How Can We Believe the Unbelievable?
Please give a reasonable reply to our confusion. We are told to believe every teaching in the Holy Bible. How do we accept such stories as Moses seeing the back of God himself, Jonah living inside a whale, Jacob wrestling with God, and everything going on for forty days and forty nights?
Yes, we must accept the Bible’s teaching that God is our Maker, master, redeemer and ultimate destiny.
Interpreting precisely the contents of many passages of the Bible, particularly in the Old Testament, has never been an open and shut case of discovering a final answer. The Bible’s content covers thousands of years, written by many different human authors in different places and in different social and political conditions, and particularly in different types of literature such as precepts, poetry, history, prophecy. Remember that the authors were attempting to describe in words the infinitely mysterious influence of God in human affairs. Yet they wrote under divine inspiration.
Moses (Exodus 33:28-23) asked God to show him his glory. How can the human eye behold God? So the writer of this text of Exodus says that God replied that no one can see his face, and gets around the problem by saying that Moses saw his back instead.
The Book of Jonah is brief and tells of the prophet’s reluctance to obey God’s command to warn the city of Nineveh of God’s displeasure with its wickedness. He boards a ship to escape God but, as we know, is thrown overboard and swallowed by a great fish (Jonah 2:1).
This is the writer’s way of telling us that the divine plan cannot be thwarted. The fish spat Jonah out on the shore and from there the prophet had to do what God wanted. The story, which scholars do not consider historical, is a kind of parable to warn that God is merciful yet intolerant of disobedience to him.
Jacob’s rather mysterious wrestling with a man (Genesis 32:26) who is usually understood to be an angel sent by God, seems the writer’s way of stressing that God gave Jacob the strength he needed for his future mission.
Forty days and forty nights in Scripture indicates a rather lengthy period, just as we exaggerate by saying we haven’t seen someone for ages, in a month of Sundays or donkey’s years.