What is revelation?
Revelation is when someone makes something known that was previously unknown.
What does revelation mean in theology?
This is when God reveals Himself to His created people. Girdlestone writes:
…it is an incontrovertible fact that the fundamental idea of the Hebrew religion is that Jehovah is a God who reveals Himself to His creatures; that He has not left the human race to grope their way to the regions of religion or morality as they best can, but that from the beginning He has taken His children by the hand, cared for their welfare, made known to them His will, and marked out for them the way to happiness.’ In accordance with this undeniable fact, the Divine Being is represented as speaking by word of mouth with His creatures. source
Orr records this thought:
A genuine Theism can never long remain a bare Theism. At the height to which Christianity has raised our thoughts of God, it is becoming constantly more difficult for minds that reflect seriously to believe in a God who does not manifest Himself in word and deed. This is well brought out in a memorable conversation which Mr. Froude had with Mr. Carlyle in the last days of his life. “I once said to him,” says Mr. Froude, “not long before his death, that I could only believe in a God which did something. With a cry of pain, which I shall never forget, he said, ‘He does nothing.’ ” This simply means that if we are to retain the idea of a living God, we must be in earnest with it. We must believe in a God who expresses Himself in living deeds in the history of mankind, who has a word and message for mankind, who, having the power and the will to bless mankind, does it. Theism, as I contended before, needs Revelation to complete it. source
How does God reveal Himself to human persons?
God has many different ways He does this. The first and most obvious is that God speaks directly to people just as two people might speak directly to each other. The first instance of this we see immediately after God created Adam and Eve.
And God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” Then God said, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the surface of all the earth, and every tree which has fruit yielding seed; it shall be food for you; and to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the sky and to every thing that moves on the earth which has life, I have given every green plant for food”; and it was so. (Gen 1:28-30)
There are numerous other instances of this in the Old Testament. God also spoke directly to His people by way of vision as Isaiah (Is 6) and several times to Ezekiel (1, 8, 40).
How else has God revealed Himself to His people?
God revealed Himself to ancient Israel using the Urim and Thummim. It is not clear exactly what these were; but in some way, God used these to communicate his will to His people. We may assume that whenever Scripture speaks of Israel asking for the Lord’s will in any matter, these Urim and Thummim were in use.
- For instance, we read that Israel did not ask Yahweh’s advice before making their agreement with the Gibeonites (Josh. 9:14).
- After Joshua died, Israel asked YHWH who should lead their armies (Judges 1; 20:18).
- When the Israelites couldn’t find Saul, they asked God where he was (1Sam 10:22).
- David often asked God for specific direction (2 Sam. 2:1; 5:19, 23).
Has God ever revealed Himself to people via dreams?
God spoke to Abimelech in a dream (Gen 20:3, 6), Jacob (Gen 31:11), and Laban (Gen 31:24). Furthermore, there is the promise of God that in the last days, “…I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind; And your sons and daughters will prophesy, Your old men will dream dreams, Your young men will see visions.” (Joel 2:28)
Did not God use angels to reveal His will to His people?
The Angel Gabriel spoke to Daniel (Dan 8:16; 9:21), Zacharias (Luke 1:19), and John on the island of Patmos (Rev 1:1).
What are we taught in Micah 6?
In this chapter, God teaches us that even historical events reveal something to us about God. In this verse, God reminds Israel of what He did to Balak and Balaam. He then states the purpose of these events which were “…in order that you might know the righteousness of the LORD.”
My people, remember now what Balak king of Moab counseled And what Balaam son of Beor answered him, And from Shittim to Gilgal, In order that you might know the righteousness of the LORD. (Mic 6:5)
Robert Girdlestone writes:
The leading idea of the Old Testament is that it records a revelation of God both in speech and action, especially the latter; in other words, that God has revealed Himself both by what He says and by what He does. source
Where else is it clear that history itself is meant to reveal God to us?
We find over seventy times in the Old Testament, some form of the expression, then they will know that I am YHWH. Almost always, some historical event is in the context which reveals to someone the true existence and character of YHWH. Corresponding to this expression is the line in Ezekiel, “I YHWH have spoken; I will do it” where God puts His reputation on the line as it were and challenges people to watch and see whether what He has said would actually come to pass (cf Dt 18:22).
It seems that most of these references are in Ezekiel’s prophecy.
Yes, very true. Ezekiel was the prophet who did the most to highlight this aspect of God’s revelation. Historical events reveal to us God’s existence and character. Consider God’s wrath which He will pour out on Gog. God says that the purpose for such wrath is to display His holiness before the watching eyes of the nations.
You [Gog] will advance against my people Israel like a cloud that covers the land. In days to come, Gog, I will bring you against my land, so that the nations may know me when I am proved holy through you before their eyes. (Ezek 38:16)
and in the last verse of the same chapter:
I will show my greatness and my holiness and make myself known in the eyes of many nations. Then they will know that I am YHWH. (Ezek 38:23)
In the next chapter, God announces:
I shall set My glory among the nations; and all the nations will see My judgment which I have executed, and My hand which I have laid on them. “And the house of Israel will know that I am the LORD their God from that day onward. “And the nations will know that the house of Israel went into exile for their iniquity because they acted treacherously against Me, and I hid My face from them; so I gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and all of them fell by the sword. (Ezek 39:21-23)
How can historical events reveal to us something about God?
In and of themselves, they cannot. They can only be a revelation to us if they are accompanied by God’s interpretation of that event. We see something of this in Amos 3. Ladd writes:
Here is the biblical mode of revelation: the revealing acts of God in history, accompanied by the interpreting prophetic word which explains the divine source and character of the divine acts. Deeds—words; God acts—God speaks; and the words explain the deeds. The deeds could not be understood unless accompanied by the divine word; and the word would seem powerless unless accompanied by the mighty works. Both the acts and the words are divine events, coming from God. In fact, it would be better to speak of the revealing deed-word event, for the two belong together and form an inseparable unity. Ladd, The New Testament and Criticism, 27.
In one sense, isn’t everything in creation a revelation of the glory of God?
It is indeed. Bavinck writes:
All that is and happens is, in a real sense, a work of God and to the devout a revelation of his attributes and perfections. That is how Scripture looks at nature and history. Creating, sustaining, and governing together form one, single, mighty, ongoing revelation of God. No nature poetry has surpassed or even equaled that of Israel. To the devout, everything in nature speaks of God. The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims his handiwork. God’s voice is in the great waters. That voice breaks the cedars; it rumbles in the thunder and howls in the hurricane. The light is his garment, the heavens his curtain, the clouds his chariot. His breath creates and renews the earth. He both rains and causes his sun to shine upon the just and the unjust. Herbs and grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren years, indeed, all things come not by chance but by his fatherly hand. The Bible’s view of nature and history is religious and hence also supernatural. Refd Dog. 1:307.
Does not God rule all history? Why is Israel’s history a revelation of God and not Egyptian history or US history?
Because the events which make up Israel’s history were accompanied by divine revelation which teaches us the significance of these events. No other history has this.
At what point, did the people of God begin to write down God’s revelation?
Writing is so common today that it is difficult for us to understand the primitive times. In these times, writing was very different. What you wrote with, what you wrote on, writing in pictures or in letters, and writing with ink or something else were all things that were evolving. The kind of writing with which they were most familiar was writing on the tablet of the heart. (Prov 3:3; Jer 17:1; 2Cor 3:3) Committing things to memory was much more practical and useful in those days. Nevertheless, we do find the beginning of writing already in the Old Testament.
What are the very earliest references to writing we find in the Bible?
We find one reference to writing in Genesis, one in Exodus, several in Numbers, and several more in Deuteronomy. Hengstenberg writes at length about this here.
Start with Genesis.
Here we find reference to a book in Genesis 5:1. There were probably many such “books” which contained official registers, records, lists, genealogies, etc.
This is the book of the generations of Adam… (Genesis 5:1)
What about Exodus?
When Israel first started out on their wilderness journey, they were attacked by the Amalekites. After the Amalekites were defeated, God commanded Moses to write down what happened in a book and to preserve this memory for future generations (Deut 25:17; 1Sam 15:2).
And YHWH said to Moses, “Write this for a memorial in a book, and rehearse it in the ears of Joshua…” (Exod 17:14)
This is certainly an early reference to writing and is interesting for three reasons:
First, this shows the existence of writing at a very early period in biblical history.
Second, the implication here is that such a historical record already existed at this time, and Moses was simply commanded to add this account to it. Perhaps this book was the same book as is later called the “book of the wars of YHWH” in Num 21:14.
Third, whether this book already existed or not, without a doubt, Moses used it when he later wrote the Pentateuch.
Did Moses know how to read?
That Moses could read is clear from Exod 24:7 where he read the book of the covenant to Israel.
What is meant here by book?
This likely would have been a scroll.
What references to writing are in the book of Numbers?
Here we learn that Moses kept a written record of their progress. (Numbers 33:2)
What references to writing are found in the book of Deuteronomy?
First, Moses wrote out the book of Deuteronomy. Second, God commanded Israel to write down (Deut 31:19) the song of Moses (Deut 32). Finally, of more interest is Deut 29:27, 29 where again it appears that some book was already in existence, and Israel is warned to not treat it lightly.
What was the task of the men mentioned in Judges 5:14 who came from Zebulun and who wielded the staff of office?
Judges 5:14 says, “From Ephraim those whose root is in Amalek came down, Following you, Benjamin, with your peoples; From Machir commanders came down, And from Zebulun those who wield the staff of office.” These were a professional class of men or סֹפֵר who knew how to read and write and would have functioned as a kind of secretary to the king. source See further examples in Judges 8:14 and Joshua 18:9.