to God; and toward the end it is plainly written that the "just shall live by faith." Thus, sinner as man is, in virtue of the blood of Jesus, he is cleansed and justified before God on the principle of faith. Peter put it simply when he said, "To him give all the prophets witness that, through his name, whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins." (Acts 10:43.) Such is God's unutterable goodness and grace, long ago declared by the Holy Spirit through His ancient prophets; and such grace abounds still to every one who takes his true place before God as utterly unclean, lost, and unmendably bad, and who has to do with the precious blood of Christ, as his only ground of peace and title to glory. How truly the believer can say of the holy scriptures:
"Here the Redeemer's welcome voice
Spreads heavenly peace around;
And life and everlasting joys
Attend the blissful sound.
O may these heavenly pages be
My ever dear delight;
And still new beauties may I see,
And still increasing light."