Questions From Readers
● One child lives because it has consecrated parents. Another dies with its wicked parents. Some persons hear the Kingdom message and live. Others may never hear it and die at Armageddon. Their opportunities are not equal. Would not justice require equal opportunity?—L. S., Ohio.
Justice could demand the death of everyone, since none are righteous of themselves. All are sinners and have earned sin’s wages, which is death. (Rom. 3:10; 6:23) Not justice but love inspired the provision of a ransom price, and its value or merit belongs to God and Christ for them to use as they see fit. Who are we to tell them how to use what is their own? In an illustration some vineyard laborers tried to do such dictating, when they thought they were not being fairly treated, and suffered severe rebuke. (Matt. 20:1-16) After God has shown in his Word that he sometimes operates on principles of family and communal responsibility, and after we see that some of such instances pictured Armageddon and involve a withholding of the ransom benefits from those destroyed, on what grounds can we thereafter argue that he should act contrary to these principles? Equal opportunity for every individual? What scriptures establish this as a divine principle, and eliminate those of family and community responsibility?
Actually, to secure equal opportunity for everyone in the absolute sense would involve far more than merely letting everyone hear the message. There are many influences outside the individual’s control that affect his stand toward the truth. Wicked parents that keep the message from their small children is only one case. Oppressive rulers that keep it from the peoples under their control is only another case. There are more. In one heathen country preaching has been done for many years, with practically no results so far as those steeped in the native religions are concerned. Is it their fault that they were born and raised in an environment that warped their minds beyond the reach of the truth? Some nationalities or races seem to have traits of stubbornness. Others are marked by qualities of humility and teachableness. More of the former reject the truth; more of the latter accept it. Not many wise or powerful or noble get the truth—it is not God’s purpose. He deliberately chooses more of the foolish and weak and ignoble to put the worldly great ones to shame. (1 Cor. 1:26-31) So it is not just wicked parents or dictatorial rulers that influence a person’s destiny. Other things beyond his control, such as the nation or race or station of life in which he was born, are weighty factors.
Aside from these big divisions there are many influencing elements. One person is raised by staunch Catholic parents and now is old. Another is raised by parents who did not indoctrinate him with any false religion and is young. Both hear the truth for the first time. Equal opportunity? Not in the absolute sense, for it is easier for the young, flexible mind free of false doctrine to embrace the truth than for the old, set mind cluttered with creedal errors. A third person may have been raised in the truth. Is not his opportunity for accepting it when he reaches the age of responsibility far better than that of others? Certainly. We cannot ignore the vital role played by home training, as Proverbs 22:6 shows. The varying environments of home and school, factory and office affect the individual’s mental outlook and capacities. “Do not be misled. Bad associations spoil useful habits.” (1 Cor. 15:33, NW) The spoilage can proceed till one becomes like a brute beast fit only to be destroyed. (2 Pet. 2:12) A delinquent world, a dictatorial nation, a degenerate community, wicked parents, bad playmates—all are environmental factors that can corrupt the growing child in its formative years until when old it is beyond recovery and reform. Even inherited personality traits may make it easier for one to grasp the truth than another. So absolutely equal opportunity is not as simply provided as hearing the message.
View another aspect of the matter. Some have their judgment period now and hear the message. Others have it in the millennial reign. Undoubtedly acceptance will be easier then, in a righteous new world. And if we are looking for grounds for complaint, did the faithful men before Christ have equal opportunity? They had no opportunity for heavenly existence as immortal, incorruptible spirit creatures who are privileged to reign with Christ and stand before Jehovah himself. Their earthly reward does not equal that of the higher calling. And the “other sheep” now, should they grumble against God because they do not have an equal opportunity with the anointed to go to heaven?
The “equal opportunity” argument is spawned by the human tendency to overrate human importance. We must not commit Adam and Eve’s blunder of trying to decide what is good and what is evil, what is just and what is unjust. (Gen. 3:4-6, 22) We must be willing to dismiss our own thoughts to make room for God’s thoughts, and bend our thinking to conform to the principles of God as shown in his Word, even on this point of family and community responsibility. (Isa. 55:8, 9) Ridding ourselves of prejudiced, biased human views, we can view matters as God does, appreciating the great Potter’s power over creatures of clay, that he can make one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use, that through the one he can show forth his glory and mercy and through the other he can show after much long-suffering his righteous wrath against what is evil. If Jehovah chooses to do something, “What of it? O man, who, then, really are you to be answering back to God?” (Rom. 9:24, 20, NW) Seeing that there may not be the equalness of opportunity that we once thought in our fallible human way of viewing things, how should it affect those of us so favored as to be in the truth? It should greatly humble us and fill us with gratitude to God for his undeserved kindness toward us. And rather than want God to conform to our ideas of saving people, if we are really concerned about those who have not yet heard the message we will do all in our power to see to it that they do hear, as a result of our own zealous preaching activity. So let your zeal in witnessing be the real measure of your concern for people.
● When David displeased God by numbering Israel, 2 Samuel 24:1 says God moved him to do it, whereas 1 Chronicles 21:1 says Satan caused him to do it. Also, in 2 Samuel 24:9 the sum given is 800,000 Israelites and 500,000 Judeans, whereas 1 Chronicles 21:5 numbers Israel’s fighting men at 1,100,000 and Judah’s at 470,000. How can these differences be harmonized?—H. B., Massachusetts.
God is sometimes spoken of in Scripture as doing what he merely permits to be done by another. Thus in 2 Samuel 24:1 it states: “The anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he moved David against them to say, Go, number Israel and Judah.” But Jehovah was not the one that moved David to sin. It was Satan, as 1 Chronicles 21:1 states: “Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel.” God was displeased with Israel and hence permitted Satan to bring this sin upon them, and for that reason 2 Samuel 24:1 reads as though God did it himself. Rotherham’s translation shows it was by God’s sufferance rather than his doing: “The anger of Yahweh kindled against Israel, so that he suffered David to be moved against them saying, Go count Israel and Judah.” The Septuagint in its English translation goes so far as to insert “Satan” in the place of the pronoun “he”. The marginal reading in the King James Version gives “Satan” instead of “he”.
Regularly enlisted in the royal service were 288,000 troops, divided into 12 groups of 24,000 each. They served under a rotation system whereby each group of 24,000 served one month during the year. There were an additional 12,000 attendant on the twelve princes of the tribes, making a total of 300,000. Apparently the 1,100,000 of 1 Chronicles includes this 300,000 already enlisted, whereas 2 Samuel does not. (Num. 1:16; Deut. 1:15; 1 Chron. 27:1-22) As for Judah, 2 Samuel apparently counted in 30,000 who were in an army of observation stationed on the Philistine frontiers, and which were not included in the 1 Chronicles figure. (2 Sam. 6:1) We note that in 2 Samuel the record does not say “all they of Israel were”, as it does in the more complete summation in 1 Chronicles, but just “there were in Israel”, not using the all-inclusive expression, since it did not include in its numbering the regularly enlisted forces. Again, in 1 Chronicles the account does not say “all they of Judah were”, as it did in the case of Israel, but only “and Judah was”, since it left out 30,000 and hence was not all-inclusive.
So when the entire picture is brought under examination, when we remember that the accounts were written by different men, who had different views in mind, we can harmonize the two accounts without difficulty.
● Did other persons live before Adam? Where did Cain get his wife?—G. B., Alberta, Canada.
Adam and Eve were the first humans; all others have descended from them. Of Adam Genesis 5:4 says: “He begat sons and daughters.” One of these daughters Cain married. Not one of them was mentioned in the record at the time of her birth, but all were merely acknowledged at the close of the account of Adam’s life. The Bible seldom indicates the birth of girls individually. Prior to Genesis 5:4 other men are spoken of as having wives and begetting offspring, yet no record of the birth of these women appears. Cain’s case is not exceptional. (Gen. 4:16-26) Incidentally, even evolutionary scientists generally hold that there was only one original pair, and that their offspring interbred, brother with sister.