God makes the Mute

‘Triablogue posits a verse to show that God is the cause of all physical deformity:

Exod 4:11

Then the Lord said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? (Exod 4:11).

Some Christians, hoping apparently to limit God’s liability, effectively absolve God of responsibility for what goes on in the world. If a child is born blind, it is a result of a prenatal infection or genetic defect; God had nothing to do with it. If religious zealots bring down buildings and kill thousands, God was not involved. The problem with this is that it effectively limits God’s power and sovereignty. What if an infection was the proximate cause of a baby’s being born blind? Couldn’t God have saved the child if he had wanted to? Couldn’t God have stopped the mass-murderers? God cannot be almighty and all-knowing and also be absolved of responsibility for what happens in the world.

God’s response in Exod 4:11 is striking: he takes full responsibility for the suffering that people experience. He makes some blind, some deaf, and some mute. The text does not deny that there are proximate causes to such things (injuries, infections, etc.; the ancients knew nothing about viruses and bacteria, but they certainly knew that accidents and injuries could make a person blind or lame). Furthermore, the issue of human sin is never raised in God’s response. This passage is not at all concerned with proximate causes–human sin, like disease or injury, is really just another proximate cause. This text is focused on the ultimate cause, God, and does not shrink from affirming that God is in control of all that happens. Of course, the question of theodicy is very large, and merely asserting that God takes responsibility for all that happens in the world does not resolve all the issues. This topic is explored much more fully in Job. D. Garrett, A Commentary on Exodus (Kregel 2014), 215-16.

What is interesting about this verse is that Triablogue uses the ESV rendering of the verse:

Exo 4:11 Then the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Who makes him mute, or deaf, or seeing, or blind? Is it not I, the LORD?

The NKJV gives an alternative rendering:

Exo 4:11 So the LORD said to him, “Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes the mute, the deaf, the seeing, or the blind? Have not I, the LORD?

The ESV seems to in fact say that God is the cause all birth defects, at minimum. The NKJV merely says that God makes all people (some may be mute and some may be blind). The Hebrew, as languages tend to do, can support either. So then the context must be examined.

The immediate point of the verse is that God is trying to convince Moses to go to Egypt on God’s behalf. That is not a fatalistic or Calvinist concept. God is arguing that Moses can speak, despite Moses’ lack of confidence, because God will be with him. It is interesting to note that God loses this argument with Moses. God gets angry, gives up, and appoints Aaron to be Moses’ mouthpiece:

Exo 4:14 So the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and He said: “Is not Aaron the Levite your brother? I know that he can speak well. And look, he is also coming out to meet you. When he sees you, he will be glad in his heart.

In a context where God’s plan is thwarted by Moses, the meaning that Triablogue gives to the verse is highly unreasonable. God is not claiming to control all life changing calamities forever into the future. God is not controlling all things even in the present; sometimes petty complaints thwart God’s will. The text is just not about Calvinistic sovereignty.

If God is claiming to cause birth defects, God’s reasoning to Moses would have to be thus: “I am the one who created your mouth (and everyone’s mouth) and I know the limits to which I created it. I know you can speak for Me. Your argument is invalid.”

But the context of Exodus 3 and 4 is about God enabling Moses with power. So, while God could be claiming to cause birth defects, it is more likely that God is claiming to have power. God is the creator of all men. And the creator of all men would help Moses communicate. Moses does not have to worry about his speech because he has Yahweh on his side (see also Exo 3:12). The very next verse says:

Exo 4:12 Now therefore, go, and I will be with your mouth and teach you what you shall say.”'

source: Christopher Fisher (godisopen).