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.”