Biblical Hermeneutics That Glorifies God, by Tommy Davis
Hermeneutics is defined as “the interpretation of texts.” In the theological realm, it is acknowledged as the clarification of the Bible. Hermeneutics can be said to be very crucial because without a correct understanding of Scripture, one’s homiletical soundings will only confuse and deceive the hearers. Thus, it is very important that the reader of texts seek to fully understand what God is saying through the writers of the documents. Also, the reader must attempt to grasp the historical setting, the writing styles and tradition, as well as the intended audiences’ perception of their times.
In addition to discerning the rules of interpretation, I hold fast to the belief that if the reader is enlightened by the Holy Spirit, a correct hermeneutic will follow because the reader has already trusted God at His Word and is able to grasp that the Lord can and will preserve His Word for its intended purpose. Therefore, we must submit to the authority of Scripture and allow the Bible to speak for itself rather than bring to the text strong presuppositions that may hinder the readers or hearers from truly perceiving God’s Word.
I will expound on two sections of Scripture to see what messages the Lord is seeking to communicate. It would be wise to examine the grammatical, historical, and literary traditions. The first hermeneutic will come from Genesis chapter 3:1-6:
“Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?
2 And the woman said unto the serpent, We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden:
3 But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.
4 And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die:
5 For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.
6 And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.”
In examining the beginning of this chapter, we see that evil was already present in the garden in the form of a serpent. We also should note that Adam and Eve was not effected by sin and had no direct comprehension of vice. They were created to follow instructions and make choices as rational human beings. The Lord had already determined the characterization of iniquity. Wickedness cannot exist apart from God because it was God who determined what evil was. Since it is He who makes the rules, the definition of malevolence is subject to Him.
The serpent directly contradicted God’s pronouncement: “You will surely die” (v.4). Satan also made some true statements; by partaking of the tree, Adam and Eve would indeed share moral discernment with God, but would not share His immortality unless they partook of the tree of life. The serpent did not explain that though the humans would know good and evil, they would lack the power to do good, and the only real outcome of their enlightened consciences would be guilt and conviction before God.
It can be said that God’s first act of mercy to humans was not letting us live forever after the Fall. Picture the human race living with cancer, AIDS, and all the diseases that ever existed. The earth would be crowded and miserable. Hitler, Saddam Hussein, Stalin, and all the dictators would still be here.
The account we read here was a real event recorded by Moses as the Lord revealed it to him. In this episode the serpent attacked God through His creation. Since the Serpent was later identified as the Devil (see Rev. 12:9; 20:2), he caused Eve to doubt God’s Word. This is the first example I see in Scripture regarding a false hermeneutic. Whenever we doubt God’s Word and believe another source, we err.
Many so-called scholars attempt to convey the notion that the Genesis account is the compilation and wisdom of men. They subscribe to the documentary hypothesis theory which teaches that various documents (literary pieces) were used to compile the first five books of the Bible —-the Pentateuch (or Torah).
These documents were designated by the letters “E” and “J” respectively; “E” was represented by Genesis 1:1 to 2:3, and “J” by 2:4-25. Naming deity distinctively, these passages were thought to differ in the sequence of events in creation, and to depict God differently.
In addition to the original “J” and “E” documents, a Deuteronomistic document “D” and a Priestly Code or “P” was proposed. The outcome of the documentary hypothesis was the virtual total rejection of the Mosaic authorship of the first five books of the Bible.
The human race is bound to God by faith in His word as absolute truth. Because he knew this, Satan sought to tear down the woman’s faith in what God had said by raising suspicions about God’s word. Satan suggested that God did not really mean what He said. Satan sought to criticize the word of God by changing the rules of engagement.
The lesson we learn from the particulars surrounding this event is that we should submit to the authority of God’s Word. This report was given to Moses as the internal evidence in Scripture suggest. The writer of Judges declared that the law was “given their forefathers through Moses” (Judg. 3:4). David, on his deathbed, charged Solomon to walk in God’s ways “as written in the law of Moses” (1 Kings 2:3). Daniel (9:11-13) and Malachi (4:4) specifically refer to Moses. In all, there are fourteen Old Testament books that refer to Moses and connect him to the written law. To reject this data and equate the writings of the Genesis account to other sources is equivalent to questioning God’s word and His miraculous preservation power.
The rejection of the Mosaic authorship of the first five books of the Bible implies the denial of scores of Scriptures that affirm it. Even Jesus Himself, when reminding the religious leaders of their obligation, stated: “Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’” (Mark 7:10). Jesus specifically said to the Jews, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me” (John 5:46). Since Jesus confirmed Moses’ role as author, to deny this claim is to attribute error to Jesus and thus impugn the reality of His divine omniscience.
Adam and Eve were clearly informed that they should not eat of the tree. If they disobeyed, they would surely die. Eating the fruit was not evil; the evil consisted of disobeying God by denying His instructions and invading the divine prerogative of deciding good and evil. The first lie proposed by Satan was a form of antinomianism, denying the judgment of death for sin and apostasy. The woman also added to God’s Word by stating that they were not to touch the forbidden tree.
God declared, “When you eat of it you will surely die” (Gen. 2:17). It is a Scriptural principle that sin is inseparably linked with death. “The soul who sins is the one who will die” (Ezek. 18:4, 18:20). This death was first of all spiritual, though it immediately introduced the aging principle of which physical death is the ultimate outcome.
Satan went even further by stating that Adam and Eve would become like God. This is the most tempting in the history of mankind. Since only God can determine what is good and what is evil, humans have been attempting to usurp this authority every since. Rather than make judgments based on the authority of God’s word, we make our own laws and ratify them by vote. Countries are making homosexual marriages “legal” by vote. They are sanctioning abortion by status quo; and government officials extort money from private citizens and call it a tax increase. Humans now seek independence from God’s word and derive moral knowledge and ethical discernment from their own minds.
The point of this lesson is that there are three sins that contribute to all disobedience. The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, as indicated in verse six of Genesis chapter three: “And when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was pleasant to the eyes, and a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof, and did eat, and gave also unto her husband with her; and he did eat.” (see also 1 John 2:16).
Some speculate that the fruit that Adam and his wife ate was not actual fruit, but spiritual fruit. This assumption shows a disregard for common intelligence. The Bible speaks about a real tree in a real garden eligible for edibility. The Scriptures even makes a comparison, as Eve stated: “…We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden: But of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said, Ye shall not eat of it….” (see Gen. 3:2-3).
If this were no real tree, then every other tree was not a real tree either. The fruit that was on the real tree was, indeed, real. Therefore, Eve partook of it and gave some to her husband, and he did eat. Moses recorded that “…the woman saw that the tree was good for food….” (Gen. 3:6).
Another interesting episode that surely took place was with David and Goliath. Sermon upon sermon has been crafted that revealed the many characteristics of this legend. First we must conclude that this was a historical event rather than a figment of literary imagination.
Some have assumed that the Bible comprise mostly of myths or exaggerated stories. The account of David and Goliath fits into this category as far as some “scholars” are concerned. Let us examine a portion of the text. First Samuel 17:40-43 reads:
40 “And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had, even in a scrip; and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.
41 And the Philistine came on and drew near unto David; and the man that bare the shield went before him.
42 And when the Philistine looked about, and saw David, he disdained him: for he was but a youth, and ruddy, and of a fair countenance.
43 And the Philistine said unto David, Am I a dog, that thou comest to me with staves? And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.” KJV
David began his years as the baby of the family. With seven older brothers to help around the farm, David was given the task of watching the sheep in the pastures. But life in the hillsides did not last long. At the age of sixteen or so, he was sent on an errand that would change his life. His father Jesse sent him to deliver some cheese to a few of his older brothers who were in the army and bring back word on how they were doing.
Neither the Philistines nor the Hebrews had regular standing armies; their soldiers were drawn from citizens who spontaneously left their homes and occupations to respond to their rulers’ call for volunteers. Men worked in their fields and only abandoned their daily routine when peril threatened their country. The fact that Goliath taunted Israel for forty days resulted in great hardship for depleted families whose sons and laborers had been absent for nearly six weeks. It was to be expected, therefore, that Jesse should be apprehensive concerning his three sons.
Once at the battlefield, David caught sight of the Philistine armies, and of the giant, Goliath. The confrontation that followed left the giant dead, the invading armies scattered, and the shepherd boy a hero.
The scene was awe-inspiring. The man-mountain had appeared from the tents of the Philistines. He sneered and asked: “Why are ye come out to set your battle in array? Am not I a Philistine, and ye are servants of Saul? Choose you a man for you, and let him come down to me. If he be able to fight with me, and to kill me, then will we be your servants: but if I prevail against him, and kill him, then shall ye be our servants, and serve us….I defy the images of Israel this day” (1 Samuel 17:8-10). As David heard the challenge, he looked expectantly towards his countrymen. Surely, this blasphemous heathen should be taught a lesson. It was unbelievable; even Israel stood aghast. A mere boy had performed the impossible.
David’s wisdom is seen in three areas. The first thing we should note is that David rejected Saul’s armor. Of all the men of Israel, it would have seemed that Saul himself would be the obvious one to fight Goliath, since “from his shoulders and upward he was higher than any of the people” (see 1 Samuel 9:2).
Saul’s armor would have hindered David’s movement. Also, his dependence on God’s faithfulness would show that the Lord was with Israel.
Second, David chose five smooth stones. He recognized that although he could depend upon Jehovah, he could not always depend upon himself. Some scholars say that David provided himself with extra stones in an effort to ensure that he reach his objective if he were to fail at a few attempts. Others would say that he obtained five stones because Goliath had four brothers (see 2 Samuel 21:22). In any event, David was sure that the Lord would be with him as he challenged a giant over nine feet tall who carried armor that weighed 200 pounds.
In examining verse 40, we see that David chose weapons familiar to him. A shepherd’s accessories included a scrip, which was a small bag filled with food for the day. It was in such a script that David placed his five stones. The shepherd had to face wolves, jackals, and lions, which were a danger to the flock. Therefore, a rod had to be carried. This rod was a heavy oaken club studded with nails in order to drive away the predators. David also used a staff which was an instrument to assist in walking and to direct the sheep.
David’s sling was always close at hand as well. The sling could also be used in herding because a well placed stone in front of a sheep’s nose could turn a wandering sheep back towards the rest of the flock. The many hours spent on the hillside provided David with many “practice” shots.
Goliath was by far the most famous Philistine in the Bible, and he was impressive. He was trained as a warrior from the time he was a boy (see 1 Sam. 17:33). His skills had been honed by battle, and all his challengers had fallen to his attacks. He was undefeated, and his reputation as a great man is recorded forever in the pages of Scripture. Thus, the record also gives him the honor of being felled by a young boy with no battle experience.
Thirdly, David’s show of wisdom was honorable in that he desired that only God should be glorified. When Goliath cursed David, the Philistine used false gods which had no effect upon David.
David’s victory over Goliath came as a result of his faith in God that had already been tested and proven in his life. We can identify five specific factors that led to his triumph:
(1) David had a heart for God. When the Lord had spoken to Samuel, He said, “Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the Lord seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart”(1 Samuel 16:7). Then David was called. Then the Lord spoke and said: “Arise, anoint him, for this is he” (v.12).
(2) David had a zealous and deep concern for the honor and reputation of the Lord God is Israel. He recognized that Goliath was defying not just the armies of Israel, but the Lord God Himself.
(3) David’s confidence in the Lord’s power had been strengthened by his memory of previous times when he had prayed for and experienced God’s deliverance.
(4) David trusted not in himself but in God to achieve the victory over Goliath and the Philistines.
(5) The Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him.
When God’s children face seemingly insurmountable problems and situations, those giants can be overcome if we exercise faith like David and depend upon the power of the Holy Spirit.
It is of the most worth to view God’s word as absolute and that he is able to safeguard the Scriptures from harm in an effort to draw more people to Himself.
Even though the Lord used human instruments, He sustained control and allowed to be produced the most magnificent set of documents in the universe—the Holy Scriptures.
Therefore, a correct hermeneutical outlook in Scripture is an indication that the reader has placed one’s trust in the entire word of God. Then, and only then, can we decipher with confidence and mature in our relationship with the Savior and transfer that faith to others who ask a reason for the hope that is in us.