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Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible


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SIGN . Any outward fact which serves as a pledge of a Divine word or a proof of a Divine deed is a sign , whether it be natural or supernatural in its character. The rainbow served as the sign of the Noahic, as the rite of circumcision of the Abrahamic, covenant ( Genesis 9:12 ; Genesis 17:11 ‘token,’ Romans 4:11 ). That God was with, and worked for, the Israelites was shown in the plagues of Egypt ( Exodus 10:2 ). Gideon asks for and receives a sign that it is Jehovah who speaks with him ( Judges 6:17 ), and Saul also receives signs to confirm the words of Samuel ( 1 Samuel 10:7 ). The prophetic word is thus proved from God ( Isaiah 7:14 ; Isaiah 38:7 , Jeremiah 44:29 , Ezekiel 14:8 ). The sign need not be supernatural ( 1 Samuel 2:34 , Isaiah 8:18 ; Isaiah 20:3 ); but the Jews in the time of Christ desired miracles as proofs of Divine power ( Matthew 12:38 ; Matthew 16:1 , John 4:48 , 1 Corinthians 1:22 ), a request which Jesus refused and condemned. The message of the Baptist, though not confirmed by any sign, was seen to be true ( John 10:41 ). It is Jonah’s preaching that is probably referred to when Jesus speaks of him as a sign to his generation ( Matthew 12:39 ). The ‘babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, and lying in a manger,’ is the simple and humble sign to the shepherds of the birth of a Saviour, Christ the Lord ( Luke 2:12 ); and He is welcomed by Simeon as ‘a sign which is spoken against’ ( Luke 2:34 ). The Fourth Gospel frequently describes the miracles of Jesus as signs ( Luke 3:2 , Luke 4:44 ), and attributes to them an evidential value which is not prominent in Jesus’ own intention. This confirmation of the gospel was found in the Apostolic Church ( Mark 16:20 , Acts 4:16 ; Acts 6:3 ; Acts 8:6 ; Acts 8:13 ; Acts 15:12 , 2 Corinthians 12:12 ). The last things will be ushered in by extraordinary signs ( Matthew 24:30 , Luke 21:25 , 2 Thessalonians 2:9 the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, Revelation 12:1 ; Revelation 13:13 etc.). The faith that depends on signs, if not altogether condemned ( John 6:26 ), is by Jesus deprecated ( John 4:48 , cf. 1 Corinthians 1:22 ). Cf. also p. 568 b .

Alfred E. Garvie.

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These files are public domain.
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Sign'. Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible. 1909.

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Tuesday, October 15th, 2019
the Week of Proper 23 / Ordinary 28
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