"God's Love in the Old Testament" - Chapter 7



Chapter 7: "Realising History"




Chapter 7 – Realising History


Adah gave birth to Jabal; he was the father of those who live in tents and raise livestock. His brother's name was Jubal; he was the father of all who play the harp and flute. Zillah also had a son, Tubal-Cain, who forged all kinds of tools out of bronze and iron. (Gen 4:20-22)




Chapter 7 Contents

7.1 Thinking about History, Revelation of God and Development of Mankind

7.2 The Reasonableness of this World View and some Analogies

7.3 Considering Changes in Mankind's Development

7.4 The Logical Consequences of our Worldview

7.5 Knowledge-Filled from the start, or Gradual Learning?

7.6 A Brief Sketch of the Gradual Development of Mankind



The Heart of Chapter 7: A world without God makes history accidental and pointless. A world with God fits the outworking of the worldview of history that is theistic. God would have had to make it a developing world, and that we observe through history.




7.1 Thinking about History, Revelation of God and Development of Mankind


As I have read or listened to atheists, sceptics and doubters of the Bible in general, one thing has become clear to me. Many of us don't appreciate history and haven't thought about some of the obvious conclusions about history, especially as it relates to what the Bible says.


In some modern writing, there often appears strong criticism of Biblical things far back in history.

There is often a derisory note about a God who would make an imperfect world, and how primitive man was unlikely to have been part of God's plan, and as for dinosaur's?????
Would God have made a primitive man?


It is only as we start thinking about these issues that we start thinking about:

  • why God made the world in the way He did, (this chapter) and 
  • why He revealed Himself in the way He did (the following chapter).


Remember, these are just foundation stones to bring wider understanding on which to view the activities of the Old Testament, which are our central and eventual focus.


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7.2 The Reasonableness of this World View and some Analogies


Already in what we have just said, I have accepted the Bible's declaration that God is the Creator of all things. My objective is not to defend that proposition but simply to show that the world view that holds that proposition is reasonable and logical as far as the consequences of it are concerned .


It follows that if God did bring the world into being (however it happened) and brought it into being with purpose, so that it developed and changed (humanity at the very least), then He is all-knowing and all-powerful.


Now this, for this part of the discussion, has some very important repercussions. Before we continue, we need to pose some examples that are analogies of what happened or, to be more precise, why it happened as it did.

We need to use analogies of family life to understand


Analogies of Family Life


Imagine, for a moment, a very strong and very clever, knowledgeable and wise man, who has a son who has just had his third birthday. As much as he may wish, he is unable to communicate all of his knowledge and understanding to that child at this moment while the child is just three.

A child does not have the intellectual capability to understand the adult's knowledge of life.

However much he tells him, the child will not be able to understand it because he simply does not yet have the intellectual capability to handle it. Similarly if the man wanted to teach him woodwork, or perhaps flying, he would again be utterly frustrated if he tried because, again, the child just does not have the physical or mental capabilities to learn these things yet. It's a bit obvious isn't it!


Now let's try another analogy. Imagine this same man is an ironmonger and runs an ironmonger's store in a small town. He hopes one day that his three year old son will grow up and eventually take over and run the store when his father has become too old.


If you want a simple little intellectual exercise, sit down for half an hour and list all the things that the son will need to learn between now and when he runs the shop on his own when he is grown up. It's a big exercise and there are an incredible number of things he has got to learn from the age of three upwards to be able to handle that job – and that is far from being the most complex of jobs in modern society!


Think what we have to learn between being a baby and becoming an adult.


If you bother to do that exercise you will note that almost certainly you will start from simple basic things like learning language and simple adding up and taking away and gradually make the learning more and more complex, just like we do in school. One thing follows another or, to put it another way, some things have to come first otherwise later knowledge will make no sense.


Now these analogies are far from perfect but, I suggest, they do point us in the right direction for thinking about why God made us as we are, why we have taken millennia to develop and why He held back revealing Himself in the manner He has done.


Trying to Catch the Big Picture


Some of us may be very bright people and think we have taken on board an immense amount of knowledge but one thing the modern world has done has been to show us the enormity of knowledge that is ‘out there' and therefore how little the amount is that we actually have. God, we have said, is unrestricted by knowledge; He knows everything. (That's the Bible's teaching.) Take the knowledge of every scientist, every college professor, every philosopher and every technologist, put it all together and God still knows infinitely more!

The Bible indicates that the extent of God's knowledge includes the immediate knowledge of every atom or molecule in existence, where it is and what it is doing. Is your idea of God breaking free from the doddering old man conveyed by atheistic writers who want to make Him appear foolish?
Can you grasp something of the greatness of God's mind?


Are you starting to catch something of this personality we call God?


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7.3 Considering Changes in Mankind's Development


We can focus this subject by suggesting two very important and significant starting points that many of us seem to have never thought about, or have taken for granted:


1. Mankind has developed or evolved in knowledge, understanding and ability to where we are today.
  •  This is regardless of whether we believe in evolution or not,
  •  this is clearly observable over the past five to ten thousand years, and
  •  there are reasons for that, which are quite logical. (The child and learning in the analogies above)
2. God who is all-knowing, has always existed, and is unchanging, but has only gradually revealed Himself to the human race.
  •  This is the father in the analogies above.
  •  This is the clearly repeated statement of the whole Bible which we need to note if we are to understand this world view.


In the next chapter we will reconsider these in the light of the gradual revelation of God that we see in the Bible. However, I pick these out now to focus the questions that I sometimes hear asked in respect of history generally:


  • Why Did God make (IF He did) primitive man with hardly any knowledge so that life was so harsh?
  • Why didn't God input knowledge into mankind so that it ‘jumped' the primitive stage and all the difficulties that went with that period?


To those we might add (in the next chapter) why didn't God reveal Himself to mankind as a whole from the start?


These are genuine questions that thinking people might ask.


In this chapter I intend to focus on the first of these two starting points that I have noted above, about the development of mankind, so we may see the reality of, and the necessity of, ‘gradual revelation' whether it be of knowledge of how the world works (this chapter) or of God Himself (the following chapter).


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7.4 The Logical Consequences of our Worldview


It is worth noting in passing that, as we have noted above, the Bible is blatant is ascribing to God the role of Creator. It doesn't tell us how He created the world and in fact we are given only broad brush stroke descriptions.


This means we end up with debates about:

  • whether the world was brought about by pure-chance evolution (which excludes God, and leaves us with a meaningless and purposeless existence), or
  • whether God brought it about by directed evolution (i.e. the chances weren't chances but God's way of moving from simple cell to complex organisms etc.),

                     or some other alternative.


Some believers even desperately put forward the idea that God made everything about five thousand years ago, complete with fossils etc. to give an appearance of great age. Well of course such a thing is possible but somewhat unlikely (wait to you get to heaven for the definitive answer!).

One thing we may say: if God made the world and it was made with purpose, then it is not just a product of random chance. If it was purely random chance evolution, then there would be no such things as ‘meaning' or ‘significance' that so many of us hold so much store by - it's all just chance – and don't let any evolutionary biologist con you into thinking that there was some mysterious factor driving it all on.
If God DID make the world, then there is PURPOSE and MEANING to life.


Those are the usual lines of debate which we aren't going to follow here. We have a much more specific goal in mind but it is vitally important to hold in mind the two world views and the consequences that flow from them:

  • if there IS a God there are some logical consequences to be observed, and
  • if there is NO God, then the development of mankind is a meaningless, accidental chain of events which leaves us today with a lot of knowledge but no meaning.


Remember a comment we made previously: My objective is not to defend the proposition that God made the world, but simply to show that this world view is reasonable and logical as far as the consequences of it are concerned .


When our atheist friends deride God making a ‘primitive' world which, they say, is much more likely to have come about naturally, they are in fact, without realising it, deriding the almost only alternative logical option. Remember, this is all about having God in the equation to make sense of what is. Let's explain.

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7.5 Knowledge-Filled from the start, or Gradual Learning? 


In this line of thinking, as we've hinted at already, there are really only two likely possibilities for the world being like it is today if God is involved.

Think Possibilities


Now please remember that I am not defending purposeless evolution against God-directed evolution or God directed ‘Creation'.


I am simply emphasising the ONLY possibilities IF God was involved in making the world in such a way that it ends up like it is today. I do this because the criticisms that are made are made against God are usually because of what sceptics say are conflicts between what the Bible indicates He has done and what history records. Remember these aren't alternatives of what was but what theoretically could have been.


Option 1: A Theoretically Unlikely Alternative

God makes man as fully developed in thinking as modern man is, so that he didn't have to learn, and he didn't have to gradually develop.


  •  Please see this: this is the only possible alternative to what the way the Bible describes God making the world.
  •  The main difficulty of this option, is in respect of questions about how much knowledge to implant in us.
  •  Why start at any other particular point in the developmental path?
  •  The most obvious starting point is at the point of zero knowledge.
  •  The other difficulty would have been how to create the structure of civilisation as developed today for we perhaps take for granted that one invention follows another and one facet of society's development follows another (see the comments on learning above).


Option 2: The Biblical & Historical Picture


God created primitive man and allowed and encouraged man to gradually develop in all the ways archaeology suggests.


  •  Thus from the outset there is the concept of development – development that is slow and gradual – because learning is always that, invention is always that.
  •  Remember the only alternative to this is to have mankind dropped onto this planet as fully developed, and my atheistic friends would object to that, so let's think about this one, the gradual development scenario.
  •  When we consider the concept of mankind being made “in the image of God” and the things we saw in chapter 4 that express that - the abilities to communicate, think, plan, reason, invent, create, write, work, order, purpose and enter into the fullness of what they were designed to be, or put another way, the abilities of self-consciousness, imagination and conscience, and ability to grow and develop – these fit perfectly that required for a basic start followed by a gradual development.
  • In Genesis 4:20-22 we have brief clues as to development: basic farming, use of muscial instruments, forging tools of bronze and iron. Bearing in mind these individuals lived long lives, we may be talking about long periods of development. Unclear but interesting, but there is development!

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7.6 A Brief Sketch of the Gradual Development of Mankind


We take this so much for granted, that we don't even think much about it – until we come to criticise God making a primitive human race. For the moment we'll simply accept modern dating methods and, on that basis, modern science suggests the following to us:


  •  (Dinosaurs died out about 65 million years ago).
  •  From about 100,000 years ago, modern theory has it, homo sapiens in the form of Neanderthals lived. Modern theory says bigger skulls accommodating bigger brains developed over millions of years, enabling man to perform more complex tasks – see earlier comments about being “made in the image of God”.
  •  About 30,000 year ago – first cave painting.
  •  The last Ice Age, ended about 12,000 years ago – use of bone, antlers and stone axes to hunt food.
  •  About 11,000 years ago – farmers grew crops & kept animals.
  •  About 6,000BC (8,000 years ago) – cradle of civilisation – Mesopotamia – society developing (Eden was clearly identified as Mesopotamia, Abram later came from Ur in Mesopotamia).
  •  From about 3,500BC (5,500 years ago) – Bronze Age – metal working.
  •  About 3,200BC – writing on clay tablets in Mesopotamia.
  •  About 3,000BC (5,000 years ago) first towns built alongside rivers.
  •  About same time, growth of Egyptian civilisation around the Nile.
  •  Ditto – writing using hieroglyphics and writing on papyrus reeds.
  •  About 2,700BC first Chinese emperor – use of silk, medicines & writing.
  •  About 2000BC peak of Indus-Ganges civilisations.
  •  Ditto Minoan civilisation on Crete peaked.
  •  about 1,950BC Abram moved to Canaan
  •  From about 1,900BC growth of Babylonian culture in southern Mesopotamia , with development of mathematics, science and law.
  •  About 1,600BC peak of Mycenaean (Greek) civilisation.
  •  About 1,300BC (3,300 years ago) – Iron Age – further metal working.
  •  About 1,280BC Moses led Israel out of Egypt into Canaan.
  •  About 1,050BC Saul was first king of Israel.   


  •  About 800BC first city states formed in Greece & growth of Greek civilisation.
  •  587BC destruction of Jerusalem – Jews taken into Exile in Babylon.
  •  573BC Rome founded.
  •  About 440BC Nehemiah back in Jerusalem (last of Old Testament).
  •  509-27BC – the Roman Republic.
  •  27BC-475AD – the Roman Empire.
  •  Science & Technology developments:
    •  iron smelting – 450BC in Africa
    •  Maths – Archimedes – 250BC
    •  First concrete – Romans – 200BC
    •  First paper – 100AD in China
    •  Ptolemy – writes on music, astronomy, maths & geography – Egypt – 127AD
    •  Copernicus – sun centre of universe – 1543AD
    •  Galileo – falling bodies – 1604
    •  William Harvey – discovery of blood circulation – 1616
    •  Newton – gravity – 1687
    •  Volta – first battery – 1800
    •  John Dalton – outlines modern atomic theory – 1808
    •  Ohm – Ohm's law of electricity – 1827
    •  Faraday – electro-magnetic induction – 1831
    •  Charles Babbage – design for programmable mechanical computer – 1833
    •  Mendel – basic laws of biological inheritance – 1865
    •  Becquerel – discovers radioactivity – 1896
    •  Crick & Watson – double helix DNA – 1953
    •  completion of Human Genome Project - 2003

    Please note that these are just a fraction of what took place, just to start us off thinking down this path.


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7.7 Some Concluding Thoughts


In Chapter 2, in listing those things that theologians consider are some of the characteristics of every human being ‘made in the image of God', we noted that we have the abilities to think, plan, reason, invent, create, etc. We have developed BECAUSE of these capabilities.

The concept of 'in the image of God' explains how we developed


The above examples of scientific and technological developments (which could be expanded a thousand times over) are a testimony to that truth. We have what we have because we've been made like that by a benign and loving God.


In the history of scientific development, one thing HAD to go before another

What does become very apparent when we start thinking about such developments, is that one thing had to go before another. Before we were capable of completing the Human Genome project, for example, thousands of other developments had to come first. Working back from that, to produce a complete picture, we would have to work right back to the point where ‘man' had no knowledge of how the world worked, i.e. primitive man.


It is, therefore, logical for humanity to have been formed and developed in this manner.


To ridicule the Creator for making man primitive indicates a failure to think through these issues. The alternative, that God should input knowledge and understanding into ‘primitive man' to jump the learning process is quite unbelievable, but is the only option that the deriding atheist would be left with. No, God creating mankind so that we gradually learn and gradually develop is quite logical and consistent with observable history.


The next step is to observe how God reveals Himself to mankind, and again it is quite logical that He does it slowly and gradually and progressively, and that forms the content of our next chapter. It is also worth observing here, that what we are going to be considering as evidence, is history that we see recorded on the pages of the Bible. The records of this history, experts tell us, are as valid as any other part of ancient history, so they deserve our investigation. So, let's move on to the next chapter, to observe just how God revealed Himself as seen in the early pages of the Old Testament.


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7.8 Recap


The following are the things we have considered in this chapter:


7.1 Thinking about History, Revelation of God and Development of Mankind

  •  we simply outlined the possibilities

7.2 The Reasonableness of this World View and some Analogies

  • we considered the how reasonable is the Biblical world view

7.3 Considering Changes in Mankind's Development

  •  we considered the only two possibilities if God made the world.

7.4 The Logical Consequences of our Worldview

  •  considering whether a world view is meaningful or meaningless

7.5 Knowledge-Filled from the start, or Gradual Learning?

  •  we considered the two options if you think about God making the world

7.6 A Brief Sketch of some of the Developments of Mankind

  •  the gradual development of mankind in history

7.7 Some Concluding Thoughts

  •  Summarising the logical outworkings of these things.


Our purpose in this chapter is simply to observe that if God created mankind as separate and distinct from the animals, creatures “made in His image” that we considered in a previous chapter, then developing from primitive is the only logical approach, and this has a number of reasonable and logical consequences which, again, are seen in history. Gradual development is reasonable.


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