Can the Bible Be Both Literal and Inspired?

I find it odd that those that most vociferously proclaim that the Bible is the inspired word of God also insist that the Bible should be read literally. But, for me, reading the Bible literally and as an inspired book is a complete contradiction.

How so?

Typically, when someone says that the Bible should be read literally they mean that we should read the text by strictly adhering to exact idea conveyed by the words on the page. In other words, there can be no deviation from what the words mean, what the author intended, and what the one meaning of those words and intent is.

I understand that for these same people, the Bible is inspired because it the authors were divinely influenced to write what they did. Some even believe that this divine inspiration gave the authors the exact words to use.

Therefore, these people believe that the Bible can be both literal and inspired.

However, for me, this fails to account the actual idea and meaning of inspiration. Something is inspired when it moves the intellect and emotions. Inspiration influences and suggests, but it does not dictate. Dictation is literal. Inspiration breathes life into something. Life never has a singular meaning. Rather, it is varied and complex.

We speak of art, music, books, poems, etc. as inspired.

Why do we call works of art inspired?

We call works of art inspired because there is a meaning that is deeper than what is directly seen or heard. Inspired works of art are not to be taken literally, as if they are they are to convey one word, one thought, one meaning only. Rather, works of art move and influence the heart and mind to see deeper, opening up meanings and possibilities. Perhaps even thoughts and ideas that the artist did not originally intend.

Inspiration means that there is more than what is obvious. Or, in contrast to many who believe the Bible should be read literally, there is more than the “plain” meaning of the text.

Paul stresses these very ideas about inspiration – that the meaning is more and deeper than what was originally written – throughout his letters. Just read 2 Corinthians 3 and 4. Or, read the the analogies and allegories Paul uses to make Old Testament passages relevant to his audience. Paul interprets the scriptures creatively.

For Paul, there seems to be a range of meanings to the Old Testament, as long as those meanings serve the word that he was occupied with (Acts 17), which was that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer, die, and be resurrected. This was the one thing Paul had a habit of teaching everywhere we went.

The Bible is inspired when the Holy Spirit breathes life into it. This breathing into the words that are written by the Holy Spirit may have happened at the time the words were written. But, more importantly, the breathing into the words by the Holy Spirit happens each time we read the words of the Holy Bible with the Holy Spirit as our teacher. The inspiration of the text happens on a moment by moment basis. The inspiration of the text has happened every day for the last 2,000 years, it is happening now, and it will continue to happen into the future.

When we truly understand God, it is not surprising that the reading of the Bible can be inspired when the Holy Spirit breathes into it.

What is the first thing the Bible says about God?

“In the beginning, God created…”

God is a creator.

God is an artist.

Creation, art, happens through inspiration.

But, God’s creation, his art, can never be captured by a single, literal meaning of words on a page.

What is God’s ultimate artwork, his true masterpiece?

It’s not the Bible.

Ephesians 2.10 says, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” The Greek word for workmanship is poeima, from which we get our word poem. Go back to the creation story in Genesis 1. In that chapter, the only portion of text translated as poem is the portion where God creates man, which I find fascinating.

We are God’s poem. We are God’s masterpiece. We, not the Bible, are truly what is inspired by God. When the Holy Spirit breathes into us, then we read the Bible in new and creative ways that make the text have meaning for our time and our culture.

Paul says that we are living letters. We are living witnesses to the Christ. For us today, Christians are to be living Bibles for the world around them.

So, can the Bible be both literal and inspired?

For me, the answer is no.

Literalism kills inspiration.

Did God Kill a Man for Gathering Sticks on the Sabbath?

Did God kill a man for gathering sticks on the Sabbath?

Isn’t it obvious that the answer is yes?

Numbers 15.32-36 tells us that while Israel was wandering in the wilderness, the people found a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath. So, they brought this man to Moses and Aaron and the entire congregation. Because it wasn’t clear if the man had violated the Sabbath, they kept him in custody. Verse 35 says, “And the Lord said to Moses, ‘The man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him with stones outside the camp.'”

So, there you have it. Right there in black and white it says that God told Moses to have the man killed for gathering sticks on the Sabbath. Typically then, Christians go on to assume that the fact that God would kill a man for merely picking up sticks on the Sabbath shows how seriously God takes the Sabbath. Therefore, God killed this man to show everyone that they must keep the Sabbath or else.

Because the Sabbath was supposedly so important to God that he would kill a man for gathering sticks on it, Christians are still arguing about Sabbath keeping today. Some denominations shun and look down upon those that work on the Sabbath. Other denominations believe that you will go to hell forever for not keeping the Sabbath. And, Christians regularly argue whether they should keep Saturday or Sunday as the Sabbath. While Christians may not see God literally killing people for breaking the Sabbath today, the belief that God has and will do so is still going strong today.

But, are we really to believe that God is so petty that he would kill a man for gathering sticks on the Sabbath?

You can only answer yes to the question “Did God kill a man gathering sticks on the Sabbath?” because the Holy Spirit has not brought light and life to this passage of scripture for you. In fact, when the Holy Spirit breathes life into this particular passage of scripture and others – that is, when the Holy Spirit inspires Numbers 15.32-36 – we come to see that God has not, does not, and never will kill anyone for gathering sticks on the Sabbath.

In fact, this story is not about just any man being killed for gathering stick son the Sabbath. The man gathering sticks in this story is a picture of Jesus. Jesus was the one killed for gathering sticks on the Sabbath. And, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself when Jesus was crucified. (2 Corinthians 5.19)

Therefore, in an ironic twist, it wasn’t God that killed a man for gathering sticks on the Sabbath. It was man that killed God for gathering sticks on the Sabbath.

Wait. What?

How did I get there?

Well, let’s allow the Holy Spirit to inspire or bring to life Numbers 15.32-36.

How might the Holy Spirit do that?

The Hebrew word for sticks is es. This word is used quite a bit in the Old Testament, but there is one particularly interesting portion of scripture regarding the word es.

“The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Son of man, take a stick [es] and write on it, “For Judah, and the people of Israel associated with him”; then take another stick [es] and write on it, “For Joseph (the stick [es] of Ephraim) and all the house of Israel associated with him.” And join them one to another into one stick [es], that they may become one in your hand. And when your people say to you, “Will you not tell us what you mean by these?” say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I am about to take the stick [es] of Joseph (that is in the hand of Ephraim) and the tribes of Israel associated with him. And I will join with it the stick [es] of Judah, and make them one stick [es], that they may be one in my hand. When the sticks [es] on which you write are in your hand before their eyes, then say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Behold, I will take the people of Israel from the nations among which they have gone, and will gather them from all around, and bring them to their own land. And I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel. And one king shall be over them all, and they shall be no longer two nations, and no longer two divided kingdoms.'” (Ezekiel 37.15-22)

So, here we have the Hebrew word for stick, es, used as a picture or symbol of the tribes and people of Israel. These sticks, or tribes of Israel, would be gathered together and made into one nation and would have one king over them.

Clearly, Ezekiel is prophesying about Jesus as the son of man that would gather the tribes of Israel, or sticks, and make them one nation with himself as their one king.

Going back to Numbers 15.32-36 and with the inspiration of the Spirit, we can see that the man found gathering sticks while Israel was in the wilderness is a picture of none other than Jesus. Scripture does indeed picture Israel as in the wilderness, in exile, when Jesus comes. Jesus indeed was gathering sticks, gathering the tribes, to make one nation with himself as the king.

When Jesus was found to be gathering people, or sticks, particularly on the Sabbath by healing and forgiving sins, this enraged the leaders of Israel. In Mark 3.1-6, Jesus healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath. Verse 6 says, “The Pharisees went out and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.”

Eventually, Jesus was brought to the chief priests and elders and put into custody until it could be decided what to do with him. While they couldn’t stone Jesus, they decided to have him crucified, which indeed took place outside of the city, or outside of the camp.

John 11.49-53 ties all of Jesus’ story right back to Numbers 15.32-36 and Ezekiel 37.15-22.

“But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said to them, ‘You know nothing at all. Nor do you understand that it is better for you that one man should die for the people, not that the whole nation should perish.’ He did not say this of his own accord, but being high priest that year he prophesied that Jesus would die for the nation, and not for the nation only, but also to gather into one the children of God scattered abroad. So from that day on they made plans to put him to death.”

Jesus is the man gathering sticks on the Sabbath that was stoned outside the camp. Caiaphas played the part of Moses and Aaron, who was the chief of Israel. While Caiaphas did not know what he was saying, neither did Moses. God did not tell Moses, Aaron, and the congregation to kill a man for gathering sticks. Nor did God kill his own. The New Testament is very clear on this. Man killed Jesus, not God. Moses, Aaron, and the congregation killed the man gathering sticks on the Sabbath, not God.

Therefore, when we read the scripture through the inspiration of the Spirit, letting Jesus interpret it for us (Luke 24), then we see Moses and Aaron and the congregation decided themselves to kill the man gathering sticks on the Sabbath. Their view of God was veiled. They did not see God clearly. They were blinded by the God of this world. (2 Corinthians 3.12-16, 4.3-4)

Thankfully, Jesus and the Holy Spirit help us to see clearly today.

Why Was the Bible Written?


“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.” – Romans 15:4-6

Many Christians believe that Bible was written to give us the word of God. Therefore, because the Bible is the word of God, we should believe and obey it, every single jot and tittle of it, literally.

Where do Christians get this idea?

“But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:14-16)

These Christians believe that the Bible should be taken literally because it was breathed out by God. Therefore, if we want righteousness, which generally means perfect moral behavior to these Christians, then we should literally believe and obey the Bible because it teaches, reproves, corrects, trains you in righteousness.

But, is that why the Bible was written?

My answer is absolutely not.

First, 2 Timothy 3:16 says that all scripture is theopneustos. This is the only time that the word is used in the Bible. And, it is believed that Paul coined this term himself. Theo means God, and pneustos comes from the word pneuma, which means spirit, breath, or wind.

Therefore, Paul could be saying that “all scripture breathed out by God” or “all scripture is God breathed.” In this way, all scripture comes by God’s breath or God’s Spirit. As a student of the Old Testament, Paul would know that God’s spirit was also God’s breath. The Hebrew word ru’ah was used for both.

However, Paul could also be saying “all God-breathed scripture.” If we translated it this way, then we come away with a slightly different understanding in English. This would imply that there is scripture, but there is also God-breathed scripture. In other words, there is an understanding of scripture, but there is another understanding of scripture when God breathes his Spirit into it.

This latter idea, that there are different understandings of Scripture, fits exactly with what Paul says in 2 Corinthians. There, Paul says that there is a literal understanding of scripture by the letter that leads to death and there is an understanding of scripture by the Spirit, a God-breathed understanding, that leads to life. The Spiritual understanding of scripture comes because Christ’s crucifixion, his suffering, tore the veil that blinded us to this true Spiritual meaning of scripture.

Further, Paul uses two key words – faith and righteousness – that help us understand what he means by God-breathed scripture. Over the last week, I have written about the meaning of faith and righteousness in “What Is Faith?” and “What Is the Righteousness of God and Its Effect?

The key to understanding both words is to know the one thing that Jesus said all scripture spoke about. Twice in Luke 24, Jesus says that the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms, that is all scripture, spoke about one thing – that the Christ should suffer and rise from the dead three days later so that repentance and the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed to all nations.

For 40 days, from his resurrection to his ascension, Jesus taught the disciples the necessity of his suffering and rising from the dead. He told them this was what all scripture was about. But, to do this, Jesus had to interpret and translate the scriptures for them. In other words, the necessity of his suffering and rising from the dead was not the obvious literal meaning.

Further, Jesus told his disciples the night before he died that he would ask his Father to “give you another Helper, to be with you forever.” (John 14:16)

This “Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” (John 14:26)

“When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he take what is mine and declare it to you.” (John 16:13-14)

So, the Holy Spirit was given to us to be with us forever. The Holy Spirit teaches all things and brings to our remembrance what Jesus said. Jesus said it was necessary that he suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Because Jesus spoke these words, the Holy Spirit speaks these words since the Holy Spirit only speaks what Jesus speaks.

Therefore, God-breathed scripture, Spirit-filled scripture, is all about the necessity of Christ suffering and rising from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins. Remember, this cannot be understood literally from the scriptures themselves as Jesus had to interpret, translate, and open our minds to them. The Holy Spirit, through God-breathed scripture, does exactly the same thing.

While the meaning and understanding of theopneustos is contested, Paul says something very similar in Romans 15:4-6.

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Just like in 2 Timothy 3:16, Paul says that the things written were written for our instruction.

In 2 Timothy 3:14-16, Paul used the words faith and righteousness to speak of the necessity of Christ suffering and rising from the dead.

In Romans 15:4-6, Paul uses the word endurance instead of faith and righteousness to imply suffering. Endurance means the ability to withstand hardship or adversity, the ability to sustain a prolonged stressful effort or activity.

The very meaning of the word endurance implies that suffering is involved. In fact, earlier in Romans, Paul says links suffering and endurance. Romans 5:3 says, “Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that sufferings produces endurance.”

According to Romans 15:4, one way scripture instructs us is through suffering.

Also, Paul says that another way scripture instructs us is through encouragement. The Greek word for encouragement is paraklesis. It also means comfort and exhortation.

When Jesus said the Father would send us a helper, a comforter, he said the Father would send us a parakletos. The Holy Spirit brings the encouragement of the scripture to us. He is the helper, the comforter, the exhorter of the scriptures.

But, what does the Holy Spirit say?

Exactly what Jesus said.

It was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

And, it cannot be emphasized enough, this meaning of the scriptures had to be interpreted and translated to us. Our minds had to be opened to it. It is not the literal, obvious, plain meaning of the scriptures.

In the very next verse, verse 5, Paul calls God the God of endurance and encouragement. God is the God of suffering that produces life for repentance and forgiveness of sins. As this God, he grants, or gives, you “to live in such harmony with one another.”

The phrase “to live in such harmony” is “to auto phronein” in the Greek. The word auto means his. And, the word phronein means think, set one’s mind on, to be minded.

Paul is saying that God of endurance and encouragement, the God that suffers to give life, is giving us his mind. We are to have God’s mind toward one another. We are to think like God towards another.

How does God think towards us?

It was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead.

God suffers for us, his enemies, to bring us life.

God gives us his mind “according to Christ Jesus.”

God gives us his mind, which is the mind of Christ. And, the mind of Christ was to glorify God. In John 17:1-4, Jesus said, “Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given me authority over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do.”

Why did God give us his mind to suffer to bring forth life, which is the same mind that Jesus had?

“That together you may with one voice glorify God.”

The Greek word for together is homothymadon. Homo means the same. And, thymadon comes from the word thymos, which means passion (as if breathing hard).


Like God breathed?

God gives us the mind of suffering to bring life so that we can have the same passion as Christ to glorify God.

It was in his hour, his crucifixion, the necessity of his suffering, which led to his rising from the dead, that Jesus glorified God.

We are to have this same passion so that we can all glorify God together in one voice.

Or, present your bodies a living sacrifice as Paul says in Romans 12:1.

Look how similar this is to what Paul says in Philippians 1:29-2:8.

“For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe [that is have faith] in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. So if there is any encouragement [paraklesis] in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy be being of the same mind [to auto hina phronete], having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

The Bible was written for our instruction. It was God-breathed, inspired, so that we would know what God was really saying.

God was really saying that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and rise from the dead for repentance and the forgiveness of sins.

But, this is not the literal meaning of scripture. The true meaning of scripture can only come to you if Jesus translates and interprets scripture for you. He has to open your mind to this meaning.

And, Jesus has given us the Holy Spirit forever to teach us and tell us exactly what Jesus taught the disciples. It is the Holy Spirit’s interpretation and translation of the scriptures that makes them God-breathed.

This non-literal, Holy Spirit filled meaning is how the scriptures “are able to make us wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ.”

This non-literal, Holy Spirit filled meaning is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

This non-literal, Holy Spirit filled meaning causes us to know it is suffering for our enemies that leads to life for us and our enemies.

The literal meaning of scripture just produces death.

Nahum of Elkosh – The Comfort of the Snare


“Behold, I am against you, declares the Lord of hosts, and will lift up your skirts over your face; and I will make nations look at your nakedness and kingdoms at your shame. I will throw filth at you and treat you with contempt and make you a spectacle. And all who look at you will shrink from you and say, ‘Wasted is Nineveh; who will grieve for her?’ Where shall I seek comforters for you?” – Nahum 3:5-7

The book of Nahum is an oracle or burden of Nineveh. It is a writing of the vision or revelation of Nahum of Elkosh. Nahum’s vision seems to be filled with God’s anger and wrath being poured out in full force on Nineveh. Just read how the vision starts.

“The Lord is a jealous and avenging God; the Lord is avenging and wrathful; the Lord takes vengeance on his adversaries and keeps his wrath for his enemies…Who can stand before his indignation? Who can endure the heat of his anger? His wrath is poured out like fire, and the rocks are broken into pieces by him.” – Nahum 1:2, 6

Nahum sees God pouring out such wrath and violence upon Nineveh that it will be made a spectacle for all to see, which is what we see in Nahum 3:5-7 above. Nineveh will be thoroughly shamed through the lifting up of its skirts over its face so that all can see its nakedness.

But, this making Nineveh a spectacle, this public shaming of Nineveh, actually points to the truth of Jesus in Nahum. And, this public shaming of Israel’s oppressor actually reveals God’s non-violent defeat of the principalities and powers through Jesus.

Colossians 2:15 says, “He disarmed the rulers and authorities and put them to open shame, by triumphing over them in him.” A more literal translation would be “by triumphing over them in it.” It is the cross.

Jesus Christ reveals that all of the anger, wrath, fury, vengeance, and violence that Nahum sees God pouring out like fire upon Nineveh is in actual fact Jesus bearing the sin of the world on the cross. And, its by bearing the sin of the world and absorbing all its evil, wickedness, and violence yet pleading for the forgiveness of all that Jesus put the principalities and powers and all mankind to an open shame. Perhaps this is why the book of Nahum is said to be an oracle, or burden, of Nineveh.

The truth of the cross of Christ as the act that made Nineveh a spectacle and brought about its public shaming is further revealed in the meaning of Nahum of Elkosh.

Nahum is a shortened form of Nehemiah. The name Nahum means comfort, compassion, full of comfort, or consolation. Jesus is our comfort and compassion (the Holy Spirit was “another” helper or comforter that Jesus would send after he died).

So, in the meaning of the name Nahum we have the answer to the question – “Who will grieve for her? Where shall I seek comforters for you?” – that would be asked by all who shrunk back at Nineveh’s public shaming.

Elkosh most likely means God my bow. But, Elkosh is likely a derivative of two Hebrew words that both mean to lay a bait, to lure, to snare. So, we could think of the meaning of Elkosh as the bait, lure, or snare of God.

Speaking of the Lord of hosts, Isaiah 8:14-15 says, “And he will become a sanctuary and a stone of offense and a rock of stumbling to both houses of Israel, a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many shall stumble on it. They shall fall and be broken; they shall be snared and taken.”

Isaiah 28:13 says, “And the word of the Lord will be to them precept upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, there a little, that they may go, and fall backward, and be broken, and snared, and taken.” This scripture doesn’t mean what almost every preacher says it means – the method we should use to study the Bible. Read my post “Precept upon Precept or a Precious Cornerstone” to see the real meaning of this verse and why it is said to be snare.

Jeremiah 50:24 says, “I set a snare for you and you were taken, O Babylon, and you did know it; you were found and caught, because you opposed the Lord.”

How did Babylon not know that a snare had been laid for it? How did Satan and all the fallen principalities and powers recognize Jesus as the Son of God but not know that Jesus would defeat their power of death through his own death?

Because Jesus’s death, his crucifixion, the cross, was a trap and a snare, a cunning plan that God always had in place.

1 Corinthians 2:6-8 says, “Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.”

Jesus on the cross was a trap and snare to lure evil, wickedness, violence and death out so that it could be defeated. It was God’s secret and hidden wisdom that created this plan before the foundation of the world. In verse 10, Paul says that “these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit.”

It is in this secret and hidden wisdom that the Spirit inspired scripture. It’s not the plain meaning or surface meaning that reveals the truth of God, who God is, in the Bible. No, who God is, particularly in the Old Testament, is only found by plumbing the depths of scripture. The meaning must come through a revelation, a vision, of the Holy Spirit. Hence, the first verse of the book of Nahum.

If we could just take the plain, straightforward reading of the Old Testament, then we would be able to understand it with our natural mind. But, Paul says that this is not possible.

1 Corinthians 2:10-16 says, “For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. And we impart in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual person judges all things, but is himself to be judged by no one. ‘For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?’ But we have the mind of Christ.”

Without Jesus, without the mind of Christ, without the Holy Spirit, the Bible is completely intelligible. Therefore, truth comes from Jesus, his mind in our mind, the Holy Spirit. Then, and only then, is the Bible worth anything to us. Jesus must come first.

And, when Jesus comes first, we realize that God does not make a spectacle of or shame anyone by pouring out his anger and wrath in violence on them. No, God does it through the cross.

He dies. God lets you kill him. Then he forgives you.

Jesus is the comfort of the snare that was laid.

The Inspiration of Scripture – What Is It? How Does It Work?


“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” – 2 Timothy 3:16

What does it mean that scripture is inspired, or breathed out, by God?


Some Christians take the inspiration of scripture to mean that God literally told word for word the people who wrote the Bible exactly what to write.

Some Christians take the inspiration of scripture to mean that God literally caused all of the events in the Bible to happen exactly as they are recorded.

These Christians believe that this type of inspiration of scripture is necessary in order for us to be taught, reproved, corrected, and trained by it. They also believe this is the method of inspiration because “no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation.” (2 Peter 1:20) Therefore, if the inspiration is not literal and exactly as God wanted, then we are interpreting the scripture according to our own interpretation.


If we take the inspiration of scripture to be literal and exact, then we will learn that God commits genocide, rapes women, mass murders children, causes the earth to swallow people, etc. If we take the inspiration of scripture to be literal and exact, then in today’s reading we would be taught that it was is a noble act to drive a tent peg through the temple of our enemy in order to kill him.

The problem with the literal inspiration of scripture is that it creates numerous conflicts with Jesus in the gospels. But, John 1:17-18 says, “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.” As the only one who has seen the Father, Jesus was able to do and say only and exactly what the Father does and says.

So, if the literal inspiration of scripture leads to numerous conflicts with the character of the Father as revealed by Jesus, then we know that believe in the literal inspiration of scripture is wrong.

In 2 Corinthians 3, when Paul speaks of the Old Testament he says that it was a letter written “with ink” and “on tablets of stone.” But, “the letter kills.” Paul says that the ministry of the letter was a “ministry of death, carved in letters on stone.” Not only was the ministry of the letter in the Old Testament one of death, Paul also called it a “ministry of condemnation.”

So, Paul says that the literal inspiration of scripture kills you. Believing in the literal inspiration of scripture by the letter kills you. The literal inspiration of scripture will condemn you.

In 2 Corinthians 4, Paul says that the literal inspiration of scripture is the result of a veil. The veil keeps us blinded to what the inspiration of scripture truly is and what we are to truly learn from it.


Perhaps we need to look at the meaning of inspiration.

  1. a divine influence or action on a person believe to qualify him or her to receive and communicate sacred revelation
  2. the action or power of moving the intellect or emotions
  3. the act of influencing or suggesting opinions

The literal, dead letter inspiration of scripture kills, condemns, and commands. But, this is not inspiration. Instead of commanding, true inspiration influences someone to received revelation.

Revelation is not something readily apparent. Rather, revelation is something that beneath the surface that an agent of inspiration brings to light.

The literal, dead letter inspiration of scripture kills. In other words, it stops movement. But, true inspiration moves the intellect and emotions. True inspiration causes the mind and heart to move to a higher place.

The literal, dead letter inspiration of scripture says there is one exact way to interpret scripture. But, true inspiration influences and suggests. True inspiration creates possibilities, many possibilities instead of one and only one possibility


In the same passage of scripture where Paul tells us that the literal, dead letter inspiration of scripture kills and is a ministry of death and condemnation, Paul reveals what the true inspiration of scripture is.

In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul says that we are a letter. Instead of dead letters in a book written with ink, we are a letter written “with the Spirit of the living God…on tablets of human hearts.” This is the ministry of the new covenant, a ministry “of the Spirit” and “the Spirit gives life.” This ministry is a “ministry of righteousness.”

The scripture is truly inspired by the Spirit because he brings life to it. The Spirit inspires the creative possibilities of scripture to communicate sacred revelation, to move our minds and hearts toward God, and to influence us and suggest to us with majesty and splendor of the Father.

This type of inspiration is absolutely necessary because God is infinite. There is no way to pin down an infinite God with one literal, dead letter inspiration of scripture.

True inspiration of scripture comes through Jesus Christ because his death and resurrection removes the veil that causes us to read the scriptures with a literal, dead letter interpretation.

True inspiration comes from the Holy Spirit enlivening the scripture with truth, meaning, and possibilities we would never see on our own. This is the very meaning of revelation. I can understand dead letters with my own intellect. But, I need the Holy Spirit to reveal truth in my heart.

Paul says in 2 Corinthians 3:16-18, “But when on turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”


If you haven’t read it today, then get out a Bible and read Judges 4. I want the literal story to be fresh in your mind. Then with the literal, dead letter story in your mind, I want to show you the story with the inspiration of the Spirit. I won’t necessarily come to any conclusions along the way or at the end. My goals is to breathe in possibilities to the scripture. You can use those possibilities as inspiration “for profitable teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”


The name Jabin comes from two Hebrew words. One means to understand or see, to pay attention, consider, teach, or examine. The other means to build, to develop buildings, or to rebuild. The name means something like he perceives or he will understand.

The name Canaanite comes from the Hebrew word kana. Kana means to have to submit, to be humbled, to humble oneself, to humble somebody. The Canaanites eventually came to be known as merchants and traders. Merchants are not viewed favorably in scripture as they oppress and get rich off of people.

The name Hazor means fence or enclosure.

Kings are powers that vying with God for the throne of our hearts. Therefore, Jabin represents the power that tries to fence or enclose our hearts with that we can understand and build ourselves as merchants and traders. In this way we humble ourselves to the material things of this world instead of God.

In Matthew 6:24, Jesus says, “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.”

An inspiration of Jabin is that this is our attempt to serve God and money. Another inspiration of Jabin is our attempt to rule through economic power.


The name Sisera is likely the combination of two Hebrew words. One is the word for horse. The other is the word meaning to see or look.

Horses speak to military power in the Bible. Therefore, the inspiration of Sisera is the looking to military power for strength and protection.

Sisera was the commander of Jabin’s army. Every economic power throughout history shows that economic power uses military power to maintain its empire, its fence or enclosure.

The name Harosheth-hagoyim means “carving of the nations” of “silencing of the Gentiles.” This is where Sisera lived, where he abided.

An inspiration here is that economic power and military seek to divide that nations of the world for their own personal benefit.

Sisera oppressed Israel with 900 chariots of iron for 20 years. What is an inspiration of this?

The number speaks to finality. It also is linked judgment in the prophets. The number 100 symbolizes the child of promise. Like horses, chariots represented military strength. Iron represents hardness, strength, affliction, severity, captivity, bondage, and destruction power. Daniel 2:20 says that iron breaks to pieces everything. The number 20 represents a period of judgment. In fact, there are a couple of times in scripture where the number nine is connected with the number with the theme of judgment.

An inspiration here is the people of God are oppressed military and economic power that attempts to carve up the nations by bringing a final judgment on the child promise the affliction of sever military strength and destructive power.

Psalm 2:1-3 says, “Why do the nations rage and the peoples plot in vain? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their cords from us.'”


But, Deborah is judging Israel during the oppression.

The name Deborah is the Hebrew word for bee or wasp. The name Deborah likely comes from the Hebrew word for speak.

Bees produce honey, which was the sweetener in the ancient near east. A number of scriptures (including Psalm 19:10, Psalm 119:103, and Ezekiel 3:3) says that God’s words are sweeter than honey.

The name Lappidoth comes from the Hebrew word meaning flame or torch. Deborah was the wife of the Lappidoth. Alternatively, the translation could say that Deborah was a woman of Lappidoth. Deborah was the wife of woman of flames.

Deborah sat under a palm tree. Palm trees were all over the tabernacle and temple between the cherubims. The palm tree could be a symbol of the tree of life.

This palm tree was between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim. Ramah means a high place. Bethel means the house of God. Eprhaim means fruitfulness.

An inspiration of Deborah is God’s people being ruled by the word of life, Jesus Christ, that sets them on fire. The lives of God’s people are hidden in Jesus as we are seated with him in high heavenly places. In this sense, perhaps we could think of Deborah as the church.


Barak means lightning.

Abinoam means “the father is pleasantness” or “my father is delight.”

Kedesh-naphtali means something like the sacred place of my wrestling.

Tabor means purifying or declaring.

There are many instances in the scripture were lightning is used in a reference to Jesus. And, Barak, who’s name means lightning, is the son of the father who is pleasantness or the father who is delight. This son who is named lightning dwells in the sacred place of wrestling, which could be thought of as God’s presence, his holy temple.

An inspiration of Barak is that he is a picture of Jesus. As a picture of Jesus, he gathers men from Mount Tabor. He comes from the mountain, or kingdom, of cleansing.

Barak brings 10,000 men from Naphtali and Zebulun. The number 10 represents the completeness of order. The number 1,000 speaks to the bridal price or the price of innocence for a woman. Naphtali means my wrestling and Zebulun means lofty place, dwelling, wished-for habitation.

So, an inspiration for Barak is that he is a picture of Jesus, who has a father that is pleasant and a delight, that comes the kingdom of cleansing, our wished-for habitation, with the price for his bride to make her innocent.


Jael means mountain goat. It comes from the root word meaning to profit or benefit. It also comes from the root word meaning to ascend, to lead up, to lead out, to bring up, to cause to rise.

Jael was the wife of Heber the Kenite. Heber means to ally oneself, to couple together. And, Kenite derives from the name Cain, which means to get, acquire, or create. Kenite means buyers, and the Kenites were part of the Canaanites. But, Heber, and hence Jael, had separated from the Kenites and the Canaanites.

An inspiration for Jael is the person who was once part of the world of Jabin and Sisera, involved in the economic of military powers and ways of the world, but has separated from them.


How do these characters all fit together? What is the inspiration of their story?

Notice that Barak routed Sisera with the edge of the sword. This is another allusion to Barak as Jesus since Jesus is the sword of the Spirit, the word of God. Barak destroyed the chariots, the military power of Jabin, the economic power. He also destroyed carving up of the nations done by this army. Therefore, like Jesus, he created a people from every nation, tribe, people, and language.

While Barak routed the powers, Sisera fled away on foot. Jael met Sisera and told him to turn aside into her tent. He asks for water, but Jael feeds him milk. Milk is often associated with basics of the word of God, the gospel.

Jael ends up driving a tent peg through his temple into the ground. There are several instances where we see Jesus as the tent peg in scripture. Also, there are numerous instances where we see that violence of the wicked, Sisera in this case, comes back on their own head.

The tent peg could be though of as the cross. It was put through Sisera’s head. This is interesting because had to go into the ground at Golgatha, the place of the skull, in order for Jesus to be crucified on it. But, since it is Jael, and not Barak, that applies the figurative cross, I think this speaks to the idea we have to crucify ourselves daily, crucify our flesh and its desires, and crucify ourselves to the world and the world to us. Remember, Jael had separated from the Kenites and the Canaanites as well as their economic and military power. It was after Jael applied the cross to Sisera that Jabin was subdued and ultimately destroyed.

We have to remember that our enemies are spiritual, not carnal and internal, not external. In this sense, the inspiration of Judges four seems to be picking up our own cross and denying ourselves so that we crucify the lust for money and power within ourselves. Then we can love as Jesus loves.