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Necessary Inference in the Old Testament

by Terry W. Benton

It has been said that the Old Testament was always direct in communicating the will of God and that the idea of having to "infer" the will of God has never been necessary and therefore is not necessary now, but is that argument a necessary conclusion? Consider just a few things that show that the premise of that argument has never been so.

In Deuteronomy 1:5 we find Moses having to explain the Law. When you explain the Law you are having to tell the meaning and how it applies. But, you cannot explain how it applies without using reason and connecting the words to an application and that simply cannot be done and never has been done and never can be done without using the common sense of drawing a necessary inference. An application is always an inference that this is how WE are to perform and apply those words.

  • "On this side of the Jordan in the land of Moab, Moses began to explain this law" (NKJV)
  • "... Moses began to expound this law" (NIV)
  • "... Moses began to explain this law" (AMP)

Explaining and expounding the Law means to draw the inference of both meaning of words and proper application of words. There is never an escape from having to reason through the process of understanding and proper application.

"So they read distinctly from the book, in the Law of God; and they gave the sense , and helped them to understand the reading" (Nehemiah 8:7-8).

Notice that there is "the reading distinctly from the book." Is that all that needed to be done? No! Reading demands discerning of meaning of words and understanding the words demands inferring the sense in which it is to be understood and applied. Without proper reasoning upon the words in the book there can be no proper application. But all application comes through necessary inference.

Take one of the ten commandments and see if this is not so. "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it Holy." Those are words in the Law. But, what is meant by "remember?" Does it mean to remember it in thought and just have a thought? What is the Sabbath day? The text itself does not say what it is. This must be learned from other passages with more information coming into play than just the words themselves. How does one keep it holy? Again, this is learned by comparison of information in other places and then a conclusion is drawn from the total information on that topic. After the reasoning has drawn the necessary inference on the meaning of the words, there is the necessary inference as to who it applies to and how it is to be carried into our actions.

Don't let anyone fool you about the common sense of reasoning through commands and examples to their necessary inference about proper application in whatever law we are talking about. To ridicule such things is to claim that God does not require reasoning upon His words to proper application and obedience.