Presented by Ralph Woodrow
NOTHING TOO HARD
We know there is nothing too hard for the Lord (Genesis
18:14; Jeremiah 32:17). Consequently, if a Biblical passage is
capable of two different explanations, some are prone to believe
that the one that is the most miraculous is correct. This is not
necessarily true. Roman Catholics are taught that during mass a
miracle turns the elements of bread and wine into the actual body
and blood of Christ. Are Protestants "unbelievers" because they
hold an interpretation that does not require this miraculous
change? Would God be any greater if he had taken the Israelites
across the Mediterranean Sea instead of the much narrower Red
Sea? Would the deity of Christ be greater if he fed 100,000
people instead of 5,000? Would the miracle of his resurrection be
more important if he had been in the tomb 300 days instead of 3?
As with numerous great persons in history, legends and
stories about Jesus were written in the centuries that followed.
Some of these attributed great miracles to him. One second
century work, for example, the book of "The Infancy" tells of
miracles he performed as an infant. Church leaders rejected this
book along with many others for inclusion within the sacred
canon, and (we believe) with good reasons. Nevertheless, for a
moment, consider the following summary of miracles contained in
its first sixteen chapters:
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, a mid-wife who had been
sick, touched the baby Jesus and was healed. When he was
circumcised, she put the foreskin in an alabaster box of
spikenard and gave it to her son who was a druggist.
Eventually he sold the box to the woman who later anointed
the feet of Jesus. The mother of Jesus gave the wisemen one
of his swaddling clothes which, when they discovered it
would not burn, worshipped it. Mary washed the clothes of
Jesus and hung them out to dry. When a boy who was
demon-possessed touched them, the demons came out of his
mouth, flying away in the shape of crows and serpents. A
woman who was about to be married, but could not speak
because of a sorcerer's curse, was healed when she hugged
the baby Jesus.
A girl with leprosy washed with water in which Jesus had
been bathed and was healed. Later, along with Joseph and
Mary, she met some women who kept a mule in their house
which they clothed, kissed, and fed. They said it was their
brother who had been turned into a mule by a jealous witch.
But when Mary put the baby Jesus on its back, the mule
turned again into a handsome young man who later married the
girl who had been healed of leprosy!
At age seven, Jesus and other children made oxen, donkeys,
and birds out of clay. Each boasted of his work, but the
ones Jesus made came to life so that they walked and flew!
Joseph "was not very skilful at his carpenter's trade" and
in making gates, or milk-pails, or boxes, did not always cut
boards the right length. But in taking Jesus along he had no
problem, for the young boy would perform miracles, making
the boards longer or shorter as needed! (The Infancy in The
Lost Books of the Bible - World Publishing Company, 1926,
Now, are we lacking in spirituality, are we unbelievers, if
we reject these miracles? Certainly Jesus, as a boy, could have
been used of God to perform miracles, but the Bible itself seems
to rule this out. There is the definite implication that it was
not until after his anointing with the Holy Spirit at age 30 that
his miracle ministry began (Acts 10:38; John 2:11).
The point we would make is simply this:
There is no reason to accept one viewpoint as being the
correct one simply because it requires more miracles. The
following Bible events (several of which I have discussed in more
detail in another book) will provide some interesting examples.
During the 40 years in the wilderness, the clothing and
shoes of the Israelites did not grow old upon them (Deut.8:4).
Does this mean they had miracle clothes that would not wear out?
Or does this mean God provided for them so that they did not have
to wear old clothes? Adam Clarke has given this explanation:
The plain meaning of this much tortured text appears to me
to be this: God so amply provided for them all the
necessaries of life, that they never were obliged to wear
tattered garments, nor were their feet injured for the lack
of shoes. (Clarke, op.cit., Vol.1, p.760).
Among them were various kinds of workers, carvers,
jewellers, weavers, and there is no reason to believe they did
not also have shoe cobblers and tailors. They had the ability,
materials, and did in fact make garments, as they did for the
high priest (Exodus 28:1-5).
Most who entered the promised land were either under 20 at
the beginning of the Exodus or were born during that time. If
each person wore the same garment for 40 years, this would mean
that thousands of them had garments that miraculously stretched
as they grew up. Why is this not mentioned, since this would be a
greater miracle? Would this even be desirable - no change, just
the same garment for each person all those years? Their clothes
did not wear out upon them; that is, they did not have to wear
old clothing. Their shoes did not wear out upon their feet; that
is, they did not have to wear worn out shoes. The miracle was in
the fact they were supplied with these necessary things - even in
When they crossed the Jordan to enter the promised land, the
drying up of those waters may have been caused by a landslide
upstream. We know that such landslides have occurred a number of
times - in 1914 the flow was stopped for 24 hours and in 1927 for
21 hours. The "Interpreter's Bible Commentary" says: "While not
minimizing the fact of divine intervention which the narrative
insists upon, it is possible to link the event to natural causes.
Frequently in recent history earthquake shocks have collapsed
sections of the high clay bluffs beside the river into the narrow
stream, effectively daming its flow."
Notice what the Biblical wording says: "The waters which
came down from above stood and rose up upon a heap very far from
the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan: and those that came down
toward the sea of the plain, even the salt sea, failed, and were
cut off" (Joshua 3:16).
The mention of the city Adam (Adamah) and Zaretan tends to
support the belief that a landslide at Adamah caused the waters
to back up from that city even unto Zaretan, a distance of 12
There is no need to argue about this point, for whether the
invisible power of God stopped the waters at Adamah, causing them
to back up for the 12 miles, or whether this was accomplished by
a landslide, either way the purpose of God was accomplished so
that further downstream his people crossed to the other side!
WATER IN THE DESERT
When "Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod smote the
rock twice: and the water came out abundantly" (Numbers 20:7-11).
George M. Lamsa, noted translator of the Bible from Aramaic
manuscripts, says the rock he smote was the cover of a well. To
"smite a rock" in Aramaic does not literally mean to belabor a
mass of mineral matter, he points out, but rather to strike a
stone which has been placed over the top of a well that has
become covered with sand. It is comparable to the English
expression "to strike oil," which means, "to find oil."
In that vast desert, wells were considered the property of
certain tribes. When migrating, they would cover wells with
stones to protect the water supply from sandstorms until their
return. If certain landmarks were obliterated, the exact location
of a well would be lost. In that case, they would probe in the
sand, hoping to "strike the rock." If found, the sand would be
scooped away and the well uncovered. So was it with Moses,
according to Lamsa. Because of DIVINE GUIDANCE, Moses was able to
strike the rock and locate the well.
Our first reaction to this interpretation - that the miracle
involved a well - might be that of total rejection. But, turning
to the very next chapter, this interpretation does appear to have
support, for the source of the water on this occasion is
SPECIFICALLY called a WELL! "And from thence they went to Beer [a
Hebrew word meaning well]: that is the well whereof the Lord
spoke unto Moses, Gather the people together, and I will give
them water. Then Israel sang this song, Spring up, O well; sing
ye unto it: the princes digged the well, the nobles of the people
digged it, by the direction of the lawgiver, with their staves"
If indeed the rock Moses struck was a well cover, buried
with sand, we can easily picture the nobles digging away the
sand, removing the cover, and allowing the water to flow out.
THE LOST AXEHEAD
When Elisha helped a man who had lost the head of an axe in
the water, he "cut down a stick and cast it in thither; and the
iron did swim [surface]. Therefore said he, Take it up to thee.
And he put out his hand, and took it" (2 Kings 6:5-7). Lamsa says
the iron came to the top of the water because Elisha stuck the
stick into the hole of the axehead. The miracle, as in the case
of Moses, was that of DIVINE GUIDANCE. When he stuck the stick
into the muddy water it went right into the axehead. So, from the
Aramaic text, Lamsa translates this verse: "And he cut off a
stick and thrust it in there; and it stuck in the hole of the
If this is the correct meaning, it would provide a good
explanation as to why a stick was used.
Had God intended the iron to surface by itself, why was any
stick used at all?
ELIJAH AND AHAB
Following the defeat of the prophets of Baal on Mount
Carmel, "Ahab rode, and went to Jezreel. And the hand of the Lord
was on Elijah; and he girded up his loins, and ran before Ahab to
the entrance of Jezreel" (1 Kings 18:45,46). It may be that
Elijah was given supernatural strength to run before Ahab's horse
or chariot, so that he miraculously arrived at Jezreel before
I have heard it preached that he could outrun the finest
Olympic champions! But it could be, simply, that he put himself
at the head of a company of chanters who ran, as the custom was,
before the king, reciting his praise or the praises of God.
Other verses mention this custom of men running in front of
the king's chariot (1 Samuel 8:11). When Absalom claimed the
kingly authority, fifty men were appointed to run in front of his
chariot (2 Samuel 15:1).
RAVENS OR ARABIANS?
In the Biblical passage that says "ravens brought [Elijah]
bread and flesh" to sustain him (1 Kings 17:2-6), the word
translated "ravens" could be translated "Arabians." Did unclean
birds steal food from someone's table and transport it to the
prophet? This seems unlikely. There are several strong arguments
for the word "Arabians" as the correct translation. But either
way, ravens or Arabians, God met the needs of the prophet and
this is the main thing!
As one seeks to understand what really happened during
Biblical events, there is no need to minimize or magnify a
miracle beyond what the Bible actually says. For Christians,
believing in miracles should be no problem. The very incarnation
of Christ, his life, his death, his resurrection, and his
ascension are all in the miracle-realm. He was in the world and
the world was made by him (John 1:10). If he could make this
world, certainly he can do what he wants with it! This is NOT the
Certainly God could use ravens to feed a prophet. Certainly
God could bring an axehead to the surface of the water without a
stick. Certainly God could stretch the clothing of infants to fit
their bodies at each stage of growth to adulthood. Certainly God
could make the sun go backwards millions of miles to show
Hezekiah he would be healed of a boil. Certainly God could stop
the whole solar system for a day while Joshua killed Amorites.
The question is not, "Can God?" (cf. Psalm 78:19). It is
not a question of what God CAN or cannot do, but what is
CONSISTENT with scripture. When there is a simple explanation, I
see no need to insist on the complex.
When God's purpose of defeating the Amorites for Joshua
could be accomplished through a local hailstorm, it hardly seems
necessary to stop and start the whole solar system. When simply
moving a shadow on a sundial could provide a sign to Hezekiah in
Jerusalem, it hardly seems necessary that God would involve every
city in the world by stopping, reversing, stopping, and starting
the earth turning again!
Yes, it is sometimes very important not ONLY to read the CONTEXT,
but also to know the meaning of Hebrew words, for sometimes they
can have MORE than ONE meaning. A translator often has to make a
decision which English meaning he/she will give to a Hebrew word
that has various meanings, or shades of meaning. As shocking as
it may sound, sometimes a translator makes a mistake, or as
shocking as this also may sound, a translator has BIAS, from
either what they have been taught from childhood, or from the
particular "school of theology" they attended or have affiliation
Fortunately today, we have Hebrew and Greek works at our disposal
that go into detail on Hebrew and Greek words and their various
meanings at times. Then we have books like the "Englishman's
Greek Concordance" and the "Englishman's Hebrew Concordance,"
which for the layman, give you every place in the Bible and the
English word used, for all Hebrew and Greek words you are
studying - Keith Hunt