Old Testament Difficulties
140. How could God harden Pharaoh's heart and then punish him for not letting the Jews go?
The sense is that God permitted Pharaoh to harden his own heart. It is but a Jewish mode of speaking. Exod. VIII., 15, says, "And Pharaoh hardened his own heart." God sent Moses to ask Pharaoh to let the Jews go, and that means that He meant Pharaoh to do so. God would not, therefore, have deliberately prevented Pharaoh from doing so. God permitted Pharaoh to harden his own heart, just as He permits men to sin even in our own days, if they are determined to do so.
141. The crossing of the Red Sea by Moses and the Jews must surely be a fable.
No man on earth can prove that this thing did not happen. The only argument is, "It seems to us unlikely." I reply, "Most unlikely, if anyone less than God were responsible for such a happening." But to say that God could not do it, is to misunderstand the difference between the finite and Infinite, between impotence and Omnipotence.
142. Why did they not cross over by the dry land where the Suez Canal now exists?
It is not certain that the contour of the country was the same then as now. Some authorities say that the Red Sea swept much farther inland in earlier times, including even the bitter lakes. In any case, under God's direction, the Jews were led away from the dry sections we now know, as described in Numbers ch. 33, that He might show His power and protection, and that the Egyptians might be justly punished, as shown by Exod. XIV., 2.
143. Will present scientific knowledge let us admit that the sun stood still for Joshua?
Present scientific knowledge has nothing to say on the subject. With all our present knowledge we still say that the sun rises. We know that it is due to the earth's rotation, but speak of things as they appear to our senses. Joshua would have more right to laugh at us for speaking of the sun as rising, despite our boasted knowledge, than we have to ridicule his expression that the sun stood still. He experienced the phenomenon of light for a period longer than usual, and he describes it by the phrase, "The sun stood still." The phenomenon could have occurred by the cessation of the earth's rotation at God's bidding, or simply by His willing the light to be continued despite the ordinary movements of the earth. However, the Church has not defined the literal truth of each and every event described in Scripture. She teaches that the Bible is the Word of God, whatever be its correct interpretation. Miraculous events are to be accepted, until the opposite is proved true. Exactly what God did in such cases is not certain, but presumption is for the literal fact in default of contrary evidence. The general lesson of God's Providence is to be accepted without reserve.
144. God did this to enable Joshua to kill a few more innocent people fighting for their homes and families!
That was not the reason. You do not advert to a great principle. God owns the earth, and can allot any particular portion of it to any particular people. And if He, the Owner of all does so, then the tenants for the time being lose their right to the appropriated land. Joshua warned the Gabaonites beforehand, "If you dwell in the land that falls to our lot we can make no league with you." Jos. IX., 7. The Gabaonites knew this to be the will of God. "It was told us thy servants," they said, "that the Lord thy God had promised his servant to give you all the land." Jos. IX., 24. Realizing their obligation, they determined not to go, thinking themselves strong enough to rebel against God's decree. God taught them a lesson, and the Jews had as much right to put them out by force as I would have to evict you from a house occupied by you without definite lease, should the house suddenly come to me by sale or gift, and I wished to live in it. This objection of Ingersoll overlooks the question of just title, but his end in view made the lawyer ignore his legal brains whenever his irreligious complex affected him.
145. Are we to believe that the story of Jonah and the whale is true?
When Christ told the story of the prodigal son, the characters of the story were not really historical persons. But the story was a true description of types and of God's mercy. Now some authors say that the Book of Jonah narrates a kind of parable somewhat akin to the parables of Christ. Others, and more probably, say that it is actual history, and that a real Jonah was really swallowed by a real fish, though not necessarily by a whale as we understand that word. The Church leaves us free to accept either view. The purpose of the Book is worthy indeed of God, teaching as it does that God much prefers to show mercy to a repentant people rather than vindicate His justice by the infliction of punishment. Nor is the story incredible even as actual fact. A thing is credible or incredible according to the presence or absence of a sufficient cause. I grant that the events in the Book of Jonah can be explained only by a miraculous intervention on the part of Almighty God. But once I say that God was the Agent at work, then the cause alleged could account for it, and the question is not, "Could it happen?" but, "Did it happen?" The main reason why people doubt the fact is because they cannot see how it could happen; a thing which does not necessarily prove more than that they cannot comprehend everything. The life of a human embryo during the period of its gestation is as much a mystery according to God's natural laws as would be the life of Jonah for three days inside a large fish according to God's extraordinary intervention. And who will say that God is never free to act outside the ordinary laws He Himself has established? In reality there is no more difficulty in accepting the miracle of Jonah than there is in accepting the undoubted miraculous fact of Christ's resurrection.
146. There is nothing in heathendom more pagan or cruel than the story of Job.
I grant the apparent cruelty in the sufferings of Job taken in themselves. How the circumstances justified them I shall show in a moment. You cannot say you know of nothing more pagan, for pagan means without the true God, and this story is very much one of the true God. If you know of nothing more cruel in heathendom, you also know of nothing in heathendom approaching the sublime moral lessons and lofty principles inculcated by this Book.
147. Satan wagers with God that he can make Job curse his Maker!
It is certain that Satan and God did not meet and make a wager. That is but a literary expression, driving home the truth that Satan is opposed to God and resents that others should serve Him. Job was a good man, devoted to God. Satan wished to rob God of the honor and glory given by such an adherent, if necessary by special and extraordinary efforts. Even Satan could not do so without God's permission, and God, who knows all things, permitted his efforts.
148. God takes the wager, and delivers His servant to all the fiendish cruelty the devil can devise!
Firstly, God's allowing Satan to afflict Job is no more difficult than His permission of other temporal afflictions, such as the sufferings of an individual from cancer, or of thousands from an earthquake. It is the ordinary problem of suffering, the difficulty of reconciling a merciful God, who certainly does exist, with the fact of physical and moral evil, which also certainly does exist. The answer to the problem of suffering in general is also the answer to the story of Job, to a great extent.
Secondly, in this world there are certain things better than bodily health and worldly goods. Many a man has thought more of his honor than of his life before today. The asset of a noble character is better than the asset of a prosperous earthly career, and God gave Job the opportunity of a supreme nobility, to be attained only by way of the cross similar to that of Christ. A brave man feels honored when selected for some noble duty fraught with danger, and is grateful for the trust reposed in him by his leader.
Thirdly, Job was enabled to glorify God far more by fidelity when things went wrong than by fidelity when things were going right. And God more than compensated Job for his temporal trials by eternal happiness. Job would not have been without his experience for any earthly good, once it had been accomplished.
149. Do you maintain that Job really existed?
Yes. He was chosen as a type, and really did serve God in the midst of great trials. But the incident has been described in poetical form, allowing for the use of literary description and amplification. I could tell the same facts in dry technical language, or in glowing prose, or in highly polished verse, and the literary form would not affect the objective historical value of the event described.
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