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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Why Is the Bible So Special?

Don Stewart :: Does the Old Testament Claim to Be the Word of God?

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Question 11

Does the Old Testament Claim to Be the Word of God?

Throughout its history, the Christian church has believed and taught that the Bible, in both testaments, is the Word of God. It alone is the written communication of God to humanity. The church has not invented this claim - it is the claim of the Bible itself. The evidence for the Old Testament being the Word of God is as follows:

  1. The Claims Found in the Old Testament

    We find in the Old Testament the claim that the words and deeds it records come from the living God. In thousands of passages, it plainly declares to be the very Word of the living God. In fact, over five thousand times the Old Testament declares, “God said,” or “Thus says the Lord.”

  2. The Importance of “Thus Says the Lord”

    The phrase, “Thus says the Lord,” is extremely important. It has the same wording as the phrase, “Thus says the King.” In the ancient world, this phrase prefaced an edict, or command, that a king would make to his subjects. Such commands had to be obeyed by the people; they could not be challenged. The fact that the Old Testament prophets used this specific introduction to their words shows they claimed to be the spokesmen for the Lord. As spokesmen, their words would have the absolute authority of the Lord behind them. They had to be obeyed and they could not be challenged. This shows the importance of the Bible using such a phrase. God?s Word must be obeyed and should never be challenged.

What the Old Testament Says about Itself

There are a number of things that the Old Testament has to say about itself. They include the following:

  1. The Authors Recorded God’s Actual Words

    Many times, we are told the Old Testament authors recorded the words that the Lord had spoken. Moses wrote:

    Aaron told them [Pharaoh’s magicians] everything the LORD had told Moses, and Moses performed the miraculous signs as they watched. (Exodus 4:30 NLT)

    In the Book of Joshua, we read about Joshua commanding the people to hear God’s Words. The Bible says:

    So Joshua said to the children of Israel, “Come here, and hear the words of the LORD your God.” (Joshua 3:9 NKJV)

    We read in the Book of Second Kings how the Word of the Lord was given to the people of Israel. It says:

    The LORD solemnly warned Israel and Judah through all his prophets and all the seers, “Turn back from your evil ways; obey my commandments and rules that are recorded in the law. I ordered your ancestors to keep this law and sent my servants the prophets to remind you of its demands.” (2 Kings 17:13 NET)

    The prophet Isaiah testified to a particular decree that God had made. He wrote:

    Carefully read the scroll of the LORD! Not one of these creatures will be missing, none will lack a mate. For the LORD has issued the decree, and his personal spirit gathers them. (Isaiah 34:16 NET)

    Therefore, on numerous occasions, the Old Testament claims to record the very words that God spoke.

  2. The Prophets Spoke God’s Actual Words

    On other occasions, the words recorded were from God’s designated spokesmen. These words would have the same authority as the direct words from God. We read of God speaking through the prophet Ahijah:

    They buried him, and all Israel mourned for him, as the LORD had said through his servant the prophet Ahijah. (1 Kings 14:18 NIV)

    We also read of the authority of the earlier prophets. Zechariah wrote about this. He said:

    Were not these the words that the LORD proclaimed by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and in prosperity, along with the towns around it, and when the Negeb and the Shephelah were inhabited? (Zechariah 7:7 NRSV)

    These specially designated spokesmen for the Lord delivered God’s Word with the authority of the Lord. Their words were expected to be obeyed.

  3. The Revealed Word of God Will Benefit Future Generations

    These words which God spoke, as well as the words spoken through His specially chosen spokesmen, were recorded for the benefit of future generations. The Scripture says the following:

    “And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children?s offspring,” says the Lord, “from this time forth and forevermore.” (Isaiah 59:21 ESV)

    The words of God, as given in the Old Testament, were meant to be passed on to others. They were not merely for those who originally heard it.

  4. God’s Words Are Infallible

    The words of God, as recorded in the Old Testament, are an infallible guide to humanity. When God promised something, it came to pass. Moses wrote:

    God is not a man, that he should lie. He is not a human, that he should change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through? (Numbers 23:19 NLT)

    God’s Word does not lie. The words recorded in the Old Testament are God’s infallible words.

  5. God’s Words Are Eternal and Unchanging

    The Word of God, as revealed in the Old Testament, is eternal and unchanging. Isaiah the prophet wrote about how God’s Word will last forever:

    The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. (Isaiah 40:8 NKJV)

    The psalmist also emphasized that the words of God are secure in the heavens; they will not be changed in any manner. He wrote:

    O LORD, your instructions endure; they stand secure in heaven. (Psalm 119:89 NET)

    The fact that God’s Word is forever settled is a comforting truth for believers.

  6. His Words Are Powerful

    The Old Testament also says that God’s Word is powerful. Jeremiah recorded the Lord making the following comparison of His words to fire and a hammer:

    “Is not my word like fire,” declares the LORD, “and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?” (Jeremiah 23:29 NKJV)

    God’s Words get results because of their divine power.

  7. God’s Words Are True

    The Old Testament records things that are true or trustworthy. The psalmist wrote:

    The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. (Psalm 19:7 NIV)

    The psalmist elsewhere emphasized the reliability of the words of God. He said:

    Your justice endures, and your law is reliable. (Psalm 119:142 NET)

    Through the prophet Isaiah, the Lord said that His words accomplish the purpose for which they were given:

    In the same way, the promise that I make does not return to me, having accomplished nothing. No, it is realized as I desire and is fulfilled as I intend. (Isaiah 55:11 NET)

    The true Word of God will always accomplish its divine purpose. These are the claims of the Old Testament.

  8. God’s Words Are a Guide for Daily Living

    The Old Testament is a guide for living a godly life. The psalmist proclaimed:

    Your instructions are a lamp that shows me where to walk, and a light that shines on my path. (Psalm 119:105 NET)

    In Proverbs, we read about how God’s Word helps us without our daily lives. It says:

    For the commandments are like a lamp, instruction is like a light, and rebukes of discipline are like the road leading to life. (Proverbs 6:23 NET)

    Therefore, His Word, as recorded in the Old Testament, is extremely practical.

  9. We Are Not to Add or Subtract to God’s Word

    Because the Old Testament is the Word of the Lord, people were commanded not to add to it or subtract from it. The Lord said:

    You must be careful to do everything I am commanding you. Do not add to it or subtract from it! (Deuteronomy 12:32 NET)

    Since God’s words are of the highest importance to Him, no one was allowed to tamper with them.

Conclusion: the Old Testament Claims to Be God’s Word to Humanity

These are a number of the things the Old Testament says about itself. It is clear from its contents that the Old Testament claims divine authority. It claims to record the very words of the living God. It is important to realize that this is the claim of the Old Testament itself; it is not something that someone else has said about it. Consequently, these claims must be taken seriously.

Summary - Question 11
Does the Old Testament Claim to Be the Word of God?

From the statements contained in the Old Testament, we can see that it claims to record the words and deeds of the living God. We also observe that the statements made about God’s Word assure us that humanity can place their trust in His promises. The Old Testament commands were expected to be obeyed. Again, we emphasize that this is the claim of the Old Testament itself. Therefore, the claims should be weighed and evaluated.

What Does the Phrase, “the Word of God” Mean? ← Prior Section
How Does the New Testament View the Old Testament? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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