Questions From Readers
● Why was it that, according to Leviticus 27:28, 29, no devoted thing, whether man or beast, could be redeemed, but had to be put to death?—G. B., Spain.
Leviticus 27:28, 29 (AS) reads: “Notwithstanding, no devoted thing, that a man shall devote unto Jehovah of all that he hath, whether of man or beast, or of the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed: every devoted thing is most holy unto Jehovah. No one devoted, that shall be devoted from among men, shall be ransomed; he shall surely be put to death.” The Hebrew word, hherʹem, that is translated “devoted” in this text, means a thing or person devoted to destruction or sacred use and therefore withheld from any profane use.
For example, a field could be sanctified and later redeemed, but under certain circumstances it became “a field devoted” and no longer redeemable. It became the possession of the priest and was devoted to sacred use. (Lev. 27:20, 21) Animals and men that became devoted in this sense were devoted to destruction and for that reason not redeemable. King Saul was sent to “devote” or “utterly destroy” the Amalekites, but in violation of this “devoting” he spared King Agag, thereby rousing the wrath of Samuel and causing Samuel to fulfill the devoting of Agag by slaying him. (1 Sam. 15:18, 33) At 1 Kings 20:42 it speaks of a man “whom I appointed to utter destruction”, and the margin says a man “of my curse”, but the same Hebrew word elsewhere translated “devote” is used. A similar case is Isaiah 34:5, where it speaks of the people “of my curse”. Sometimes entire cities were to be devoted to destruction, as outlined at Deuteronomy 13:12-17. The destroyers were to take no “cursed” thing from it, or, according to the margin, no “devoted” thing. Jericho was to be such a “cursed” (“devoted,” margin) city, only Rahab and her household being spared. When Achan violated this command by withholding some articles that were devoted to destruction all Israel suffered, until Achan was destroyed. (Josh. 6:17; 7:13) More literal translations, such as Rotherham’s and Young’s, use the word “devoted” in most of the above cases.
There are many other instances where the same Hebrew word is used to mean devoted to destruction, but the foregoing illustrations suffice to show why such devoted things, animals or persons were not redeemable.
● John 9:1-3 (NW) reads: “Now as he was passing along he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him: ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, so that he was born blind?’ Jesus answered: ‘Neither this man sinned nor his parents, but it was in order that the works of God might be made manifest in his case.’” Can these verses be rightly used to indicate either prehuman existence or predestination?—L. A., Alberta, Canada.
Mormons make use of this text in an endeavor to prove prehuman existence, saying that the mere asking of the question by Christ’s disciples shows that they believed it possible for the man to have sinned before birth, in order for him to be punished for those sins by being born blind. These disciples had not been following Jesus very long, and doubtless they had not been completely cleansed of all false religious doctrine by the waters of truth. In this instance, their question undoubtedly reflected their contamination by the pagan teaching of the transmigration of souls, with its view that sins in previous lives determined the kind or condition of the bodies of future reincarnations of a transmigrating, immortal soul.
This pagan teaching of the Greek philosopher Pythagoras could very easily have contaminated these Jewish disciples of Jesus, for a resemblance of it was taught by the Jewish Pharisees. On this point Josephus says: “They also believe that souls have an immortal vigour in them, and that under the earth there will be rewards or punishments, according as they have lived virtuously or viciously in this life; and the latter are to be detained in an everlasting prison, but that the former shall have power to revive and live again.” Also, “They say that all souls are incorruptible, but that the souls of good men only are removed into other bodies, but that the souls of bad men are subject to eternal punishment.”—Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVIII, chapter I, ¶3; Wars of the Jews, Book II, chapter VIII, ¶14.
The premise of the question, that the man might have been able to sin before his birth, is unscriptural. The Bible rules out any possible sinning before birth when it says concerning Esau and Jacob: “When they had not yet been born nor had practiced anything good or vile.” (Rom. 9:11, NW) Jesus corroborated this view in his reply, saying the man had not sinned in any way before birth. For that matter, Jesus also showed that the parents had not sinned in the sense of doing anything wrong that resulted in their babe’s being born blind. All physical imperfections, and certainly blindness from birth is one such, are due to inherited condemnation because of Adamic sin. Imperfect creatures could produce only imperfect offspring. (Ps. 51:5; Matt. 7:16-20; Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:22) Not all calamities befall persons because of some sin they have committed. (Eccl. 9:11; Luke 13:1-5) Yet the Jews of Jesus’ day often thought so. Job was a special target of Satan, but his critics contended his troubles were not due to his integrity but traceable to his sins: “Recall now—who ever perished that was innocent? Or where were the upright cut off? As I have seen, those who plow guilt and sow sorrow reap it.”—Job 1:8-12; 2:3-9; 4:7, 8, AT.
There are some who believe in predestination that use this text to argue that the man’s blindness was ordained by God, in order that through it he would come in contact with Jesus, learn of him, follow him, and thus be brought to the salvation predestined for him before the foundation of the world. They argue thus in view of Jesus’ reply: “It was in order that the works of God might be made manifest in his case.” By these words Jesus was not meaning to set aside or make void the scriptures cited in the previous paragraph that show the cause of such imperfections to be inherited sin from the time of Adam. This case of blindness due to imperfection served as an opportunity to make manifest the works of God, make them manifest to those observing the miraculous cure and also to the man cured. It caused him to become a follower of Christ. (John 9:38) Yet so far as making manifest the works of God, this case was no different from others where the blind saw, the lame walked, the lepers were cleansed, the deaf heard and the dead were raised. All such cases made manifest the works of God, fulfilled prophecy, and were signs that confirmed Jesus as the Christ or Messiah. (Isa. 53:4; Matt. 8:16, 17; 11:2-6) But what real praise would it be to God to make a man blind so that he could heal him later on? Rather than praiseworthy, that would be only the long-delayed righting of a wrong previously committed. It would be as hypocritical as one who sets up a straw man and then in a vain display knocks it down. No, Jehovah God, whose work is perfect, would not intervene to make anything as imperfect as a blind babe.—Deut. 32:4.
Even if he did, it would not be a case of predestination, as that doctrine is defined by its foremost proponents, the Presbyterians. Whether the man could see or not is immaterial to predestination. Predestination strictly relates to final destiny, not to any events or conditions during earthly life. Nor will it do to say the blindness was predestinated in order to bring the man in contact with Jesus, that he might be healed by him and thereafter learn about Christ and follow him and ultimately gain salvation. It cannot be said that the blindness was the means of setting in motion the chain of events that would lead the man to his predestined salvation. This would imply that Jehovah foreknew the chain of events and set the stage for its occurrence by ordaining the man’s birth as a blind babe, all to the end of making the divine predestination work out correctly. But such a view of matters does not mesh with the definition of the doctrine, for its supporters are definite in their contention that the predestination is completely independent of any foreknown or prearranged works or circumstances or conditions or moving causes. So the blindness could not be a condition or cause moving the man toward his destiny, as they say it comes “without any foresight of faith or good works, or perseverance in either of them, or any other thing in the creature, as conditions, or causes moving him thereunto”.—“Confession of Faith,” chapter III, section 5, as found on page 16 of The Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in the United States of America.
Hence John 9:1-3 cannot be successfully used to prove either prehuman existence or predestination.