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Moses says "don't put God to test" (Deut. 6:16), but Malachi say "put God to test" (Mal. 3:10).

You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah." (Deut. 6:16 ESV)

Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. (Mal. 3:10)

How should we read the scriptures above differently? Should we put God to test or not?

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    Do you want an answer exclusive to the Tanakh, or do you want a Christian answer? Satan's tempting Christ involved this verse. – Perry Webb Dec 13 '20 at 13:33
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    @PerryWebb these contradiction resolution questions allow for any answers which explain how the two verses can be reconciled. The questions don't need to pick a particular perspective. – curiousdannii Dec 13 '20 at 13:38
  • When discussing "the Bible" from a secular-friendly, academic perspective, one should not assume that it has a consistent perspective on everything. – Maroon Dec 15 '20 at 0:03
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The two scriptures (Deut. 6:16 and Malachi 3:10) should be read differently because the original Hebrew words for "test" are different in the two verses. In the King James version, the words are translated differently, "tempt" for the first, and "prove", for the second.

Consulting the Hebrew dictionary of Strong's concordance, the command not to "tempt" God in Deut 6:16 uses a Hebrew word that comes from a Hebrew root that is pronounced "nawsaw" for English speakers, who know that the 'w' in 'aw' is silent. [Hebrew speakers point out that the actual Hebrew word in Deut 6:16 derived from this root is "tenasu" (תְנַסּ֔וּ) in the verse : "Lo tenasu et YHVH Elohei-kem" (לֹ֣א תְנַסּ֔וּ אֶת יְהֹוָ֖ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֑ם) : "You shall not try YHVH your-God".] Words from that root pronounced "nawsaw" have a set of English equivalents that include "prove", "tempt", "try" and "adventure". The command to "prove" God by bringing the tithes in Malachi 3:10 comes from the Hebrew root pronounced "bawkhal". Words from this root have English equivalents that include "try", "prove", "examine" and "tempt". I consider it an error to consider them synonyms because of the common English words used to translate them. I believe that is a reflection of the impreciseness of the English language. Think of the difference between "Try the lemon pie," and "Try to bend this rod." It is instructive to observe the different words that are not common, "adventure" versus "examine". I sense a focus on "find out what will happen" for the first, and a focus on "sense what it is like" for the second.

The context of each also indicates a difference:

  • in the first, it refers to a time when the people of Israel were saying something like, "Can God really do something that great? I bet He'll fail."
  • the second is something like, "You cannot imagine how great God's reward will be until you get it."
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    Can you please edit this to include what the Hebrew words are. – curiousdannii Dec 14 '20 at 1:46
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    @ErnestAbinokhauno I can't comment on Hebrew, but that a language has some more diversified words than another isn't exactly uncommon. Consider french where everything is loved (=aimer) or worshipped (=adorer), but as far as I am aware (and I lived there for two years) there is no separate word for less extreme good emotions (like). English isn't the most diversified language either, thinking "test" is somehow "one word" is a very anglocentric view. It covers lots of meanings that other languages may have seperate words for. – kutschkem Dec 15 '20 at 7:23
  • What is "nawsah"? * Deuteronomy 6:16 states "tenasu" (תְנַסּ֔וּ) in the verse : "Lo tenasu et YHVH Elohei-kem" (לֹ֣א תְנַסּ֔וּ אֶת יְהֹוָ֖ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֑ם) You shall not try YHVH your-God. * The imperative "Try!" would be "Nasu" (נַסּוּ) – חִידָה Dec 16 '20 at 19:22
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Do not try the LORD your God, as you did at Massah. (Deut. 6:16, JPS)

לֹ֣א תְנַסּ֔וּ אֶת־יְהוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֑ם כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר נִסִּיתֶ֖ם בַּמַּסָּֽה׃ (Deut. 6:16, BHS)

Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, and let there be food in My House, and thus put Me to the test—said the LORD of Hosts. I will surely open the floodgates of the sky for you and pour down blessings on you; (Mal. 3:10, JPS)

הָבִ֨יאוּ אֶת־כָּל־הַֽמַּעֲשֵׂ֜ר אֶל־בֵּ֣ית הָאוֹצָ֗ר וִיהִ֥י טֶ֙רֶף֙ בְּבֵיתִ֔י וּבְחָנ֤וּנִי נָא֙ בָּזֹ֔את אָמַ֖ר יְהוָ֣ה צְבָא֑וֹת אִם־לֹ֧א אֶפְתַּ֣ח לָכֶ֗ם אֵ֚ת אֲרֻבּ֣וֹת הַשָּׁמַ֔יִם וַהֲרִיקֹתִ֥י לָכֶ֛ם בְּרָכָ֖ה עַד־בְּלִי־דָֽי׃ (Mal. 3:10, BHS)

Deut. 6:16 has the verb נָסָה in the piel imperfect 2nd person masculine plural while Mal. 3:10 has the verb בָּחַן In the imperative masculine plural. Both mean try, test. The most significance is not the difference in there meaning, but in the context. In Mal. 3:10 the testing is acting on faith (אָמַן, Gen 15:6). It is acting out of belief to do what God commanded. While in Deut. 6:16 is acting out of doubt, quarreling (רִיב), and complaining (לוּן).

From the wilderness of Sin the whole Israelite community continued by stages as the LORD would command. They encamped at Rephidim, and there was no water for the people to drink. 2The people quarreled with Moses. “Give us water to drink,” they said; and Moses replied to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you try the LORD?” 3But the people thirsted there for water; and the people grumbled against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us up from Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” 4Moses cried out to the LORD, saying, “What shall I do with this people? Before long they will be stoning me!” 5Then the LORD said to Moses, “Pass before the people; take with you some of the elders of Israel, and take along the rod with which you struck the Nile, and set out. 6I will be standing there before you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock and water will issue from it, and the people will drink.” And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. 7The place was named Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and because they tried the LORD, saying, “Is the LORD present among us or not?” (Ex 17:1–7, JPS)

Thus, the issue isn’t so much testing, but acting out of belief as opposed to unbelief.

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  • Please kindly indicate if this is the Christian Perspective. – Ernest Abinokhauno Dec 14 '20 at 18:33
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    It is both a Christian and Jewish perspective. I limited the perspective to the pre-Christian Tanakh (Old Testament) since the Christian perspective is the same, and didn't see the necessity to use the New Testament. – Perry Webb Dec 14 '20 at 21:17
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The difference between the two instances is that the first word תנסו translated in English as ‘test’ is used in the sense to tempt God to go against His will, (in order that He may prove Himself to you). This is improper for a creature to do to his Creator. This is essentially a form of manipulation.

The Accuser suggested this to Jesus

“and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭4:6‬ ‭

The Accuser was in this case asking Jesus to force God’s hand and go against natural law for something other than God’s express will, which is essentially twisting God’s arm to do the Accuser’s will (forcing God to prove Himself). It’s one thing to fall accidentally or be thrown off a cliff and have God intervene, it’s entirely another to deliberately throw yourself off to prove God’s Word is true.

Jesus wisely responds

“Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test εκπειρασεις.’”” ‭‭Matthew‬ ‭4:7‬ ‭

The LXX uses the same word used in both the Deuteronomy and Matthew text

With the Malachi text the word translated in English as test is ובחנוני and it means to test for your own self that God’s Word is true.

The LXX says something different, it says to restore for yourself the truth or to come back to the true intent (of the commandment in this case).

Malachi is different in that God is not asking to be put to the test as it is suggested in English translations but rather, the individual is to examine the commandment by a faithful and personal application of the commandment.

In other words, those Malachi was addressing, were not doing as God asked them and that’s why they were not getting success. But if they followed the commandment in the true spirit of the commandment then they would see the promises come to pass. This is evident when God makes this assessment

Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need.” ‭‭Malachi‬ ‭3:10‬ ‭

They were not bringing the whole amount. In the first chapter they were offering blind, lame and sick animals, which again is a deviation from the commandment. It’s like trying to bake a cake and not using all or the right ingredients and hoping to get the same end product. God is saying stick to the original, restore back to the truth, do what I said and see for yourselves that I will honor my Word.

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Good question.

You shall not put the Lord your God to the test, as you tested him at Massah." (Deut. 6:16 ESV)

you tested Him
נִסִּיתֶ֖ם (nis·sî·ṯem)
Verb - Piel - Perfect - second person masculine plural
Strong's Hebrew 5254: To test, to attempt

Generally speaking, we are not to put God to the test. That's Jesus' answer to Satan when He was tempted.

Luke 4:12 Jesus answered, "It is said: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

In Malichi, the situation was different because the testing was initiated by God.

Bring the full tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. And thereby put me to the test, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour down for you a blessing until there is no more need. (Mal. 3:10)

Test Me
וּבְחָנ֤וּנִי (ū·ḇə·ḥā·nū·nî)
Conjunctive waw | Verb - Qal - Imperative - masculine plural | first person common singular
Strong's Hebrew 974: To test, to investigate

In this case, it was not some random testing God but a sign of proof. There was another example of this:

Isaiah 7:10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz, 11“Ask the Lord your God for a sign, whether in the deepest depths or in the highest heights.”
12But Ahaz said, “I will not ask; I will not put the Lord to the test. [5254 random test]”

Ahaz thought he cited scripture rightly but Isaiah rebuked him.

13Then Isaiah said, “Hear now, you house of David! Is it not enough to try the patience of humans? Will you try the patience of my God also? 14Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

God initiates a sign to increase one's faith in Him. Some tests are called signs. They prove a word of God. When God specifically asks you to test him to prove a point, then do it. When He has not, then don't do it.

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Should we put God to test or not?

In short, yes and no. There is a right way and a wrong way to test God. In order to understand which are the right and wrong ways, we need to look at the background of the two scriptures in question, Deut. 6:16 and Mal. 3:10.

“You must not put Jehovah your God to the test the way you put him to the test at Masʹsah."–Deut. 6:16 (NWT)

In this scripture, Moses is reminding the Israelites about the time they had provoked Jehovah God by complaining about a lack of water for them to drink. (Ex. 17:1-7) They were in effect saying "If God is with us, why is He not giving us water?" The Israelites were lacking in trust in the God that had delivered them from slavery in Egypt. This is the wrong way to test God.

"Bring the entire tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in my house; and test me out, please, in this regard,” Jehovah of armies says, “to see whether I will not open to you the floodgates of the heavens and pour out on you a blessing until there is nothing lacking.”–Mal. 3:10 (NWT)

This scripture takes place about 1,000 years later. After their exile in Babylon, the Israelites returned to their homeland and had rebuilt the temple. During this time, they were neglecting their spiritual responsibilities and not worshipping God. (Mal. 3:7) So Jehovah God reminds the Israelites that he can and will care for them yet again. Now, God is in effect saying "See if I don't bless you if you do all that I have commanded you to do." This, of course, is the right way as per his invitation.

Ultimately, it is the attitude and condition of our heart that will determine if we are testing God in a way that pleases Him or not.

[Additional information can be seen in the Watchtower May 1, 1957 article entitled "Putting Jehovah to the Test"]

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