According to Deuteronomy 4:32, Moses told the children of Israel to compare the miracles that had happened to them with the history of every other nation. This should not be taken lightly. Moses was very aware of the uniqueness of the Israelite experience and that it could stand the scrutiny of comparative analysis. Let’s break down this verse to understand it better.
“For ask now of the days that are past, which were before you, since the day that God created man on the earth, and ask from one end of heaven to the other, whether such a great thing as this has ever happened or was ever heard of.” (ESV)
- ASK: “Ask” is in the imperative mood, which means that it’s a command. Moses told the Israelites to ask certain questions to other people. The answer was obvious to those who had escaped from Egypt and gone through the Red Sea, but they were still told to go to other people and sources and ask questions. They were to ask their parents and neighbors, but they were also to ask other nations around them. Asking implies historical research and investigation. Science and history are noble disciplines of study. They validate the biblical narrative.
- THE PAST: The realm of their investigation was past days and years, even going back to the creation of man. That means that they were to look at all of history. Since they needed to find information about events that happened before their lifetime, they would need to ask other people and sources. Oral traditions might be a place to start. Written history is more credible. Archaeology is useful in validating written history. (Yes, I admit that my title is pushing it a little, but there is some truth in it.)
- THE EXTENT: They were to search out history from one end of heaven to the other. There was no time or place that was excluded from this research. That also means that they were supposed to look into the history of every other nation on earth and compare it to the history of Israel. We can’t be certain that our faith has been substantiated unless we know the essential facts of the history of all nations. The biblical narrative can’t be true unless all pretenders fail to meet the criteria.
- THE CRITERIA: They were to ascertain if their experience was UNIQUE. Did any other god save a nation from slavery and speak to it directly? Only the God of Moses did. Secular anthropology tries to be objective, but then it has no discernment. It doesn’t judge people as evil because they offered their children to Moloch. The historical method of Moses assumes that Israel is the golden standard by which everything should be judged. This is not prejudice because they were open to new evidence. They were saying to the world, “Prove us wrong.” Early archaeologists intentionally went out to validate the biblical narrative; modern archeologists treat it as myth.
In light of Moses’ admonition, believers should not retreat into a mystical personal faith. We should be beating down the doors of academia in order to take our well-deserved place for the defense of Jewish history. The lives and stories of the patriarchs, kings, and prophets can stand the test of scrutiny. They need to be boldly compared to the history of the other nations, outside of churches.