Idiom of Permission
In the Old Testament
there are many apparent contradictions that revolve around the general theme
of God killing or hurting someone. The flood of Noah, the Tower of Babel, the
Sodom and Gomorrah incident and the plagues upon Egypt all fall into this
category and there are many others. These incidents seem to contradict what we
know from the New Testament about our Heavenly Father.
To understand these
records and verses one must understand idioms used in the Bible. An idiom is a
usage of words in a culture that have a meaning other than their strict
dictionary definitions. For example, in American vernacular if someone says,
"Mr. Jones kicked the bucket last week," that is an idiomatic way of
saying, "Mr. Jones died last week." In the Old Testament, God uses
an idiom in which a verb is used in a permissive sense. What is written as the
Lord "smote Uzzah" was actually the Lord "allowed Uzzah to be
smitten." God set up His laws and man can break himself on them if he so
desires. God also set up the law of gravity, but only a fool would think that
God killed a man who jumped off a ten-story building. The man killed himself
by violating God's law of gravity. So the true picture in the Scripture is
that the adversary kills, hurts, and harms. Man allows this to happen as he
attempts to break God's laws.
uses the idiom of permission for several reasons. The idiom of permission does
not glorify the adversary. Imagine how the Old Testament would read if
everything the adversary did to man was attributed to him. We would read about
the adversary on every page! This would be clearly out of harmony with God's
commandment in Exodus 23:13, and would not be a blessing
to God's people to read. Furthermore, people in the Old Testament were not
equipped to deal with the adversary. If God had revealed the adversary to
people who could not deal with him, the people would have become fearful, and
been worse off for their knowledge. The adversary was not fully comprehended
until Jesus Christ revealed and defeated him (Luke 10:23, 24).
Jesus Christ never blamed any sickness, death, or evil on God. The reason that
the people in the Old Testament did was due to the fact that God had not yet
revealed the adversary. This explains verses like Job 1:21
and I Samuel 2:6. Today most people (even Christians) do
not believe in the adversary. They have forgotten the teaching of Jesus Christ
and have become "zealous for the law." attributing sickness and
death to the true God.
In many examples of this
idiom in the Old Testament, the people being hurt were the enemies of God. The
question has arisen as to why the adversary would hinder people who oppose
God. The people who oppose God set themselves against the law of God and break
themselves on it. The Word shows us that the devil is as much hate as God is
love and does kill his own people on occasion.
:13 And in all things that I have said unto you be circumspect:
and make no mention of the name of other gods,
neither let it be heard out of thy mouth.
:23 And he turned him unto his disciples, and said privately,
Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye
:24 For I tell you,
that many prophets and kings have desired to see those
things which ye see,
and have not seen them;
and to hear those things which ye hear,
and have not heard them.
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:21 And said, Naked came I out of my mother's womb,
and naked shall I return thither:
the Lord gave,
and the Lord hath taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.
I Samuel 2
:6 The Lord killeth,
and maketh alive:
he bringeth down to the grave,
and bringeth up.
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