We all may be guilty of it at times.  What am I talking about?  Assumptions.  While we try to approach the Scriptures and let them speak to us and shape our beliefs, we may all from time to time, unwittingly allow assumptions to shape our view of a text.

Allow me to give you a few examples from the early chapters of Genesis.

1) Was there rain prior to the flood? Some would emphatically say, “No” based on Genesis 2:5-6.  But does this passage say it never rained prior to the flood?  It says there was no rain prior to any plants and herbs, but the text stops there.  How things were watered after plants and herbs had grown is not stated.  That’s where some fill the gap by assumptions.

2) Cain took a wife from the Land of Nod. This is an assumption.  The text doesn’t say this.  The text says that Cain and his wife conceived a child there (Genesis 4:16).  There is nothing in the text that says anything about Cain finding a wife in Nod, or for that matter any other people in this land from among whom he picked a wife.  In Hebrew, “Nod” means, “wandering.” Cain may have taken a wife with him to “Nod,” this place of wandering, and conceived a son there and built a city.

3) Seth was the third child born to Adam and Eve. This too is an assumption, and an incorrect one at that. True, Seth was the third son of Adam and Eve mentioned in Scripture, but this does not imply there were not others before him. Genealogies are not always complete.  Often they skip over those who weren’t “key players.”  For example, Matthew 1:1says, “…Jesus Christ, the son of David, the Son of Abraham.”  Surely none would argue that Abraham was Jesus’ grandfather.  There were others in the lineage, but they just weren’t mentioned in that verse.  It might also seem difficult to think that Adam and Eve would wait 130 years to have their third child (Genesis 5:3). The text states that Adam and Eve had sons and daughters (Genesis 5:4), some of whom had to have been born before Seth in order for Cain to take a wife, and be concerned about other people who may slay him (Genesis 4:14).

4) Cain’s sacrifice was unacceptable because it wasn’t a blood sacrifice. This is yet another assumption.  While it is true that Cain’s sacrifice was from the fruit of the ground and Abel’s was an animal sacrifice, and while it is true that God took pleasure in Abel’s and not Cain’s, it does not follow that the reason was the “things offered” by Cain and Abel.  According to Hebrews 11: 4, Abel’s sacrifice was better than Cain’s because it was offered “by faith.”  That could mean that Abel’s offering consisted of the item that God commanded (about which there is no revelation), or it could mean that Abel built the altar to God’s specifications, or used a certain kind of wood to light the fire, or a hundred other things God may have commanded which are not recorded.  Or it could had reference to the attitude Abel possessed and Cain lacked.  We just don’t know beyond what the text says.

So here you have four quick illustrations from very familiar biblical material.  But may I ask, “have you made some assumptions regarding these texts?”  Have you drawn conclusions that the Bible doesn’t draw?  Now grant it, these matters are not salvation issues.  Heaven and Hell don’t hang in the balance.  But what these matters demonstrate is that we too must guard against holding to and teaching assumptions rather than accurately representing the Word of God.  Let us be sure to give more than lip service to the idea of “speaking where the Bible speaks and being silent where the Bible is silent.”

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Comments 5

  • Thanks Steve! Good article, and good challenge for us to test what we say and believe. As you said, these (your examples) may be points that do not pertain to our salvation, but if we are careless here we may be careless when it really matters.

  • Good article.

    Regarding Cain’s sacrifice not being acceptable, V.P. Black suggested (in his sermon book “Back to the Basics,” that it could have been that Cain didn’t offer enough. He said the phrase translated “Abel also offered” can suggest that Abel offered what Cain did PLUS an offering from his flock. Interesting, huh?

  • Assumptions have presented themselves to be big roadblocks at times in my life, and in my studies with others. I appreciate being challenged to remember to let God speak where He speaks and leave the rest alone! Thank you.

  • Genesis 2:5-6

    5 And every plant of the field before it was in the earth, and every herb of the field before it grew: for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was not a man to till the ground.

    6 But there went up a mist from the earth, and watered the whole face of the ground.

  • David,
    I just saw that you commented on my post about assumptions. However, your post consisted only of Gen. 2:5-6. You made no comment, so I don’t know what you were meaning by your quotation. Were you agreeing by quoting this passage, or were you somehow thinking that this passage disagreed with what I wrote?

    I certainly don’t want to be guilty of “assuming,” but if you quoted the passage, thinking that it somehow disagreed with what I wrote, I would ask you to reconsider what I wrote.

    The question was concerning the assumption that some people make that it never rained prior to the flood of Noah. Sometimes people will quote Gen. 2:5-6 as support for that contention, but it doesn’t teach that. In fact, it is an assumption.

    You see, what this passage says is that God watered the ground with a mist BEFORE there were shrubs and plants. However, this passage says nothing about how God watered the ground AFTER there were shrubs and plants. To suggest that he continued to do it the same way or a different way is an assumption. We just don’t know because there is no revelation on the matter.

    Hope this helps.

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