Plant Some Seeds and Watch Them Grow (Study #1, 2001/03/01, 2001/03/19)

God's Admits His Laws Are No Good? Hogwash! (Ezekiel 20:25)

Some bible debunkers use a particular verse of scripture to claim that God admitted that His laws were no good. That particular verse appears in Ezekiel 20:25, and "them" is referring to the people after being led of of Egypt (the Exodus):

Morevover I gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live. (NRSV)
This verse is taken out of context by some to try to prove that God was admitting that His statutes were no good and that people could not live by his ordinaces. If you read that one verse in isolation, especially in this translation (and some others, including the KJV), that's exactly what it seems to say.

However, if one starts at the beginning of chapter 20 of Ezekiel, and reads the whole chapter, the meaning of verse 25 becomes much more clear. I strongly suggest reading the entire first part of chapter 20 up to verse 25 right now.

God made himself known to His people in Egypt and swore to bring them out of Egypt (The Exodus). He told these people to cast away detestable things and to not defile themselves with the idols of Egypt, but the people rebelled and would not listen, and did not cast away detestible things and did not forsake the idols of Egypt. God thought about pouring His wrath upon them in Egypt, but did not. He led them out of Egypt anyway, into the wilderness.

He then gave the people His statutes and ordinances, and even gave them His sabbaths as a sign between He and them. In the wilderness, however, the people rebelled and did not observe His statutes, rejected His ordinances, and profaned His sabbaths. God thought about pouring His wrath upon them in the wilderness to put an end to them, but He did not.

God said to their children in the wilderness, "Do not follow the statutes of your parents nor observe their ordinances, nor defile yourself with their idols. I am the Lord your God; follow my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances, and hallow my sabbaths that they may be a sign between me and you." The children rebelled and did not follow His statutes and did not observe His ordinances, and profaned His sabbaths. God then again thought about pouring His wrath upon them, but did not. He then swore to scatter them among the nations.

Now that "troublesome" verse appears, which appears in the NRSV as:

Moreover I gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live.
The NASB rendition is nearly identical:
I also gave them statutes that were not good and ordinances by which they could not live.
The Hebrew word, "nathan" means "to give" but has other meanings. Look at the NIV wording and the difference in meaning when compared to the above translations:
I also gave them over to statutes that were not good and laws they could not live by.
Now the NKJV:
Therefore I gave them up to statutes that were not good, and judgments by which they could not live.
And finally the NLT:
I gave them over to worthless customs and laws that would not lead to life.
Note that the NIV, NKJV, and NLT translate the word not as simply "gave" but as "gave up" or "gave over", which is a very significant difference in meaning. Given the total context, this meaning seems to makes more sense.

It seems that God was so fed up with these people after all their rebellion that He allowed them to sin and adopt pagan practices just to show them that doing so would lead to their destruction (as an act of judgment). The people adopted the practice of sacrificing their firstborn infants, and obviously, that practice would lead to destruction (they need offspring to continue their population). If that whole chapter is analyzed, God thought about unleashing His wrath three different times in that chapter before that statement was made, but did not.

Think about a parent that has a child that wants to do bad things and over time, regardless of how the parent tries to prevent it, the child rebels and still wants to do the bad thing (whatever it may be). The parent after a while finally decides, "Well, I guess I'll just have to let the child do this bad thing so they can find out the hard way what it will lead to." It sounds like that's what God did in Ezekiel 20:25-26.

The "statutes that were not good and ordinaces by which they could not live" were not God's statutes and ordinaces that he originally gave them in the wilderness, but were the bad practices that the people had adopted in rebellion against Him!

This particular set of verses are good ones to know about since some people try to use them to make themselves and others believe that God's law is not good and cannot be lived by. Remember, The Word of God always comes through!

Translation abbreviations used:

Written by Evans A Criswell 2001/03/01, 2001/03/19.