The Bible states: And it came to pass after these things, that God did tempt
Abraham (Genesis 22:1). On the other hand, the New Testament says that God
cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man (James 1:13). Is this not a
These passages, as they stand in the King James translation, do constitute a difficulty. If the
reader will consult the American Standard Version on Genesis 22:1, however, the confusion
disappears. The better rendition is: And it came to pass after these things that God did
The original terms, rendered tempt in the KJV, are from nasah (Hebrew) and peirazo (Greek), respectively. These words may be
employed in different senses, depending upon the context in which they are found. For instance,
one meaning of tempt is a solicitation to sin, an enticement to evil. It is an action
designed to entrap a victim, hence, to bring about his fall. A holy God (cf. Isaiah 6:3;
Revelation 7:14) never could be guilty of such a base activity, and this is the thrust of
James description of this matter in the passage cited above.
On the other hand, these terms may be used in other ways. The Hebrew nasah can denote
putting something to the test, proving it. Observe, for instance, that David refused to use
Sauls armor in his conflict with Goliath since he had not proved those
implements (1 Samuel 17:39). Again, note how those Hebrew lads in Babylonian captivity challenged
Nebuchadnezzar to prove them with a ten-day diet test, thus contrasting their
appearances with those who lustily consumed the kings dainties (Daniel 1:12-13). It is in
this sense that Moses employed nasah of Jehovahs action towards Abraham. The Lord put
Abraham to the test in order to develop trust in the patriarch, and to demonstrate that
Heavens promise concerning the Messianic seed was unfailing (cf. Hebrews 11:17-19). Even the
KJV of Hebrews 11:17ff. notes that Abraham was
Similarly, James suggests that the Christian ought to rejoice when he falls into manifold
temptations (James 1:2). Clearly, enticement to evil is not in view here.
Rather, the inspired writer speaks of various trials (NKJV
), i.e., the tests that come to the Christian as a consequence of his godly living.
In these one is to rejoice, knowing that the proving (dokimion) of his faith
works patience (James 1:3). When properly understood, there is no conflict between Genesis 22:1
and James 1:3.
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