What Can You Learn About the Creator From a Book?
YOU likely agree that an informative, interesting book has real worth. The Bible is such a book. In it you find gripping life stories that set forth high moral values. You also find vivid illustrations of important truths. One of its writers who was noted for wisdom said that he “sought to find the delightful words and the writing of correct words of truth.”—Ecclesiastes 12:10.
The book we refer to as “The Bible” is actually a collection of 66 smaller books written over a span of more than 1,500 years. For example, between 1513 and 1473 B.C.E., Moses wrote the first five books, starting with Genesis. John, one of Jesus’ apostles, was the last of the Bible writers. He wrote a history of Jesus’ life (the Gospel of John) as well as shorter letters and the book of Revelation, which appears as the last book in most Bibles.
During the 1,500 years from Moses to John, some 40 individuals shared in writing the Bible. They were sincere, devout men who wanted to help others learn about our Creator. From their writings we can gain insight into God’s personality and we learn how we can please him. The Bible also enables us to understand why wickedness abounds and how it will be brought to an end. Bible writers pointed forward to the time when mankind will live more directly under God’s rulership, and they described some of the thrilling conditions we may then enjoy.—Psalm 37:10, 11; Isaiah 2:2-4; 65:17-25; Revelation 21:3-5.
You likely realize that many dismiss the Bible as an ancient book of human wisdom. However, millions of people are convinced that God is its real Author, that he guided the thoughts of its writers. (2 Peter 1:20, 21) How can you determine whether what the Bible writers wrote really is from God?
Well, there are a number of converging lines of evidence that you could consider. Many individuals have done so before concluding that the Bible is more than a mere human book, that it is from a superhuman source. Let us illustrate this with just one form of evidence. In doing so, we can learn more about the Creator of our universe, the Source of human life.
Predictions That Came True
Quite a few Bible writers recorded prophecies. Far from claiming that they personally could foretell the future, these writers gave credit to the Creator. For example, Isaiah identified God as “the One telling from the beginning the finale.” (Isaiah 1:1; 42:8, 9; 46:8-11) The ability to foretell events that were to occur decades or even centuries in the future marks the God of Isaiah as unique; he is not a mere idol, like those that people past and present have adored. Prophecy gives us convincing evidence that the Bible is not of human authorship. Consider how Isaiah’s book bears this out.
A comparison of the contents of Isaiah with historical data shows that the book was written about 732 B.C.E. Isaiah foretold that calamity would come upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem and Judah because they were guilty of bloodshed and idol worship. Isaiah predicted that the land would be devastated, Jerusalem and its temple destroyed, and the survivors taken captive to Babylon. But Isaiah also prophesied that God would not forget the captive nation. The book foretold that a foreign king named Cyrus would conquer Babylon and free the Jews to return to their homeland. In fact, Isaiah describes God as “the One saying of Cyrus, ‘He is my shepherd, and all that I delight in he will completely carry out’; even in my saying of Jerusalem, ‘She will be rebuilt,’ and of the temple, ‘You will have your foundation laid.’”—Isaiah 2:8; 24:1; 39:5-7; 43:14; 44:24-28; 45:1.
In Isaiah’s day, the eighth century B.C.E., such predictions might have seemed unbelievable. At that point Babylon was not even a significant military power. It was subject to the real world power of the time, the Assyrian Empire. Equally strange would have been the idea that a conquered people who had been taken into a distant land as exiles could be released and reclaim their land. “Who has heard of a thing like this?” Isaiah wrote.—Isaiah 66:8.
Yet, what do we find if we move two centuries forward? The subsequent history of the ancient Jews proved that Isaiah’s prophecy was fulfilled in detail. Babylon did become mighty, and it destroyed Jerusalem. The name of the Persian king (Cyrus), his subsequent conquest of Babylon, and the Jews’ return are all accepted facts of history. So exactly did these prophesied details turn out that in the 19th century, critics claimed that Isaiah’s book was a hoax; they in effect said: ‘Isaiah may have written the first chapters, but a later writer in the time of King Cyrus made up the rest of the book so that it would appear to be a prophecy.’ Someone might make such dismissive assertions, but what are the facts?
The predictions in the book of Isaiah are not limited to events involving Cyrus and the Jewish exiles. Isaiah also foretold Babylon’s final situation, and his book gave many details about a coming Messiah, or Deliverer, who would suffer and then be glorified. Can we establish whether such predictions were written long in advance and therefore were prophecies to be fulfilled?
Consider this point. Isaiah wrote about Babylon’s final situation: “Babylon, the decoration of kingdoms, the beauty of the pride of the Chaldeans, must become as when God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah. She will never be inhabited, nor will she reside for generation after generation.” (Isaiah 13:19, 20; chapter 47) How did things actually work out?
The facts are that Babylon had long depended on a complex irrigation system of dams and canals between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers. It appears that about 140 B.C.E. this water system was damaged in the destructive Parthian conquest and basically collapsed. With what effect? The Encyclopedia Americana explains: “The soil became saturated with mineral salts, and a crust of alkali formed over the surface, making agricultural use impossible.” Some 200 years later, Babylon was still a populous city, but it did not remain such for much longer. (Compare 1 Peter 5:13.) By the third century C.E., the historian Dio Cassius (c.150-235 C.E.) described a visitor to Babylon as finding nothing but “mounds and stones and ruins.” (LXVIII, 30) Significantly, by this time Isaiah had been dead and his complete book in circulation for centuries. And if you visited Babylon today, you would see mere ruins of that once-glorious city. Though ancient cities such as Rome, Jerusalem, and Athens have survived down to our day, Babylon is desolate, uninhabited, a ruin; it is just as Isaiah foretold. The prediction came true.
Now let us focus on Isaiah’s description of the coming Messiah. According to Isaiah 52:13, this special servant of God would eventually be ‘in high station and be exalted very much.’ However, the following chapter (Isaiah 53) prophesied that before his exaltation, the Messiah would undergo a surprisingly different experience. You might be amazed at the details recorded in that chapter, which is widely acknowledged to be a Messianic prophecy.
As you can read there, the Messiah would be despised by his countrymen. Certain that this would occur, Isaiah wrote as if it had already happened: “He was despised and was avoided by men.” (Isa 53 Verse 3) This mistreatment would be totally unjustified because the Messiah would do good for the people. “Our sicknesses were what he himself carried,” is how Isaiah described the Messiah’s acts of healing. (Isa 53 Verse 4) In spite of that, the Messiah would be tried and unjustly condemned, while remaining silent before his accusers. (Isa 53 Verses 7, 8) He would allow himself to be handed over to be killed alongside criminals; during his execution, his body would be pierced. (Isa 53 Verses 5, 12) Despite dying like a criminal, he would be buried as if a rich man. (Isa 53 Verse 9) And Isaiah repeatedly stated that the Messiah’s unjust death would have atoning power, covering the sins of other humans.—Isa 53 Verses 5, 8, 11, 12.
All of that came true. The histories recorded by Jesus’ contemporaries—Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John—bear out that what Isaiah had foretold did in fact occur. Some of the events took place after Jesus’ death, so the situation was not one he could have manipulated. (Matthew 8:16, 17; 26:67; 27:14, 39-44, 57-60; John 19:1, 34) The total fulfillment of Isaiah’s Messianic prophecy has had a powerful effect on sincere Bible readers over the centuries, including some who formerly did not accept Jesus. Scholar William Urwick notes: “Many Jews, in committing to writing the reason of their conversion to Christianity, acknowledged that it was the perusal of this chapter [Isaiah 53] which had shaken their faith in their old creed and teachers.”—The Servant of Jehovah.a
Urwick made that comment in the late 1800’s, when some might still have doubted whether Isaiah chapter 53 had been written centuries before Jesus’ birth. However, discoveries since then have essentially removed any basis for doubt. In 1947, a Bedouin shepherd near the Dead Sea discovered an ancient scroll of the entire book of Isaiah. Experts in ancient writing dated the scroll as being from 125 to 100 B.C.E. Then in 1990, a carbon 14 analysis of the scroll gave a date of between 202 and 107 B.C.E. Yes, this famous scroll of Isaiah was already quite old when Jesus was born. What does comparing it with modern Bibles reveal?
If you visit Jerusalem, you can view fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls. A recording by archaeologist Professor Yigael Yadin explains: “Not more than about five or six hundred years elapsed between when the actual words of Isaiah were said and this scroll was copied in the 2nd century B.C. It is an amazing thing that although the original scroll in the museum is more than 2,000 years old how close it is to the Bible we read today either in Hebrew or in the translations which were made from the original.”
Clearly, this should affect our view. Of what? Well, it should put to rest any critical doubts that the book of Isaiah is nothing but prophecy after the fact. There now is scientific proof that a copy of the writings of Isaiah was made well over a hundred years before Jesus was even born and long before the desolation of Babylon. Consequently, how can there be any doubt that Isaiah’s writings predicted both the final outcome for Babylon and the unjust sufferings, type of death, and treatment of the Messiah? And the historical facts eliminate any basis for disputing that Isaiah accurately predicted the Jews’ captivity and their release from Babylon. Such fulfilled predictions constitute just one of many lines of evidence that the real Author of the Bible is the Creator and that the Bible is “inspired of God.”—2 Timothy 3:16.
There are many other indications of divine authorship of the Bible. These include the astronomical, geologic, and medical accuracy of the Bible; the internal harmony of its books, written by scores of men over many hundreds of years; its agreement with many facts of secular history and archaeology; and its moral code that excelled codes of surrounding peoples of those times and that is still recognized as without equal. These and other lines of evidence have convinced countless diligent and honest people that the Bible is authentically a book from our Creator.b
This can also help us to draw some valid conclusions about the Creator—helping us to see his qualities. Does not his ability to look forward in time testify that he has perceptive abilities beyond what we humans have? Humans do not know what will occur in the distant future, nor can they control it. The Creator can. He can both foresee the future and arrange events so that his will is carried out. Appropriately, Isaiah describes the Creator as “the One telling from the beginning the finale, and from long ago the things that have not been done; the One saying, ‘My own counsel will stand, and everything that is my delight I shall do.’”—Isaiah 46:10; 55:11.
Getting to Know the Author Better
We get acquainted with another person by conversing with him and by seeing how he reacts to different circumstances. Both are possible in coming to know other humans, but what of getting to know the Creator? We cannot possibly engage in direct conversation with him. As we have established, though, he reveals much about himself in the Bible—both by what he has said and by how he has acted. Furthermore, this unique book actually invites us to cultivate a relationship with the Creator. It urges us: “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you.”—James 2:23; 4:8.
Consider a prime step: If you wanted to be someone’s friend, you certainly would learn his name. Well, what is the name of the Creator, and what does his name reveal about him?
The Hebrew portion of the Bible (often called the Old Testament) provides us with the unique name of the Creator. It is represented in ancient manuscripts by four Hebrew consonants that can be transliterated YHWH or JHVH. The Creator’s name appears about 7,000 times, far more often than titles such as God or Lord. For many centuries those who read the Hebrew Bible used that personal name. In time, though, many Jews developed a superstitious fear of pronouncing the divine name, and so they did not preserve its pronunciation.
“The original pronunciation was eventually lost; modern attempts at recovery are conjectural,” notes a Jewish commentary on Exodus. Admittedly, we cannot be certain how Moses pronounced the divine name, which we find at Exodus 3:16 and 6:3. Yet, frankly, who today would feel obligated to try to pronounce Moses’ name or Jesus’ name with the precise sound and intonation used back when they walked the earth? Nonetheless, we do not shrink from referring to Moses and to Jesus by name. The point is, instead of being excessively concerned over just how an ancient people speaking another language pronounced God’s name, why not use the pronunciation common in our language? For example, “Jehovah” has been used in English for 400 years, and in the English language, it is still widely accepted as the name of the Creator.
But there is something more significant than details about pronouncing the name. That is its meaning. The name in Hebrew is a causative form of the verb ha·wahʹ, meaning “to become” or “prove to be.” (Genesis 27:29; Ecclesiastes 11:3) The Oxford Companion to the Bible offers the meaning “‘he causes’ or ‘will cause to be.’” Thus, we can say that the Creator’s personal name literally signifies “He Causes to Become.” Notice that the emphasis is not on the Creator’s activity in the remote past, as some might have had in mind when using the term “First Cause.” Why not?
Because the divine name is tied in with what the Creator is purposing to do. There basically are only two states of Hebrew verbs, and the one involved in the Creator’s name “denotes actions . . . as in process of development. It does not express the mere continuance of an action . . . but the development of it from its beginning towards its completion.” (A Short Account of the Hebrew Tenses) Yes, by his name, Jehovah reveals himself to be active as a purposer. We thus learn that—with progressive action—he becomes the Fulfiller of promises. Many find it satisfying and reassuring to know that the Creator always brings his purposes to realization.
His Purpose—Your Purpose
While God’s name reflects purpose, many people find it hard to see real purpose in their own existence. They observe mankind stumbling from one crisis to another—wars, natural disasters, disease epidemics, poverty, and crime. Even the privileged few who somehow escape such damaging effects often admit to nagging doubts about the future and the meaning of their life.
The Bible makes this comment: “The physical world was made subject to frustration, not by its own desire, but by the will of the Creator, who in making it so, gave it a hope that it might one day be delivered . . . and made to share the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Romans 8:20, 21, The New Testament Letters, by J. W. C. Wand) The account in Genesis shows that at one time humans were at peace with their Creator. In response to human misconduct, God justly subjected mankind to a situation that, in a way, produced frustration. Let us see how this developed, what it shows about the Creator, and what we can anticipate for the future.
According to that written history, which has in many ways proved to be verifiable, the first humans created were named Adam and Eve. The record shows that they were not left to grope about with no purpose or instructions concerning God’s will. As even any loving, considerate human father would do for his progeny, the Creator gave mankind useful directions. He said to them: “Be fruitful and become many and fill the earth and subdue it, and have in subjection the fish of the sea and the flying creatures of the heavens and every living creature that is moving upon the earth.”—Genesis 1:28.
Thus, the first humans had a meaningful purpose in life. It included their taking care of earth’s ecology and providing the globe with a responsible population. (Compare Isaiah 11:9.) No one can justly blame the Creator for the present state of our polluted planet, as if he gave humans an excuse to exploit and ruin the globe. The word “subdue” was no license for exploitation. It implied cultivating and taking care of the planet that humans were entrusted to manage. (Genesis 2:15) Moreover, they would have a continuing future in which to realize that meaningful task. Their prospect of not dying accords with the fact that humans have a brain capacity far exceeding what can be fully utilized in a life of 70, 80, or even 100 years. The brain was meant to be used indefinitely.
Jehovah God, as the producer and director of his creation, gave humans leeway as to how they would accomplish his purpose for the earth and mankind. He was neither excessively demanding nor unduly restrictive. For example, he gave Adam what would be a zoologist’s delight—the assignment to study and name the animals. After Adam observed their characteristics, he provided names, many of them being descriptive. (Genesis 2:19) This is but one example of how humans could use their talents and abilities in line with God’s purpose.
You can understand that the wise Creator of the entire universe could easily stay in control of any situation on earth, even if humans chose a foolish or harmful course. The historical record informs us that God gave only one limiting command to Adam: “From every tree of the garden you may eat to satisfaction. But as for the tree of the knowledge of good and bad you must not eat from it, for in the day you eat from it you will positively die.”—Genesis 2:16, 17.
That command required mankind to recognize God’s right to be obeyed. Humans from Adam’s time down to ours have had to accept the law of gravity and live in harmony with it; it would be foolish and harmful to do otherwise. So why should humans reject living in harmony with another law, or command, from the beneficent Creator? The Creator made clear the consequence of rejecting his law, but he gave Adam and Eve the option to obey him voluntarily. It is not difficult to see in the account of man’s early history that the Creator allows humans freedom of choice. Yet he wants his creatures to be supremely happy, which is a natural result of living in accord with the good laws he gives.
In an earlier chapter, we noted that the Creator produced intelligent creatures that cannot be seen—spirit creatures. The history of man’s start reveals that one of these spirits became obsessed with the idea of usurping God’s position. (Compare Ezekiel 28:13-15.) He abused the freedom of choice that God grants and enticed the first humans into what we must call an open rebellion. By a defiant act of direct disobedience—their eating from “the tree of the knowledge of good and bad”—the first couple asserted independence from God’s rule. But more than that, their course revealed that they sided with the claim that the Creator was withholding good from man. It was as if Adam and Eve were demanding to decide for themselves what is good and what is bad—no matter what their Maker’s evaluation was.
How unreasonable it would be for men and women to decide that they did not like the law of gravity and to act contrary to it! It was just as irrational for Adam and Eve to reject the Creator’s moral standards. Certainly humans should expect negative consequences from breaking God’s basic law requiring obedience, even as harmful consequences come to one who flouts the law of gravity.
History tells us that Jehovah then took action. In the “day” that Adam and Eve rejected the Creator’s will, they began going downhill, heading toward their death, just as God had forewarned. (Compare 2 Peter 3:8.) This reveals another aspect of the Creator’s personality. He is a God of justice, who does not weakly ignore flagrant disobedience. He has and upholds wise and just standards.
Consistent with his outstanding qualities, he mercifully did not end human life immediately. Why? It was out of concern for Adam and Eve’s posterity, who had not even been conceived and who were not directly responsible for their ancestors’ sinful course. God’s concern for yet-to-be conceived life speaks to us about what the Creator is like. He is not a ruthless judge, devoid of feeling. Instead, he is fair, willing to give everyone an opportunity, and he shows respect for the sanctity of human life.
This is not to say that subsequent human generations would enjoy the same delightful circumstances as the first couple. By the Creator’s allowing Adam’s offspring to come on the scene, “the physical world was made subject to frustration.” Still, it was not utter frustration or hopelessness. Recall that Romans 8:20, 21 also said that the Creator “gave it a hope that it might one day be delivered.” That is something we should want to know more about.
Can You Find Him?
The enemy who led the first human couple into rebellion is designated in the Bible as Satan the Devil, which means “Resister” and “Slanderer.” In the sentence issued to that chief instigator of rebellion, God branded him as an enemy but laid a basis for future humans to have hope. God said: “I shall put enmity between you [Satan] and the woman and between your seed and her seed. He will bruise you in the head and you will bruise him in the heel.” (Genesis 3:15) Obviously, that is figurative, or illustrative, language. What does it mean when it said that some “seed” was to come?
Other parts of the Bible shed light on this intriguing verse. They show that it is tied in with Jehovah’s living up to his name and ‘becoming’ what is needed to fulfill his purpose for humans on earth. In his doing so, he used one particular nation, and the history of his dealings with that ancient nation makes up a significant portion of the Bible. Let us consider briefly that important history. In the process, we can learn more about our Creator’s qualities. Indeed, we can learn many priceless things about him by making a further examination of the book he provided for mankind, the Bible.
a Compare Acts 8:26-38, where Isaiah 53:7, 8 is quoted.
b For details about the Bible’s origin, see the brochure A Book for All People and the book The Bible—God’s Word or Man’s?, published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society of New York, Inc.
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Centuries after the Bible had foretold it, powerful Babylon became a desolate ruin, and it remains so to our day
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This scroll of Isaiah, copied in the second century B.C.E., was recovered from a cave near the Dead Sea. It foretold in detail events that occurred hundreds of years after it was written
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This letter written in ancient Hebrew on a potsherd was unearthed at Lachish. God’s name (see arrows) occurs twice, showing that the Creator’s name was known and in general use
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Isaac Newton formulated the law of gravity. The Creator’s laws are reasonable, and cooperating with them is for our good