You may be wondering what God having a nose and child rearing have in common. At a basic level, these are things addressed by scripture, and at a deeper level, they are common areas of misunderstanding for Christians.
Most people come to the Bible and expect to be able to read and understand what’s being said without any extra work on their part. While “all scripture is God-Breathed”, it is also very much human, as it is expressed in human language, which uses idioms, different genres, all while being part of varying historical time periods.
Why does all that matter? In order to understand any documents, you need to understand the context of it. The Bible is no different, and in fact, the job of interpreting the Bible is much more difficult than that of most documents. It is not one document, but a collection of many different documents.
Does God have a nose?
There are a few places when the Old Testament Hebrew literally says, “God’s nostrils enlarged.” Does this mean God has a nose? No, it doesn’t. This was an idiom which meant that God became angry, or had anger. There are some people who think that, because of this verse, God could have a nose though.
John 4:24 says that “God is Spirit.” There are many other passage which can be used to demonstrate that God is not physical and that he doesn’t have a nose. God is omnipresent, so would his nose be everywhere too?
What this shows is we need to be skilled in biblical interpretation. Now, some of these concerns have been handled for you by good Bible translations, most of which translate “God’s nostrils enlarged” as “anger”.
These types of idioms exist all through scripture. Another example would be Matthew 1:18, which literally says that “Mary was having it in the belly.” But what is meant here is “Mary was pregnant.”
The Bible’s use of language is both a liability and benefit to us. We need to be prepared to do some work to understand the language of the Bible, but at the same time, a robust use of language can convey a depth and richness of meaning.
Do Well-Raised Children Have To Choose God?
“Train a child in the way that he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it.” Proverbs 22:6
This has been the battle cry of many a parent. It has provided comfort and strength in the most difficult of moments. And for some parents, it has been a stone around their neck. You see, if you don’t interrupt this passage correctly, you could come away with the idea that: a child who is trained right will always be a Christian. So, if your child doesn’t become a Christian, it’s your fault.
However, that reads far too much into this verse. While this verse is “true”, it is not an absolute truth on the level of a promise, contract, or covenant. The translators of the New English Translation have included the following note on this verse. “The expected consequence of such training is that it will last throughout life. The sages were confident of the character-forming quality of their training. However, proverbs are not universal truths. One can anticipate positive results from careful child-training – but there may be an occasional exception.”
This verse exists in the book of Proverbs, and as such, in order to interpret its contents, we need to know what a proverb is: “a short pithy saying in general use, stating a general truth or piece of advice.”
For example, Proverbs 15:25 “The Lord tears down the house of the proud.” We all know (or are) proud people who have not had their houses torn down. So, this verse isn’t a literal truth either, but both of these verses communicate literal truth.
It is certainly true that the child who is trained properly will often not depart from it. And The Lord definitely opposes the proud.
We need to know and apply genre-specific principles when reading a passage. The gospels are interpreted very differently than Genesis, which is different from Psalms, which is different from Isaiah, which is different from Galatians. We aren’t just choosing an interpretative model that gives us “truth” we like, we’re treating the Text with the respect it deserves by seeking to understand what the original authors intended — their intended meaning is the only meaning that matters.