Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Misuse of Numbers 23:19 to support a JW "doctrine"

Jehovah's Witnesses do not believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God, is fully divine (as well as being fully human), or that he is God incarnate (God "in the flesh"). To support this belief they - like any sincere apologist - turn to scripture for the answer; for the evidence. To support this claim turn to the Book of Numbers:

"God is not a man that he should tell lies, Neither a son of mankind that he should feel regret.
Has he himself said it and will he not do it, And has he spoken and will he not carry it out?" - Numbers 23:19 (NWT)

Jehovah's Witnesses will use this particular verse in order to support their belief that Jesus is not divine, i.e. is not God incarnate. The problem with using this verse to support this belief, however, is that the context does not support the claim; their focus is on the very first few words of the verse: "God is not a man".

The passage refers to Balak's hiring of Balam to curse the children of Israel. He said that God is not a man that He should lie, or the Son of Man that He should change His mind. God had spoken what He had spoken, and that was the end of the story. Balaam was told to bless the Israelites, and He did. Now that He had blessed them, and subsequently God had blessed them, there was no reversing the blessing.

The context of the verse addresses the very nature of God himself: He does not give false promises, does not lie, does not deceive, and should be trusted. The chapter tells us to render obedience to the Lord; this is the underlying message of Numbers 23:19.

Consider the wording of the verse as well: "God is not a man". "God is not a man" in the sense that man can be fickle or swayed by others. God is holy and trustworthy unlike "man". What Balaam was referring to is men's sinfulness, and their resultant fickleness. God is not like men because of their corruptibility. This does not preclude God from ever becoming a man, but only forbids that God should ever become like fallen men, being untrustworthy, lying, or failing to keep His word.

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Read every verse of scripture in context, and remember: a text without a context is a pretext.

God bless.

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