Questions From Readers
● Exodus 4:11 (AS) states: “And Jehovah said unto him, Who hath made man’s mouth? or who maketh a man dumb, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? is it not I, Jehovah?” On the basis of this text, can Jehovah be blamed for all the dumb or deaf or blind?—J. C., Ontario, Canada.
This text cannot be rightly used as an argument that Jehovah God is responsible for all the dumb, deaf and blind in the earth. There are several possible views that might be taken in explanation of it. Jehovah God the Creator endowed man with speech, hearing and sight, so he can also remove these powers from man, just as he can also restore them to man where they have been lost. For instance, his angels smote the men of Sodom with blindness when they were assaulting Lot’s house. Jehovah’s Son Jesus Christ smote Saul of Tarsus with blindness for three days to turn him from his course of persecution of Christians, and thereafter divine power restored sight. The apostle Paul told the sorcerer Elymas that he would be stricken blind for a season by the hand of Jehovah, and it was so.—Gen. 19:11; Acts 9:8, 9, 17, 18; 13:8-11.
The men who were accompanying Saul of Tarsus when he was struck blind were rendered deaf by Jehovah’s power as far as discerning what Jesus said to Saul. They heard the sound of the voice, but they were deaf to its articulation of words. (Acts 9:7; 22:9, NW) God told Ezekiel that at times he would be made dumb, and that later his tongue would be loosed. (Ezek. 3:26, 27; 24:27) Then there was the priest Zechariah who was smitten with dumbness because of his slowness to believe and who was relieved when his son John was born and circumcised and named. (Luke 1:20, 22, 62-64) Also Jehovah declares that at Armageddon he will strike his enemies and “their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth”.—Zech. 14:12.
The foregoing are specific examples of where Jehovah literally brought deafness or dumbness or blindness upon individuals and also lifted these disabilities from them. The text certainly does not say that every case of such physical disability springs from Jehovah. From this text it does not follow that persons born blind or deaf or dumb were so disabled because of any direct intervention by Jehovah, as some argue. However, it is true that the operation of certain natural laws of Jehovah may result in deformities of one kind or another. By the first man’s rebellion sin and death came upon all men, and physical deterioration and degeneration set in as a consequence. Parents may sin and become diseased in certain ways, and their violation of Jehovah’s laws may result in some susceptibility to disease or some physical deformity’s being passed on to the offspring at birth. If such comes about by the operation of Jehovah’s natural law or by way of penalty for violating his laws, then in an indirect way he may be viewed as the source of it, though not responsible for it.—Ex. 20:5.
A third possible view of the matter would be in a spiritual sense. Ears that hear God’s message but fail to grasp its significance are spiritually deaf. Eyes that see foretold events but fail to perceive their fulfillment of prophecy are spiritually blind. Tongues that speak the words of God recorded in the Bible but are unable to voice clear explanations and applications are spiritually dumb. So ears that hear and eyes that see and tongues that speak can still be deaf and blind and dumb to Jehovah’s purposes. Sometimes Jehovah makes them so, because of their unworthiness. When he sent Isaiah to testify to unfaithful Judah he said to the prophet: “Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed.” (Isa. 6:9, 10) Isaiah was said to have done this to them, since he spoke the words that made the rebellious people close their eyes and ears to the message. But since the message was from God, God himself may be said to have done it. These selfish people were not fit to hear and be healed by God’s message, so they were deaf and dumb and blind to it.
To keep such unworthy ones in this state of spiritual darkness Jesus spoke to them in parables or illustrations, as he told his followers when they asked why he used illustrations: “This is why I speak to them by the use of illustrations, because, looking, they look in vain, and hearing, they hear in vain, neither do they get the sense of it; and toward them the prophecy of Isaiah is having fulfillment which says: ‘By hearing, you will hear but by no means get the sense of it; and, looking, you will look but by no means see. For the heart of this people has grown thick, and with their ears they have heard with annoyance, and they have shut their eyes; that they might never see with their eyes and hear with their ears and get the sense of it with their hearts and turn back, and I heal them.’” (Matt. 13:13-15, NW) The selfish people were not interested in God’s message, not even enough to inquire into the meaning of the illustrations Jesus used. So by putting the message in this form such unworthy ones were weeded out, and only the meek ones anxious to learn of God remained to question Jesus on the meaning of the illustrations. In this way Jehovah both kept some spiritually deaf, dumb and blind and made others see, hear and speak with spiritual enlightenment.
Some just have no love for truth, and “for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie”. Modern translation brings out the meaning more clearly, showing that Jehovah does not deliberately delude them but merely allows Satan to delude them, since they take more pleasure in lies and unrighteousness than in truth and salvation: “The lawless one’s presence is according to the operation of Satan with every powerful work and lying signs and wonders and with every unrighteous deception for those who are perishing, as a retribution because they did not accept the love of the truth that they might be saved. So that is why God lets an operation of error go to them that they may get to believing the lie, in order that they all may be judged because they did not believe the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness.” (2 Thess. 2:9-12, NW) In spiritual matters Jehovah allows Satan the god of this world to mentally blind them.—2 Cor. 4:4.
Just as Jehovah makes some deaf and dumb and blind spiritually, so others he lifts out of spiritual deafness and dumbness and blindness. As Isaiah foretold of this time of spiritual enlightenment: “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing.” (Isa. 35:5, 6) Spiritually, he now allows these defects to remain upon the proud and arrogant, and lifts them from the meek and lowly.
Hence we see that in ways both physical and spiritual Exodus 4:11 is fulfilled by Jehovah God, but not in a way that makes him responsible for all the physically deaf, dumb and blind in the earth.