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BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION (7): Silence of the Scriptures


For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests. – Hebrews 7:14

Does the silence of the Scripture about a thing mean that thing is prohibited by God? Many believe it does, and point to this passage in Hebrews to support the idea. After all, the writer had just said:

For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law. He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. – Hebrews 7:12-13

Since Moses said nothing about priests coming from Judah, for Jesus to be a priest the law had to be changed. There had never been a priest from Judah before Him. He could not be priest if the law were not altered. Judah was banned from the priesthood until the law was changed.

Ergo, if the Scripture is silent about anything we must not adopt it.

Really?

What if Moses had said nothing about from which tribe a priest should come? Would that change things? Would it have been possible then for a priest to come from Judah?

Hmmm.

Why have I never heard that question asked (or answered) in all of the sermons where Hebrews 7:14 has been quoted to “prove” that silence prohibits?

When I was a child, I accepted what the preachers were all saying. Now that I have become a man (an old man at that!), I wonder. Now, me-thinks that many of the preachers had just done what I have done for much of my life: accept what someone else said without thinking it through.

Now, there may be a way to establish that the silence of the Scripture prohibits – but I do not think that Hebrews 7:14 establishes that.

You see, it was not that God had said nothing about priests coming from the tribe of Judah that prohibited it. He had said that priests should come from the descendants of Aaron. This was one family within the tribe of Levi.

The LORD not only appointed Aaron and his descendants to be the priests. He enforced that in a dramatic fashion when one from the tribe of Judah took on himself priestly duties.

After Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall. He was unfaithful to the LORD his God, and entered the temple of the LORD to burn incense on the altar of incense. Azariah the priest with eighty other courageous priests of the LORD followed him in. They confronted him and said, “It is not right for you, Uzziah, to burn incense to the LORD. That is for the priests, the descendants of Aaron, who have been consecrated to burn incense. Leave the sanctuary, for you have been unfaithful; and you will not be honored by the LORD God.

Uzziah, who had a censer in his hand ready to burn incense, became angry. Wile he was raging at the priests in their presence before the incense altar in the LORD’s temple, leprosy broke out on his forehead. When Azariah the chief priest and all the other priests looked at him, they saw that he had leprosy on his forehead, so they hurried him out. Indeed, he himself was eager to leave, because the LORD had afflicted him. – 2 Chronicles 26:16-20

The Lord was not silent about the tribe to serve as priests. He made Himself perfectly clear that these were to come from Levi of the house of Aaron. He was very specific about that.

It was not God’s silence that kept priests from coming from Judah. It was His specificity.

When God has specified one thing, we are not to substitute something else. For more on this, you can go here to read Al Maxey’s Reflection, Speaking Out on Silence.

When God has given a command with no instructions about how we are to obey it, we should not add to what He has said in order to limit how we or others may obey this command.

NEXT (8): Context! Context! Context!

PREVIOUS (6): What Is Not of Faith

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